A group of five activists from the far-left IfNotNow organization infiltrated a Birthright group recently in Israel and offered a tour of Hebron to other members of the group with Breaking the Silence—an extreme Left group, heavily funded by the European Union, which is dedicated to exhibiting Israeli soldiers and officers in the very worst possible light, possibly to bring about legal action against them.
IfNotNow, which says it seeks to “end American Jewish support for the ‘Occupation’,” launched a new campaign this week called Not Just A Free Trip, saying it will use a diversity of methods to teach Birthright participants about “the daily nightmare of ‘Occupation’.” It appears that one of these methods is to actively infiltrate Birthright groups without that organization’s knowledge and to influence the other participants regarding the political conflict with the Palestinians by offering them tours and other activities without Birthright’s permission.
So now, the famous Birthright free trip to Israel is being used as a Trojan horse by misguided brats to undermine Israel and besmirch its defenders and people. Birthright Israel—funded by well-meaning Jews whose aim is to preserve Jewish identity and pride amongst a population that is largely ignorant of their Jewish identity and are fed consistent anti-Israel propaganda—now finds itself a tool for the opposite.
Birthright is basically a liberal, politically correct organization, extremely careful about not being perceived as too "partisan" or even too "Jewish." I know because, as one who has guided these groups on a number of occasions, I am no longer asked to do so.
I am blacklisted as a tour guide by Birthright (as I am by many other organizations and companies who lose sleep over being accused of being too nationalistic or partisan). Nuance, diversity and "feeling the other" are some of the house rules. I broke those rules some years ago.
I recall clearly the morning that I was scratched from the Birthright list. It was just after the Oslo Accords calamity when one morning the Birthright general manager himself showed up to see if there was indeed a guide who was suggesting questioning the current consensus—the wisdom and humanity of the recently signed Oslo Accords with the terrorist Arafat and his minions. It was Mr. Brog himself who was there to inspect and question me. Mr Brog was the brother of then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, original surname Brog, who tried to give away the Golan to Assad, to flee south Lebanon in the middle of the night, and to offer Arafat 97% of Judea Samaria.
In answer to his questions, I did not veer from the truth—and so I was never asked back again. I suspect all those Birthright program operators, including the Orthodox Union, who will not hire me may be fearful of their superiors who hold the purse strings. I recall all this today as I read the item about the spoiled brats who proudly, as celebrities, fell into the arms of the waiting traitors of Breaking the Silence. So what will happen now?
I am sure that Birthright is embarrassed and worried about this precedent. They should be. What is the solution? Extreme vetting? Refund demands? A well-funded PR campaign explaining how Birthright really does present all sides? Extreme surveillance of the group at all times?
Yet, all of the above might very well just encourage the martyr/celebrity attraction of the rebels, even if they are being ignorant, selfish ingrates.
What about this idea? What about just telling it like it is? What about explaining why we are indeed right and they are wrong. It is really very easy; I do it all the time. Of course, that sometimes makes for my last job but no matter, I am here to talk about it.
In my experience, this is what makes Jews proud of who they are and of their embattled Jewish country. Only this. If called upon, I will give free seminars to Birthright guides and detox them from the fears that have accompanied them for so long. Political correctness has not worked. Young people can tell when they are being told the whole truth or when they are hearing a prescribed script. Let's make our young people proud and give them the tools to tell it like it is. “PC” be damned. The facts are on our side—use them. I guarantee great results.
Contact Shalom Pollack, veteran licensed tour guide, for upcoming tours at Shalom Pollack Tours: Personalized Tours in Israel. This piece appeared previously in the author’s blog.