Home > Hasbara, Jewish Fundamentalism > [Video] Birthright group visits (Jewish Settlement of) Hebron?!

[Video] Birthright group visits (Jewish Settlement of) Hebron?!

The “Hebron” account at WeJew.com (a kind of Jewish YouTube wannabe) has just (July 5 2010) uploaded a video purportedly documenting a visit this month of an Australian Birthright group to the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. This site is the stated raison d’être of the extremist Jewish Settlement in the the West Bank city and its cultural center. Watch the video (if it’s been taken down, I’ve embedded a recording of the video playing on WeJew at the bottom of this post): At 01:46, “Daniel”, the apparent trip leader, is interviewed. He seems to know exactly what he’s doing.

What’s the problem?

Well, for starters, in its Safety and Security rules, Birthright makes an explicit commitment to participants, parents and, presumably, insurers:

Our tours do not travel to or through areas of the West Bank, Gaza or East Jerusalem, other than the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.

In addition, Birthright has been repeatedly criticized for providing young Jewish-Americans a skewed perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of the most scathing criticism has come from within the Jewish-American community. For example, here is a remarkable piece of soul-searching from a Hillel campus organizer:

So what am I doing behind this Birthright table, trying to rally Jews and only Jews to go to Israel with a program whose agenda is to make them rabid, unquestioning supporters of its actions?

Birthright has a response to this kind of criticism, which is particularly interesting in the context of the Hebron visit video:

“The conflict bubbles up,” said Barry Chazan, a professor emeritus of education at Hebrew University and education director for Birthright Israel.

“But it’s not a seminar in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. … The fact that they don’t meet the head of the Palestinian Authority doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing issues of the conflict.”

Indeed.

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  1. July 5, 2010 at 20:47

    Oh my God!!! Imagine the horror!! Jews having the temerity, the chutzpah and the insensitivity to visit one of the holiest places in Judaism! I am appalled!

    Thank you Didi for keeping the Jewish people honest. We’re all looking forward to the day that Hebron returns to the way it was in 1929, totally judenrein.

    Amen.

    • July 5, 2010 at 20:59

      When someone responds to a post of your’s by changing the subject, David, I’ve noticed that you usually have a profanity up your sleeve. Whatever.

  2. July 5, 2010 at 21:09

    Come on Didi. I didn’t use profanity this time. I used sarcasm. I restrained my Moroccan Jewish wildness in the interest of having a productive dialog. So the question is Didi, what were you most upset about? A Birthright trip to Hebron that was in all likelihood not authorized by Birthright? Are you upset that Jews visit and/or live in Hebron? Come on… let’s have a civil chat. I promise not to use any profanity at all.

  3. July 5, 2010 at 21:16

    David, I won’t let you change the subject. The question of Jews in Hebron is not at issue here (and neither is it when discussing the Settlement for that matter.)

    You want to have an ideological discussion? Find a more appropriate excuse.

  4. July 5, 2010 at 21:24

    Sorry Didi, I just find it difficult to believe that you are so concerned about Birthright rules given that you seem to believe that Birthright is a Zionist indoctrination program. I mean, Birthright may as well send trips to Batayin and Karnei Shomron and the Gush and have love-ins with settlers – it wouldn’t change your perspective, would it? Is that a valid question?

    • July 5, 2010 at 21:28

      It isn’t: (1) ad hominem question; (2) strawman argument as starting point.

  5. July 5, 2010 at 21:37

    @ Didi
    Remarkable, enviable arguing skills :-).

  6. July 5, 2010 at 22:02

    Walla Didi, so what can I ask you? I will try and deconstruct the post as fairly as possible to see if I missed anything, ok?

    1) Australian Birthright Trip visits the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron
    2) This visit is in violation of Birthright’s rules and regulations
    3) Besides Birthright provides young Jews with a skewed perception of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
    4) Birthright kids experience issues of the conflict according to BRI education director

    So what am I supposed to understand from this Didi? You tweeted that Birthright lies to parents and participants when they say that they don’t visit the West Bank. Please explain to me what your underlying message was in writing this post. I am approaching this in as open minded a manner as my savage little brain is capable of.

    • July 5, 2010 at 22:12

      David,

      1 and 2 are correct and are the major thrust and motivation of this post. I like to to be able to report using primary sources once in a while.

      The rest is reflection, but you’re a little off in 3 and 4. I’ll try to re-phrase:
      Birthright has come under criticism for providing young Jews with a skewed perception of the conflict. The fact that participants are not supposed to visit the West Bank settlements is actually used by them to fend off criticism that they do not meet Palestinians. This is the point Chazan made (read it in context to be certain.) The way he ended gave me an opportunity for a sarcastic joke.

      Best,

      Didi

  7. esthermiriam
    July 5, 2010 at 22:04

    Boys, play nice.

    The question would be — are they shown the price Palestineans are paying so that Jews can go their holy site (which, btw, is also holy to others —
    Ishamel returned to join his brother Yitzhak to bury their father, as those who read Chumash will know). Are they seeing the closed shops defaced with Jewish graffiti, the closed streets on which citizens of Hebron are limited to walking in one tiny lane, the stones thrown down on their market, buildings in need of repair in the Old City…? One guesses not.

    • walt kovacs
      July 6, 2010 at 03:27

      yishmael did teshuva before he returned…he accepted his place and accepted yitchak’s birthright

      may it be that way with all of his children

  8. esthermiriam
    July 5, 2010 at 22:06

    Boys, play nice.

