FOR THE PAST TWO DECADES, Birthright has served as one of the most effective propaganda campaigns on behalf of the Israeli government and its occupation of the Palestinian territories. Drawing on funds from megadonors like right-wing casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, every year Birthright sends thousands of young American Jews on free trips to Israel, where they hear a narrative largely in line with the perspective of the Israeli government, and are denied access to Palestinian perspectives. Because these trips are available to all Jews regardless of economic background, and because they are purportedly apolitical, many well-meaning Jewish progressives never think to question Birthright’s agenda.
The emerging Jewish left, which is committed to ending the occupation, broadly agrees that Birthright is a problem, but there is no consensus on how to address it. Should young Jews go on alternative trips for a more balanced perspective? Should they participate in direct action on Birthright trips, despite calls by Palestinian civil society to avoid the trips altogether? What diasporic alternatives might exist that donors could fund instead?
To advance this conversation, Jewish Currents invited a mix of students and activists to weigh in.
Sam Bahour: “Really See, Not From a Bus Window”
American Jews have a responsibility to visit the West Bank on an alternative trip, meet with Palestinians, and hear their stories.
Alex Verman: “Mere Disruption Won’t Alter Birthright’s Agenda”
Going on the trips, even to challenge them, undermines the BDS movement and solidarity with Palestinian activists.
Danielle Raskin: “We Had to Meet Our Peers Where They Were”
A defense of IfNotNow’s controversial Birthright walk-offs.
Michael Zanger-Tishler: “Reimagine and Reclaim the Concept of Birthright”
Young Jews, regardless of means, should have the opportunity to invest in strengthening our Jewish lives however we see fit.
Frima Bubis: “Responsible Travel in the Region Is Possible”
The anti-occupation movement urgently needs ambassadors who have been on the ground.