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J Street Protests Against Birthright Over New Israeli Law Denying Entry to Pro-BDS Foreigners


What do you think would happen if Christians and Jews protested against Muslim kids who were going back to visit Muslim countries?

“Birthright Faces J Street-Led Protest Over Israel Travel Ban,” by Judy Maltz, Forward, April 18, 2017 (thanks to Mark):

More than 500 Jewish American students are challenging Birthright, the  biggest sponsor of trips to Israel in the world, to take a stand against a new law that would deny entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country, even if the boycott is restricted to West Bank settlements.

In a letter to senior executives at the program, the students are demanding responses to three questions: Does Birthright intend to impose a screening process to vet applicants according to their views on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the settlements and other political issues? If participants are turned back at Ben-Gurion Airport because of the new law, will Birthright provide them with assistance and support? Has Birthright been in touch with the Israeli program about how the new law will affect participation in its trips?

“Given these complications,” they ask, “will you continue to allow those of us who choose not to purchase settlement products as a personal choice to participate on Birthright?”

The letter, obtained by Haaretz, was signed by 575 students representing 97 colleges and universities across the United States, as well as three high schools. It was sent just before Passover  to Izzy Tapoohi and Gidi Mark, Birthright’s top executives, as well as several tour operators with which the organization works. The signatories included both students who have already participated in Birthright trips as well as those who plan to.

Behind the initiative is J Street U, the student arm of J Street, a pro-Israel, anti-occupation organization. About 25 percent of the students who signed the letter, however, have no affiliation whatsoever with the organization.

Responding to questions, Birthright cited the FAQ section on its website, where one question is whether applicants’ political views are taken into account when determining eligibility. According to the answer, which has not undergone any revision since the new Israeli law was passed: “Birthright Israel does not inquire about the political views of its applicants and welcomes all Jewish young adults from around the globe to visit Israel.”

Birthright would not say whether it would support and assist participants on its trips who might be turned away at the airport or whether it had been in touch with the Israeli government about the ramifications of the new law on participation.

The protest comes a few weeks before many universities and colleges go on summer break, the high season for Birthright trips. Birthright typically brings tens of thousand of Jews from around the world, the overwhelming majority from the United States, on its free 10-day trips to Israel each year, most of them during the summer. Birthright says it plans to bring 30,000 participants to Israel this summer.

“While we represent pro-Israel students from across the political spectrum,” the students write, “we recognize that there is nothing anti-Israel about opposing settlement expansion. Indeed, 78 percent of American Jews would like to see Israel limit or halt settlement expansion. Most of us oppose settlement expansion as part of our support for a two-state solution − the only way to ensure Israel’s future as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people.”

The students note that Birthright also recognizes the distinction between Israel and the settlements since, as a matter of policy, it avoids travel to the West Bank.

They add that they do not support the global BDS movement, which targets all of Israel, not just the settlements. “Some of us do not buy settlement products as a personal choice,” they write. “Others have no problem doing so. All of us are concerned about the impact of this new legislation on our own and our peers’ ability to travel to Israel.”

The Israel travel ban, passed in the Knesset last month, has drawn widespread condemnation, including from mainstream Jewish organizations such as the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and the Reform movement. Birthright has yet to comment on the law.

The students have not yet received a response from Birthright.

Among the students who helped draft the letter was Rachel Stryer, the co-head of J Street U at Stanford University. “When I heard the law was passed, I was confused, frustrated and very sad about it because it violates everything I knew about Israel being a democracy and committed to freedom of speech,” said Stryer, who plans to go on a Birthright trip this summer after she graduates.

“Beyond that, the conflation of those who support BDS with those who support a boycott of the settlements was troubling to me. At J Street, we don’t endorse a boycott, but many of us choose not to buy from the settlements. We see the settlements as something that threatens Israel’s future and security.”

Birthright, she noted, has long prided itself on the wide spectrum of participants it attracts. “I see the new law as directly challenging Birthright’s commitment to this diversity,” she said.

Chase Harrison, a member of the student government at the University of Chicago, has voted several times against initiatives at his school to boycott Israel. At the same time, he said, he felt compelled to sign the letter to Birthright.

“I probably wouldn’t have a problem coming to Israel with my views, but if those who support a boycott are banned, you would be losing important voices in the dialogue − voices that already exist in Israel,” said Harrison, who has already gone on a Birthright trip and serves as an intern at his campus’ Hillel chapter….

  • Biff Henderson

    Why would you boycott a people that acknowledge and display an open sign of respect for the faithful that emulate Allah’s bewitched apostle? Holl’ah Mashallah Ya’all.

    • Craig

      A little photo shop and you anti-Semites are all full of yourselves.
      Keep sucking for socialism, POS.

      • Biff Henderson


  • Liatris Spicata

    will you continue to allow those of us who choose not to purchase settlement products as a personal choice to participate on Birthright?

    Although the Spicatas don’t have a dog in this fight, I would think it would behoove Birthright to be very accommodating toward those American Jews who “choose not to purchase blah blah”. Some lines, however, might need to be drawn. People at that age have opinions- which they’ve been told all their lives are valid and need to be respected blah blah- that are, however, malleable. I might guess that a young leftist Jew might easily come away from a Birthright visit with a very different perspective.

    Somewhere in Youtube there is a video of a British Moslem who went to Israel just to see for himself the awful condition of Arabs suffering under the Jewish apartheid. He returned home a changed man and, to his credit, was willing to discuss his experience publicly.

    • mztore

      Sorry to say, even American Jewish people are not Jewish….they celebrate the Hebrew religion, not the ethnicity. They all do and say the right things on the right days, but don’t believe in their own Jewishness.

  • TD

    BDS = Beastiality, Demonic, Sharia
    I would just ban Palestinians from entering Israel or the US based on the fact their educational system is really a Hitler Youth educational system.

    I would also ban the transfer of funds to and from the Palestinian territories!

    • Scorpio

      Why does Israel allow any of these putrid palestinian cockroaches into their country. It’s insane.

  • Millionmileman

    J-Street, bank-rollers of Dem candidates like Jon Ossoff

  • AlgorithmicAnalyst

    Seems common sense to ban enemies from entering the country.

  • mathewsjw

    here’s hoping Rachel Stryer, Chase Harrison and the other signees that support anti-Semite BDS are FLAGGED and denied Entry to Israel. full disclosure yes I have been to Israel, no an not Jewish, and yes Israel was wonderful..

  • Drew the Infidel

    WTF with the outrage? This is standard procedure anywhere you go in the world including the US. On many forms such as visa applications, background checks, and security clearances there is a question regarding whether or not you have ever been a member of a group fomenting revolution or other adverse political action against the country to which you are seeking to gain entry.

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