Five US Jews abandon Birthright saying it ‘deliberately hides the truth of occupation’
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Five US Jews abandon Birthright saying it ‘deliberately hides the truth of occupation’

Young activists claim the heritage tour for diaspora Jews is “unwilling to grapple with reality” for Palestinians

Picture posted by  Danielle Raskin  on Twitter, complaining about Birthright's political position
Picture posted by Danielle Raskin on Twitter, complaining about Birthright's political position

Five young women who left their Taglit-Birthright trip in Israel have posted a damning assessment of the organisation that offers free heritage trips for Diaspora Jews, accusing it of being “unwilling to grapple with reality”.

American Danielle Raskin, 22, and four friends, posted an open letter online after accusing the organisation of “using a political agenda to educate thousands of American Jews” and of “deliberately hiding the truth” of the occupation.

The group left the trip towards the end of the tour and decided to “see the occupation for ourselves,” by joining a tour to Hebron organised by Israeli veterans’ organisation Breaking the Silence and encouraging other participants to do so.

They said that they wanted young Diaspora Jews to know that “Birthright isn’t providing the kind of education that we really need… Birthright’s telling a one-sided story and it’s not fair, we deserve the truth”.

#Birthright wouldn’t show us the occupation so we are going to see it for ourselves.

Posted by Katie Anne on Thursday, 28 June 2018

One participant said: “We’ve been really trying to participate, having a transformative experience here in Israel, but we’ve been really disappointed about the way that Birthright has either completely erased the effects of the occupation or avoided our questions or spun things in a way that we felt was extremely biased.”

While the trip was supposed to be apolitical, the group were given a message from US casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who bankrolls US politicians based on their views on Israel, and whose free Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom, has been crucial to ensuring public support for Benjamin Netanyahu.

When asked why she was leaving the trip, she said: “We came half-way round the world to see our homeland, and to me that means grappling with it in all of its complexity. They haven’t allowed us to do that.”

In the letter, the five women said that they had hoped Birthright would address some of their questions “especially in light of the recent killing of more than 100 protesters in Gaza and Trump moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem”.

They said: “We came with questions about what’s happening in the occupied territories and wanted to engage with new perspectives, but what became clear is that Birthright didn’t want to truthfully engage with our questions. It’s clear that young Jews who have critical questions about Israel are not welcome on Birthright.”

It was later reported that the five were members of an anti-occupation group called IfNotNow which seeks to “end American Jewish support for the occupation,” with suggestions that the five participants had “infiltrated” the tour.

In response to the incident, Birthright-Israel said: “Since we respect the ability of our participants to formulate their own views, we reject the promotion of any agendas, attempts at manipulation or provocations from either political side.”

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