Walking out on Birthright was the right thing to do

(photo: Getty Images)

Instead of being drawn into Sheldon Adelson’s free trip, these women insisted on acting according to our Jewish values.

By Avrum Burg | Forward | Jul 3, 2018

[Avrum Burg has served as speaker of the Knesset, Jewish Agency chairman and interim president of Israel.]


Birthright, like every other Hasbara project, is a practice in augmented reality. It is Israel’s attempt to talk the talk without walking the walk, to be perceived as a liberal democracy while imposing a military regime on Palestinians in the territories and expanding settlements in the West Bank, all so the international community and world Jewry support — or at least don’t interfere with — what Israeli conservatives see as Israel’s real birthright: controlling the lives and future of millions of Palestinians.


Last week, five participants of Birthright walked out on the program and straight onto a tour of the segregated city of Hebron with IDF veterans from Breaking the Silence, where they saw what Birthright desperately tried to hide.

They saw the checkpoints, the streets Palestinians aren’t allowed to walk on and the caged windows that protect Palestinians from settler violence.

Their strong actions were followed by strong words as they urged fellow American Jews to refuse to cooperate with pro-occupation propaganda like Birthright: “It is morally irresponsible to participate in an institution that is not willing to grapple with reality on the other side of the wall. That’s why we’re on our way to Hebron now,” they wrote in a statement.

These five brave women seem to have realized something that I failed to see while I was chairman of the Jewish Agency and speaker of the Knesset: Israel doesn’t have a public relations crisis; it has a moral crisis.

Instead of being drawn into Sheldon Adelson’s free trip, these women insisted on acting according to our Jewish values.

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