Culture, Identity, Israel

Salon on "Birthleft"

Salon has entered the fray on the Birthright Unplugged controversy, elevating the story from an internal Jewish matter to one of national attention.

Taglit is not too thrilled with these developments, mainly because it funds the ISM volunteers’ travel to Israel. “It is taking advantage of the Jewish money that sends people to Israel, exploiting this money to promote an agenda which is not the agenda of the people who funded Taglit,” says Mark. Potential candidates who are discovered to have a “hidden agenda” are not allowed onto the trips.
But “birthlefters” have no qualms over misused money. They say the idea of a blanket Jewish birthright to Israel is fundamentally flawed, given that countless Diaspora Palestinians are accorded no such right. “Billions of dollars are used to give free trips to American kids and if the Israel government funds it then that comes through the U.S., people’s tax dollars,” says Gordon. She sees anti-occupation work as a good use of that money. Others point out that in the P.R. battle between pro-Israelis and pro-Palestinians, the former has huge resources while the latter “has to do bake sales to fund our next event.” Moreover, says Gordon, “If Birthright is going to weed people out according to politics, then it’s not really about Judaism anymore.”

Full story.
(c/o Amy K.)

8 thoughts on “Salon on "Birthleft"

  1. well, the israeli gov’t doesn’t really fund it, and it;s not american taxpayer money, it’s rich folks’ money, and what thell ever happened to ethics and morality on the left?
    it’s like when the agudah says it’s ok to steal claims conference money cause every else does

  2. I think it’s a shame that Birthright Israel is weeding out people on the basis of their politics. So the Unplugged participants will find some way to get over there anyway, only now, it will be without the viewpoint provided by Birthright Israel.
    If they think someone’s taking the trip only to disrupt it, that’s one thing, but otherwise, those are exactly the people they want to try to reach too.

  3. Taglit gets money from the Israeli government but to say that therefore it is US taxpayer money shows a blatant ignorance of the Israeli economy and the U.S. foreign aide process. Israel is getting (at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s initial request because of economic reasons) a shrinking basket of economic aide (US foreign aide to Israel is composed of an economic aide basket and a military aide basket) although the military aide is increasing somewhat – but at a smaller rate than the economic is shrinking (although the total amount of military plus economic is declining). The point being, Taglit funding doesn’t come from the US economic aide and thus not from US money.
    Israel does have its own sources of collecting income — like the large taxes (16.5% VAT, etc.) all Israeli citizens/residents pay.

  4. I think Taglit is the one causing harm to Israel’s image with this decision, rather than birthright unplugged. By exluding those people from the trip who want to see both sides of the conflict, they are saying that seeing the Palestinians side is not compatible with being a good Jew and a good Zionist. Support for Israel should not be limited to those who support right-wing views, not should it be equated with supporting Israeli policies.

  5. Sarah, I think you may be reading too much into birthright israel’s intent. They are paying for a 10 day trip for young people who have never been to Israel before. They don’t issue talking points to the trip leaders about what they can and cannot discuss. No one pretends that a 10-day trip is suddenly going to turn you into a Middle East scholar. Their intent is only to help young adults get closer to their jewish roots. No matter what your political orientation is, surely you’re not going to deny the fact that Israel is somewhat related to any Jew’s roots? The issue in this case is that once informed of Sierra’s intention to participate in a possibly unsafe program also misleadingly called birthright, they decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and rather than take aa chance that something might happen, they would simply rescind her acceptance. keep in mind, it was her mother who ratted her out, fearful for her daughter’s safety.
    I mean how many people would cancel their trips if God forbid they read a headline that said “Birthright participant kidnapped/killed by Palestinian Gunmen.” Birthright did the only thing it could do once informed of Sierra’s intentions and it had nothing to do with political agendas or ideology.

  6. they decided that it was better to be safe than sorry and rather than take aa chance that something might happen, they would simply rescind her acceptance.
    CK, do you really think that Taglit took Sierra off the list for the trip because of safety concerns? I haven’t seen any Taglit representative say that in any of articles on the matter that I’ve read. After the trip, they’re out of Taglit’s supervision and legal liability. If she’d been planning to hike through the Negev with inexperienced friends, or just to bum around Israel for a month with no plans for supporting herself, do you think that these safety concerns would have arisen?
    It seems pretty clear that Taglit’s objection was to the political content of Birthright Unplugged. And as a private organization, they’re allowed to do that. It’s clear that on this site, some agree with the reason and some don’t. On your site (Jewlicious), sentiment seems strongly to back Taglit. We can discuss that. But let’s not try to obfuscate the reasons with made-up reasons for Taglit’s decision.
    If you can show me where Taglit points to safety concerns in a public statement or news piece, please do.

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