The March of the Living and Birthright are two Jewish attempts to bond mostly young American Jews to israel. They are no cost to the participants and already over 300,000 have taken advantage of the opportunity. These trips often produce lasting effects and links to the Jewish state.
One of the greatest donors to this program is the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson. The name may be familiar. His deep pockets funded Newt Gingrich in his hapless run to the republican nomination.Adelson also donated $25 million to refurbish the fantastic Holocaust museum Yad Vashem.
Latterly Adelson accompanied Mitt Romney to Israel where Romney exposed his absolute ignorance of the Middle East and in particular of the Palestinians. No matter, Adelson wants to make sure whoever is president a hard pro-Israel line will be the result. line.Adelson much like fellow billionaires the Koch brothers are exactly what’s wrong with American politics where whoever pays the piper calls the tune. Their influence is not only deleterious to democracy but very dangerous to the Middle East powder keg. The sheer fact is that Palestinians have no such backers with deep pockets. All they have is justice on their side.
As far as Birthright and March of the Living, I have questions.
Israel is an incredible country rich indeed in culture and history and anyone exposed to it, Jewish or not, cannot help but be moved. However…
What do these young Jews see when they go to Israel?
You can bet no time is spent in Gaza or the West Bank.There will be no seeing the Other as oppressed human beings. All this will be glossed over. It will be justified by not mixing politics with culture and history, an absolutely impossible separation. Real Jewish values will be traduced.
A shocking example of this was related to me by Sami Awad a Palestinian who studied in the States and whose uncle Mubarrak Awad , a nonviolent leader has been permanently banned from Israel.
Mubarrak Awad permanently exiled
An aside here is the answer to the question Where are the Palestinian Gandhis? They are all exiled and unable to return to their homeland.
Anyway, Sami Awad being open to Jewish suffering actually went on a March of the Living experience to Aushwitz only to hear the leader say to his young charges: “You see this is just what the Palestinians want to do with us!” He was shocked as all of us should be.
I doubt that this is normal discourse.
However I do not doubt that young Jews are exposed to the long suffering Palestinian people.
Thus these potentially rich trips are radically deficient and they border on the fraudulent.