    The question would be — are they shown the price Palestineans are paying so that Jews can go their holy site (which, btw, is also holy to others —
    Ishamel returned to join his brother Yitzhak to bury their father, as those who read Chumash will know). Are they seeing the closed shops defaced with Jewish graffiti, the closed streets on which citizens of Hebron are limited to walking in one tiny lane, the stones thrown down on their market, buildings in need of repair in the Old City, the security x-rays that schoolgirls face every day to get to class…? One guesses not.

  9. July 5, 2010 at 22:19

    Exactly, Esther.

  10. July 5, 2010 at 22:22

    One may guess all one likes esthermiriam. It’s a 10 day trip. Some of the participants don’t even know the fundamentals of Jewish literacy. I’ve led 10 of these trips and have been asked questions like “Dave? Who is this Hashem guy everyone keeps talking about?” Or while climbing Massada: “Ooof! Why did Moses have to get the 10 commandments HERE?!” All you can hope to do in 10 days is inspire the trip participants to want to learn more and to perhaps return on their own for longer than 10 days. I was never instructed by Birthright or any trip provider to promote any particular political or ideological perspective. When we inevitably discussed the matsav, I gave my opinion and urged the participants not to take my word for it. I urged them to come back, to read as prodigiously as I do, particularly material from as many perspectives as possible. I urged them to make up their own minds and avoid propaganda. I’ve worked with a lot of people at Taglit and have been exposed to a wealth of opinions covering a wide ideological spectrum. This notion that Taglit is some kind of Hasbara machine designed to create mindless pro-Israel drones is, at least from my very broad experience, nonsense.

  11. Larry Stillman
    July 6, 2010 at 02:27

    What’s really frightening about all this is that the kids then return to Australia (almost certainly Melbourne or Sydney) and this is the impression they have of Arabs and pass this on to friends and family–Arabs as the dangerous community threatening ‘our’ rights, when the situation is now completely the other case. They are being fed a dangerous irredentist fundamentalism that represents only one form of Judaism (and the kids, it appears, are not aware that they are even in Occupied Territory) You may dispute my analysis of Hebron, but there is an additional factor.

    Australia is a multicultural nation. There are substantial communities of Arabs (Muslim and Christian, of all sorts of orientations), yet this is probably the first time the kids have ever seen, or barely seen, an Arab community. It reinforces sterotypes and prevents the building of bridges with local Arabs/Palestinians. The extremists in Hebron are the antithesis of tolerance or the acceptance of others.

    If you believe in a divison between communities in the Occupied territories well it is your right, I oppose it, as I opposed the occupation. But I also oppose the work of groups which reinforces the separation of communities in Australia.

  12. dickerson3870
    July 6, 2010 at 02:43

    RE: “This notion that Taglit is some kind of Hasbara machine…is, at least from my very broad experience, nonsense.” – Abitbol

    SEE: “From birthright to boycott”, By Josh Levinger, 06/14/10
    (excerpt)…I joined a Taglit-Birthright trip in the summer of 2007 after graduating from college. Along with a group of twenty other young American Jews, I went to Israel for the first time and we did all the things that are supposed to connect us to our cultural and religious heritage. We met soldiers, visited Yad Vashem and cried at the Wailing Wall. We climbed Masada at dawn and surveyed the beautiful land that was once promised to our people, and was now ours.
    However, while walking through the Old City of Jerusalem, or driving along highways to the Dead Sea, I could see that not all was well in this beautiful land. From a vantage point atop the ancient stone walls, a new concrete wall snakes across the landscape, and settlements stand out starkly on hilltops. Our bus was protected by an armed guard at all times, and he warned us sternly not to venture into Palestinian territory. Danger awaited there, kidnapping or lynching was possible, hatred and discrimination a certainty. He could not have been more wrong.
    After the planned activities of the trip were over, we were released from the protection of the tour guides and guards. I returned to Jerusalem with two friends and took a bus to the Bethlehem checkpoint…
    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://mondoweiss.net/2010/06/from-birthright-to-boycott.html#more-20687

  13. Greg Levy
    July 6, 2010 at 07:14

    Here is a Birthright group of a different nature that seem s to be staying inside the green line (if you can forgive them for daring to step foot into the Golan Heights). They seem to be interacting with the muslim residents of JLM.

    http://www.jpost.com/LocalIsrael/AroundIsrael/Article.aspx?id=179227

    One thing to keep in mind….when this article mentions that the participants are teamed up with “soldiers” They are refering to Israeli young adults who are either in the Army and are on break or are just finished with the army. They are civilians during the experience since BR is for ages 18-26. They are not in uniform and are serve as Israeli participants in the program under the concept of “mifgash” which brings US and Israeli peers together.

  14. July 6, 2010 at 14:39

    dickerson38: “Our bus was protected by an armed guard at all times…”

    Yeah. A young male or female medic armed with a WWII era M1 chambered with .22 cal ammunition. Range? Depends how far you can throw it. In the entire history of Birthright, one has never been fired.

    The rules against venturing into Arab areas without clearance from the security office are there more for the peace of mind of parents back home. While these areas are generally safe, the possibility of danger is higher there than in other areas. That having been said, most Birthright groups meet with Druze and Bedouin Israelis.

    As for the participant who wrote that post on Mondoweiss, how could he have not known that Israel was in a tumultuous region prior to his birthright trip? Was Josh too busy playing Half Life to read a newspaper? Why didn’t Josh mention that participants aren’t allowed to leave the group ever, whether they are in the Old City of Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv? Oh… because it doesn’t fit nicely into his pro BDS narrative? God what I wouldn’t give to have an honest discussion with someone who is interested in helping the people here and less in scoring ideological points.

  1. July 6, 2010 at 02:18
  2. July 6, 2010 at 11:35
  3. July 8, 2010 at 20:36
  4. July 9, 2010 at 20:31
  5. August 12, 2010 at 06:48
  6. August 18, 2010 at 12:59

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