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Emotionally Divesting from Israel

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    Zionist Indoctrination: Birthright Israel Unplugged Corey Balsam - AIC Report http://www.imemc.org/article/58914orhttp://atheonews.blogspot.com/2009/0
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 23, 2009
      Zionist Indoctrination: Birthright Israel "Unplugged"
      Corey Balsam - AIC Report

      There are few international educational trips that can boast a higher
      participant rate. In just under 10 years, Birthright Israel has flown
      over 200, 000 young Jews to Israel for a 10 day adventure of touring,
      partying and a good dose of Zionist indoctrination.

      Despite a significant drop in funding this year, that number is sure to
      grow by the thousands again in 2009.
      How do they do it? For starters, it's free. So long as you identify as
      Jewish, have never been on an organized tour of Israel, and are between
      the ages of 18-26, you qualify.

      What's the catch? Well, there really isn't one. Participants are not
      required to buy anything or move to Israel and join the army, nor are
      they force-fed with political lectures and religious tirades. All they
      need to do is accept an all-expenses-paid "gift" of a seemingly
      apolitical, non-religious tour. Who wouldn't accept?

      I did.

      Beneath the surface, however, these "gifts" are indeed politically
      motivated. Funded by the Israeli government, the Jewish Agency for
      Israel and wealthy Zionist philanthropists like Charles Bronfman and
      Sheldon Adelman, the trips are intended in large part to foster support
      amongst Diaspora Jewish youth for the continued existence of Israel as a
      "Jewish state" and to ensure a new generation of Israel supporters who
      can take over the reins from their parents and grandparents.

      The logic goes like this: Jews in the Diaspora are more likely to feel a
      strong attachment to Israel, and therefore support and defend it, if
      they have travelled there.

      This theory was given further credence after a study entitled Beyond
      Distancing: Young Adult American Jews and their Alienation from Israel
      was released in 2006. "Absent any trip to Israel," say the document's
      authors, "most Jews score on the lowest rung of Israel attachment, and
      only a few manage to harbor warm feelings toward Israel." Furthermore,
      "as important as Israel travel may be for fortifying commitment to
      Israel and preventing alienation," the document's authors stress that
      "it is even more important and most important, for younger Jews."

      Birthright Israel therefore plays a significant role in the
      infrastructure of Zionist indoctrination in the Jewish Diaspora, which
      includes Zionist schools, camps, youth groups, and so on. Most
      significantly, what Birthright Israel trips are able to do is bring more
      young Jews, regardless of their level of affiliation with Jewish
      institutions, into the Zionist fold.

      Whether it's to make aliah (move to Israel), give money to Zionist
      organizations such as the Jewish National Fund, become lobbyists in
      their respective communities and countries, or at the very least, give
      tacit moral support for Israel, ensuring that as many young Jews as
      possible become supporters of Israel in one way or another is extremely
      important for the future of the Zionist project.

      Yet given the growth in public consciousness around the world regarding
      the Israeli government's ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people,
      boosted considerably by the recent Israeli massacres in Gaza, the
      Zionist project is facing somewhat of a crisis.

      As Israel is becoming more and more difficult to defend, a growing
      number of young Jews are expressing staunch opposition to the Israeli
      government and Zionism, shouting "not in my name!" for all the world to

      Hannah Mermelstein is one of these young Jews. Together with co-founder
      Dunya Alwan, Murmelstein created an organization called Birthright
      Unplugged in 2005, in part to counter Birthright Israel and the skewed
      picture it paints in the minds of young Jews.

      Open to both Jews and non-Jews, Birthright Unplugged takes participants
      to see the devastating effects that Zionist colonization and occupation
      have had on the Palestinian people in the West Bank and within what is
      now the state of Israel.

      "Zionism is failing. It's on the decline." says Mermelstein. "Our role
      is to speed up the fall of Zionism," she added, "while at the same time
      standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle to survive and
      resist Zionist policy."

      Rosi Greenberg, alum of both Birthright Israel and Birthright Unplugged,
      agrees. "To me, Judaism is about ethics and valuesÂ… about human
      rights," says Greenberg.

      Upon witnessing the suffering of the Palestinian people first-hand and
      understanding more about Israel's abhorrent human rights record,
      Mermelstein and Greenberg's opposition to Zionism and involvement with
      the Palestinian solidarity movement are hence not surprising.

      Crucially, as an increasing number of young Jews like Mermelstein and
      Greenberg are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and
      working to separate Judaism and Zionism, one of the most important
      tactics of the Zionist movement, namely the unreflective charge that all
      criticism of Israel is equivalent to anti-Semitism, loses much of its

      So while Birthright Israel continues to bring thousands of Jews around
      the world on their "birthright" each year, the mounting frequency of
      Diaspora Jews to unplug from Zionism and emotionally divest from Israel
      is emerging as a serious challenge to the Zionist project and its
      infrastructure of indoctrination.



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