Birthright Israel offers a free, ‘educational’ trip to Israel for young adults of Jewish heritage
Dubai: An American Jew visiting Israel as a part of Birthright Israel tour has won the praises of many Palestinians and civil rights groups after a video of him lambasting his tour guide went viral on social media.
Elon Glickman was one of a group of Jewish Americans travelling to Israel as part of the ‘Birthright’ programme.
Birthright Israel offers a free, ‘educational’ trip to Israel for young adults of Jewish heritage.
But increasingly Jewish tourists have accused the programme of showing a distorted picture of Israel—completely ignoring the blatant Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
In a video made viral by NowThis, Glickman noticed that the map of Israel he was handed had no mention of the West Bank where Palestinians live under Israeli occupation.
Glickman told the tour guide that it was “inappropriate for all of us… to be shown this map as if it was the truth”.
In response, the flustered tour guide asserted that the West Bank was part of Israel, which is not true.
Israel occupied the West Bank and Jerusalem in the 1967 war in a move never recognised by the international community.
Since then it has steadily built colonies on Palestinian land making their hope for a future state increasingly dim.
Many Palestinian refugees, who were kicked out of their homes when Israel was created in 1948, express sadness and anger that they are not allowed to visit their homeland while any Jew in the world is given this special privilege based on their religion.
The videos come amid increasing criticism of Israel last week when it passed a controversial set of laws legalising apartheid.
The so-called “Nation-state Bill” says only Jews have the right to self-determination and makes Hebrew the official language of Israel.
Palestinians fear this could be the first step in the complete annexation of the West Bank.
As for Glickman, he accused the tour guide of showing that “Israel is this great country that’s not enforcing a military occupation”.
“We’ve had a hard time with some of the misinformation and some of the generalisations we’ve been hearing, and this is a real opportunity and a rare one to listen and learn and take a stand against occupation,” Glickman said.
He later tweeted images of his trip along with this caption: “When @birthright refuses to show young American Jews the truth about the Occupation then it’s on young American Jews to demand they do so. Israel is enforcing a military Occupation on Palestinians in our name and that’s unacceptable. #NotJustAFreeTrip”
He walked off the tour bus with seven other tourists, and instead embarked on his own tour of Palestinian areas to see the occupation first-hand.
They visited a Palestinian family in Occupied Jerusalem who are facing forced eviction by the Jewish National Fund and The Ir David Foundation.
These two groups are known for forcing Palestinians from their homes in areas of religious and archaeological significance.
Glickman has come under fire from conservative Zionists and Israel has refused to fly him home and threatened him with a lawsuit leaving him stranded in Israel.
What is Birthright Israel?
Birthright—or “Taglit,” meaning “discovery” in Hebrew —has provided free travel to Israel for more than 650,000 young Jews from 67 countries since it was established, in 1999.
It is a not-for-profit educational organisation that sponsors free ten-day heritage trips to Israel for young adults of Jewish heritage, aged 18–32.
About 80 per cent of participants are from the United States and Canada.
During their trip, participants, most of whom are visiting Israel for the first time, are encouraged to discover new meaning in their personal Jewish identity and connection to Jewish history and culture.
The ‘non-political’ education experience is co-founded by Michael Steinhardt – who gave the middle finger to a group of protesters outside of Birthright’s annual gala.
He later branded them as “left-wing, stupid young Jews”.
The majority of the group’s funding, meanwhile, comes from private donors such as billionaire conservative Sheldon Adelson.
Adelson has funded the campaigns of countless Republicans, including Donald Trump.
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