The AJT fiercely opposes the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel and in general doesn’t like boycotts as a tool to effect change, but we can declare our support for boycotting one organization in our community: Jewish Voice for Peace.
As an unabashedly Zionist newspaper, we have never been on the same page as JVP, which can most kindly be described as pro-Palestinian and Israel-agnostic. But even though JVP uses the “Jewish” in its name as a shield for relentless attacks on Israel, we have made room on our pages for the occasional JVP event and column.
JVP has dropped all pretense at being anything but anti-Zionist, however, with its latest campaign, Return the Birthright, in which it calls on Diaspora Jews ages 18 to 26 to refuse to take Birthright Israel’s free, 10-day trip.
“We reject the offer of a free trip to a state that does not represent us, a trip that is only ‘free’ because it has been paid for by the dispossession of Palestinians. And as we reject this, we commit to promoting the right to return of Palestinian refugees,” JVP says in its anti-Birthright manifesto.
Birthright Israel is one of the most successful innovations in American Jewish life. Since its creation in December 1999, it has sent more than 600,000 young Jewish adults to Israel from around the world.
Many Birthrighters come home with rekindled love for Israel as the Jewish homeland. Some return with mixed or negative feelings about Israel in relation to the Palestinians. All who take the trip are more knowledgeable about Israel and Israelis, and if JVP believes in its own truth, it shouldn’t be afraid of people observing the reality on the ground.
What JVP wants, however, is a generation of young Jews who know nothing except the false narrative of hundreds of thousands of innocent Arabs driven from their homes by colonizers with no more connection to historical Palestine than the Sioux or Apache.
JVP has long sung the same sour song, and, sadly, it always sways some Jews. No matter how much we disagree with JVP’s narrative and goals, we have respected the passion of some of its members and have appreciated the opportunity to educate people by answering JVP’s arguments.
But the attack on Birthright is something different — not because of Birthright’s role in developing grassroots support for Israel, but because of the organization’s success at building community within the Diaspora.
Those groups riding around Israel on buses form connections they bring back to America, and that gift from the Jewish community encourages many participants to get involved with communal organizations so they can give back.
That’s what JVP is attacking with its Birthright boycott: a thriving channel to secure Jewish continuity. JVP opposes legacy Jewish communal organizations and recognizes that those groups are strengthened by their involvement in Birthright, so JVP wants to undermine Birthright.
In the process, JVP would happily chip away at the foundations of Diaspora Jewry. We can’t let that happen. So if you care about the Jewish future, we urge you to turn your backs on JVP.