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…