Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Birthright Agenda

israel

I went on a Birthright trip when I was 20. I didn’t know anything about Israel or Palestine, and I kind of wanted to keep it that way rather than delve into what appeared to be an endlessly complicated, exasperating web of politics. I did not want to have an opinion on this; it seemed to be a subject too hopeless to be worth wading through all the controversy. But Birthright didn’t seem particularly political, and it blatantly claims not to be; it’s ten free days of traveling, fun and cultural learning in Israel for Jewish young adults. So many people I knew were coming back from these trips saying that it was the best experience of their lives. How could I say no?


What became abundantly clear – even after experiencing and seeking out so much from the pro-Israel side of things – is that Israel enacts many layers of systemic oppression and human rights violations upon the Palestinian people on a daily basis. There are sometimes violent acts of retaliation from Palestinians – in the form of Hamas rockets, stabbing attacks, all of those things the news publicizes- and these acts of violence are obviously worthy of full condemnation. But unlike what I’d assumed before, this was not a case of two sides with roughly equal power and resources that just hate each other and just hopelessly can’t coexist. In reality, this is one colonial power – a group with large sums of money and resources (largely in the form of $3.5 billion of annual aid from the U.S.) – claiming ownership over a piece of land and ethnically cleansing the population that had been there for, at the very least, many generations prior. Not only are the death tolls(especially civilian death tolls) exponentially higher when it comes to Palestinians killed by Israel than the other way around, but the actual power structure is similarly skewed. This is what the term “Israeli Occupation” refers to. It encompasses genocide, rampant violations of international law, large-scale racism, colonialism and de facto grand apartheid. All of that is the undeniably relevant context in which Birthright trips take place.


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