The Conspiracy

OMG J Street Has a Birthright Trip!

Here’s yet another sign that the self-proclaimed “pro-Israel, pro-peace” group — despite claims that it’s a terrorist-funded, anti-Israel, Hamas-loving shill — might actually be pro-Israel:

It’s sponsoring a Birthright trip.


We’ll post some thoughtful analysis of this announcement soon, but in the meantime here’s an excerpt from the press release and some quick thoughts on what this means. First, the excerpt:

J Street U is very happy to announce that we will be leading a free, ten-day Taglit-Birthright trip this summer titled, “Explore Israel: Progressive Zionism and Social Justice.”

This trip is an incredible opportunity to connect with the Israel that isn’t on the front page or in the guide books. Move beyond the headlines, and see what’s really happening on the ground. …

The trip is a chance to appreciate the vibrancy of Israel’s history, culture and landscape from a perspective that acknowledges your Jewish and progressive values.

The best way to discover the richness of Israeli society and the full contours of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to travel around Israel and meet people from the diverse groups of the region. There is simply no substitute for seeing the land and connecting with the people.

This brings a number of things to light:

1. J Street is pro-Israel: For all of you who didn’t know this already, this trip proves that  J Street is, in fact, a group that supports a Jewish and democratic state in the Land of Israel. Jewish Federations across the US support Birthright as a way for young Jews to connect to Israel, and the Israeli government is giving Birthright $100 million over the next two years. Is that pro-Israel enough for you?

2. Birthright doesn’t necessarily have to gloss over Israel’s flaws: I would argue that a ten-day trip to Israel that emphasizes tourist sites and air-conditioned buses probably doesn’t show participants the “real” Israel, but it seems like this J Street U trip is at least going to engage with the question of Palestinian rights and will focus in part on the conflict. It’ll be interesting to see how that plays out, but it is a different approach from other Birthright trips.

Check back for more in the coming days…


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15 Older Responses to “OMG J Street Has a Birthright Trip!”

  1. Batami
    January 26, 2011 at 11:57 am #

    Oh, great. J Street will bring a busload of American students to demonstrate at the “Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity” demonstrations to protest the reestablishment of the Jewish neighborhood of Shimon Hatzaddik in Jerusalem.

    J Street U’s Jerusalem branch has adopted the group and taken its students to the demonstrations. J Street plans on honoring the group at its Washington convention, and documents recently released show that J Street Students’ mailing list was used for Sheikh Jarrah fundraising.

    Sorry that ain’t pro-Israel.

  2. Harpo Jaeger
    January 27, 2011 at 3:21 am #

    Yes Batami, God forbid a group support Israel but also feel common cause with Palestinians.
    One can do both, you know. It’s only a zero-sum game because we make it.

  3. howiej
    January 27, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    I would like to read the itinerary of their trip and the groups that they will link up with.

  4. Vic Rosenthal
    January 27, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    The ‘press release’ does not appear on the websites of either J Street U or J Street. And I’ve been told that Birthright DENIES that there will be such a trip! Did you receive the press release by email? Have a close look at the headers — I’m beginning to smell a hoax!

  5. Ben Sales
    January 27, 2011 at 5:53 pm #

    Me too, Howie.

  6. David Zarmi
    January 27, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    This does not show that it is pro-Israel just because it’s savvy enough to start a trip. The question is what it will be teaching on the trip. If it takes students to environmental preservation projects and to meet with gay rights organizations, that seems to be a fairly normal pro-Israel stance. See the Israel demonized in the media? That’s not all true. But if they’re just taking the kids to protests Zionist occupation or whatever, the trip has no purpose – they can already protest it here. So the question is do they inculcate love for Israel and its people or just anger at the policies they disagree with?

    And no, of course they don’t need to whitewash Israel, but I think with the constant media exposure and propaganda, people have a pretty good idea of what Israel’s flaws are. The point of Birthright is to show that Israel is not all flaws, and indeed is not defined by them, but for its good, and putting its flaws in context (Jewish history both ancient, medieval, and modern).

    So I just don’t see how you can get pro-Israel out fo this before seeing what they do. It could very well be just a very smart way of

    And to Harpo – you can be both to a certain extent. You can want to see all the Arabs in Israel living well and reasonably free, you can even want some of them to have sovereignty in the West Bank, but given who they are right now, with their current culture and hatred, you can’t really want to see them armed against us. So you might be able protest unequal legal treatment but not do things to support the P.A. or any other hatred spewing organization.

