Thirty young MASA participants and other young Diaspora Jews stood up at their program’s end-year bash to interrupt the address of Minister of Knesset Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party. The participants chanted “Diaspora Jews say ‘end the occupation,’ Diaspora Jews say ‘no to annexation.’” After being removed from the event, they distributed flyers and answered questions by other participants.
This was the first protest by a new activist group dubbing themselves “All That’s Left” comprised of North American young Jews united against the occupation. According to All That’s Left member Joshua Leifer, “The dialogue following the action led to frank and open discussions that aren’t being held enough in Diaspora Jewish communities.”
From a statement, the group wanted to draw attention to Bennett’s central leadership in the settlement movement, opposition to a Palestinian state, proposal to annex 60% of the West Bank, and racist statements against Arabs. “MASA’s choice to invite Naftali Bennett as a keynote speaker to the event does not reflect my Zionism and reasons for coming to Israel,” remarked demonstrator Isabel Frey. “It was necessary to make clear that there also are young Zionists that do not support the occupation, Bennett and his position.”
The group has promised to continue working in Israel to protest American Jewry’s tolerance of the occupation. And to me, it’s high time that more activism happened by progressive participants in Israel study abroad and post-college programs. The founding members of All That’s Left are the creme de la creme of young American Jewish leaders — graduates of Zionist summer camps, day schools educations, Birthright trips and MASA second-time trips to Israel.
It just goes to show that just because you can lead a young Jew to Israel, doesn’t mean they’ll drink last generation’s punch. And as familiarity with Israel grows through frequent visits, so does their familiarity with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Opportunities to visit the occupied territories abound — both right-wing and left-wing. But to American eyes, the daily inequalities of Jewish versus Palestinian life in this land are damning.
“All That’s Left” is the natural outcome of Birthright and MASA. The occupation is awful to behold and Israeli society seems content with the status quo. The members of All That’s Left fit a similar profile to the founders of the one-year-old Right Now: Advocates for African Asylum Seekers in Israel: Israel program alumni who spent 3 – 12 months volunteering in Israel’s homeless shelters and clinics. Not surprisingly, on American Jewry’s dime. Naftali Bennett just witnessed that the best and brightest from the Diaspora are too bright and smart to ignore his anti-democratic vision for Israel. The very ideology he aimed to espouse to them, that “Israel needs you,” is birthing the very critics he probably thinks MASA was designed to prevent.