IfNotNow gatecrash new Birthright group, go on east J‘lem tour

Six young Jews from the US associated with the left-wing IfNotNow organization have again gatecrashed a Birthright trip in Israel, participated in part of the 10 day tour and then demonstratively left in protest at what they said is a lack of perspective provided during the visit on the Palestinian narrative of the conflict with Israel.

Another two Birthright participants not previously associated with IfNotNow also participated in the walk out.

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One group of participants, including four who were previously associated with IfNotNow and the two who were not, live-streamed their protest on Facebook.

Another two Birthright participants from a different group joined the original group of six on the tour in east Jerusalem, which was guided by Hagit Ofran from Peace Now’s Settlement Watch division.

This is the latest incident is the in what is a coordinated campaign by IfNotNow group to have youth associated with the organization sign up for the free Birthright trips, and then publicly protest Israeli rule in the West Bank.

IfNotNow, which says it seeks to “end American Jewish support for the occupation,” launched a new campaign in June called Not Just A Free Trip, in which it says it is using “a diversity of methods” to teach Birthright participants about “the daily nightmare of Occupation.”

One of the methods is to actively infiltrate Birthright groups without the organization’s knowledge, and influence the other participants regarding the political conflict with the Palestinians by offering them tours and other activities without Birthright’s permission.

On Sunday morning, one of the participants started speaking during one of the group’s activities saying that they knew they would not get a perspective on the Palestinian narrative of the conflict, and that they were therefore going to visit a family in east Jerusalem they said is threatened with an eviction order.

“We know we cant do this [go to east Jerusalem] within Birthright, we know you’ve been trying to answer our questions, and we know birthright isn’t going to show us this perspective, which is why we need to leave to build the world that we want,” one of the IfNotNow participants told the Birthright tour guide.

The guide for his part reacted calmly, and said he would be happy to facilitate a discussion later in the day about the conflict and issues in east Jerusalem.

He also said said that anyone who wished to leave the trip could do so freely, although they will lose their deposit for the trip, may have to pay to change their flight ticket, and that Birthright may charge them for the entire trip.

Another of the IfNotNow participants acknowledged that they it would not be possible to go to east Jerusalem with Birthright which is why they were leaving the group to go themselves.

One of the IfNotNow participants, Elon Glickman, made a video for IfNotNow’s website last year protesting the lack of education he had received in the Jewish day school system about the Palestinian narrative on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Breaking the Silence, who will be taking those who walked out on Sunday on a tour of Hebron on Monday, said that “More young Jews are joining the protest against Birthright‘s attempt to cover up the occupation, and instead choose to see what we did as soldiers in the Occupied Territories.”

Continued the organization “They can’t show them liberal Tel Aviv, while ignoring the fact that a few kilometers away, we maintain military rule over millions of Palestinians. And they definitely can’t ask Diaspora Jews for unconditional support of Israel, and refuse to allow them to see what is it that they are supporting.”

The Reservists on Duty pro-Israel organization said that "It turns out that the extreme left organizations have a new hobby. To use Zionist donor funds to promote their despicable propaganda. If so far they have tried to cause friction between Israel and the rest of the world, they are now also trying to destroy the special connection between Diaspora Jewry and the State of Israel.

Birthright Israel said in response that "We respect the ability of all participants to formulate their own views and opinions, and engage in productive and respectful dialogue. However, we will not tolerate any attempts to use this experience to promote ideological agendas. Our program provides educational enrichment and embraces thoughtful discussions on many subjects. We will not allow this effort to be taken over by those motivated to engage in a political campaign given our commitment to providing a non-political educational experience. In order to protect the rights of all participants to enjoy this unique opportunity to explore Israel, anyone who disrupts the experience of other participants or intentionally diverts from the tour’s itinerary without authorization will forfeit their deposit and return home at their own expense."