  7. Mike
    January 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

    I am desperately curious about the actions of J Street and hope that I can learn more from this site regarding what’s planned for their Birthright trip. I’m very disappointed that I can’t find anything in J Street’s actions that indicates support for Israel, much less support for Israel as a Jewish homeland. Their goal of supporting the two state solution is somehing I can be grateful for, and the current Israeli government, as Thomas Friedman recently noted, seems to be divorced from reality regarding the future of Israel’s security and the need for a Palestinian state. But everything I can find about J Street’s actions shows that they’re insistant on demonizing Israel in the same manner as campaigns that have the goal of delegitimizing Israel, or turning it into an Arab majority country. The schedule for their upcoming meeting for instance doesn’t seem to have a single speaker that would defend Israel.

    This would all make sense if Israel wasn’t currently fighting to survive surrounded by determined and merciless enemies; if it was a given that a Jewish state of Israel wasn’t seriously threaten with extinction, but it is. Israel desperately needs support. I’ve been hoping that J Street would be a fierce supporter of Israel’s right to exist while lobbying against the excesses of the far right in the US and Israel, but I’m only getting half of that and it doesn’t work without the other half.


  8. Harpo Jaeger
    January 29, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    So the question is do they inculcate love for Israel and its people or just anger at the policies they disagree with?
    These aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, I think that if you love a country you have to be willing to be honest with yourself and others about its problems.
    You can want to see all the Arabs in Israel living well and reasonably free, you can even want some of them to have sovereignty in the West Bank…
    Actually, I think you can (and should) want all the Arabs in Israel living well and completely free, and I think you should want any of them who are elected to have sovereignty in the West Bank, or rather in Palestine. What’s the justification for anything less?
    Here comes the qualifier:
    … but given who they are right now, with their current culture and hatred, you can’t really want to see them armed against us.
    Who are they right now? A disfranchised ever-growing minority, living under daily occupation and brutal violence. I don’t excuse acts of terrorism, but it’s just silly to claim they’re a result of some flaw or inherent difference in “Arab culture.”
    Lastly, as recently released documents show, the PA in fact has consistently capitulated to everything Israel has asked of it, providing no real opposition, much less “hatred spewing.”

  9. marty rich
    January 29, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    this is patently false. i’m told j street petitioned for a birthright bus but was never actually considered since they aren’t really pro-israel. looks like another example of jstreet incompetence putting the cart before the horse. birthright will never partner with jstreet i’m told, until it disavows its anti israel stances and rhetoric.

  10. abe l
    January 31, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

    Some­one at J Street thought that it would be clever to trade on the good name of Birthright — after all, how could Birthright allow an anti-Zionist group to lead a tour? — and at the same time exploit the fund­ing pro­vided by truly pro-Israel donors and the Israeli gov­ern­ment. The plan was bring young peo­ple to Israel where they could meet with left-wing Jews and anti-Zionist Arabs, who would present to them J Street’s fun­da­men­tally anti-Zionist point of view.

    But they appar­ently ‘for­got’ to ask Birthright before announc­ing the program!

    This is a maneu­ver char­ac­ter­is­tic of J Street, which essen­tially exists to dis­hon­estly use Jew­ish resources against Israel. So it accepts dona­tions from well-meaning lib­eral Jews while also receiv­ing funds from extreme left-wing sources such as George Soros and from indi­vid­u­als con­nected to Arab inter­ests and Iran.

  11. Harpo Jaeger
    January 31, 2011 at 4:26 pm #

    i’m told j street petitioned for a birthright bus but was never actually considered since they aren’t really pro-israel.
    We’ve yet to see any supporting evidence from anyone who’s claimed that the trip is a fraud.
    Also, check out KFJ’s comment at Jewschool clarifying the backend structure of Birthright trips.


  1. J Street U and Birthright: together at last! | Jewschool - January 26, 2011

    […] The New Voices blog pointed out today that J Street U, the college arm of J Street, will begin offering a Birthright trip this summer called, “Explore Israel: Progressive Zionism and Social Justice.” […]

  2. More on J Street’s Birthright Trip | Solomonia - January 28, 2011

    […] press release from J Street U’s direc­tor, Daniel May, which appeared in sev­eral blogs (see here and here) was a hoax, because it didn’t appear on either the J Street or J Street U site. But one […]

  3. BREAKING NEWS: J Street U Birthright Trip Cancelled « New Voices - January 31, 2011

    […] 25, J Street U, the campus arm of J Street–the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby in Washington, announced that it would be leading a Birthright trip called “Explore Israel: Progressive Zionism and […]

  4. Update: What Birthright has to say for itself « New Voices - February 1, 2011

    […] Street U issued a statement yesterday that its Birthright trip has been cancelled, but today Birthright issued a statement of its own saying that it never […]

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