Why is MASA Israel funding programs in illegal outposts?

Editorial note: Earlier today, Haaretz published surprising news of MASA Israel-funded programs sending young American Jews to volunteer in illegal outposts. The revelations followed after the terrorist shooting death of American student Ezra Schwarz being bused by his gap-year program to volunteer in a controversial outpost. The outpost is illegal under Israeli law with 18 demolition orders from the Defense Ministry. The yeshiva program is sponsored by MASA.
MASA Israel supports many worthwhile programs in Israel, including many endorsed on this site. To support the MASA programs you believe in — and urge them to reconsider those in illegal outposts — leave them a Facebook comment on this post.

My name is Faryn, and I am an alumna of two MASA programs: the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and Achvat Amim/Solidarity of Nations. What I learned in both of these programs is that there is nothing more important in life and in the Jewish tradition than the greatness of human dignity.
[pullquote align=left] As a MASA participant, I was not allowed to enter Areas A and B of the West Bank out of necessity for my own safety.
[/pullquote]As a participant in these programs, however, MASA restricted my freedom of movement and told me that as a MASA participant, I was not allowed to enter Areas A and B of the West Bank out of necessity for my own safety. While grateful that MASA was concerned for my safety, I chose to ignore this prohibition in a greater pursuit of justice and solidarity, values I learned directly through my programs.
There were moments when I did feel unsafe while in the West Bank, but those who made me feel unsafe were not Palestinians, those MASA told me to fear. The group that made me feel unsafe while in the West Bank was the Israeli military — at checkpoints, on the streets, and especially at non-violent protests and actions.
The death of American teenager Ezra Schwarz is a tragedy, as is the death of anyone before their time. That’s why the location of his death makes me question the reasoning behind MASA’s prohibition of its participants to enter the West Bank. If MASA were truly concerned for the safety of its participants, why would it fund a program that provides volunteer opportunities for its participants at an outpost that is illegal under both international and Israeli/martial law? Why is volunteering at this outpost acceptable in MASA policy, but not at an organization in Bethlehem that supports refugees or at an organization in Hebron that helps rural Palestinians access potable water?
[pullquote align=right] I implore them to immediately pull all programs out of illegal settlements and out of the West Bank at large.
[/pullquote]MASA, by allowing for its participants to work, study and live in settlements is actively perpetuating the status quo that is ultimately harmful to all living in the region, both Palestinian and Israeli. It is valuing the lives of Jewish settlers in an illegal outpost over any and all Palestinians residing in the West Bank — saying that one is to be engaged with while the other is to be feared. Saying that one is the self and one is the other. And in so doing, it is endangering its participants and participating in the oppression of a whole class of people.
I condemn MASA’s willingness to allow its participants to live and work and study in illegal settlements and I implore them to immediately pull all programs out of illegal settlements and out of the West Bank at large unless they are going to allow for full freedom of movement of participants and engagement with all populations, regardless of race, ethnicity and religion.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that MASA Israel does not participants into Areas B and C of the West Bank. Participants may enter Area C, where the Israeli military has control; they cannot enter Areas A and B, where the Palestinian Authority has limited control. 

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