NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, Nov. 7, 2010 — Earlier today a group calling itself ‘Youth Against Delegitimization’ (YAD) claimed affiliation to the Jewish Council of North America, and announced the launch of Taglit Lekulanu, a new Birthright trip open to both Palestinian and Jewish Americans. The Confederation denies any connection to this group or the trip, and continues to regard Birthright Israel as the centerpiece of its efforts to connect with Jewish American youth and foster a Jewish identity that is inseparable from the State of Israel.
The Council would never support an initiative such as Taglit Lekulanu, which proposes to introduce a more balanced view of Israeli society. The objective of Birthright is to instill Zionist values in American Jewish youth and create a solid base of American Jews who are unconditionally loyal to the Jewish state. To introduce these young people to Palestinian narratives of dispossession would be completely antithetical to Birthright’s goals. Even to give space to voices that are critical of contemporary Israeli policy would be unacceptable, as the Israeli government is an integral partner in the Birthright program.
Moreover, presenting a multiplicity of narratives would undermine not only the idealized image of Israel that Birthright presents, but also the sense of emergency that gives such power to the Birthright experience. We know that trauma is a potent educational tool, and the Birthright program—ten days of intense activity with an armed escort, Holocaust references, intimate encounters with IDF soldiers and second-hand stories about ‘violent’ Arabs—has been carefully devised to infuse youth with the conviction that Jews everywhere are on the brink of annihilation, and that the only way to survive is to support Israel without question.
Further, it must be remembered that the original impetus for the Birthright program was the high rate of miscegenation among young American Jews that was leading towards a silent holocaust. The presence of Palestinian Americans on such a trip would be counterproductive, when Birthright explicitly strives to discourage mixed marriages and promote the numerical strength of the Jewish population in the United States.
Finally, the Council would like to reiterate its commitment to defending Israel no matter how many international laws, human rights and democratic freedoms it has violated. In fact, after already spending millions of dollars rationalizing and whitewashing Israel’s violent and aggressive policies over the years, the Council has recently partnered with the JFNA and the Israeli government to launch the Israel Action Network, a $6 million program that will actively counter any calls to hold Israel accountable. This program will be a priority for the Council in the coming years.
The Council has had no direct communication with YAD, though we are aware of their declaration, which has already been spread widely on the internet through media such as Facebook and Twitter.