IFNOTNOW LAUNCHES #NotJustAFreeTrip CAMPAIGN PRESSURING BIRTHRIGHT TO TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT THE ISRAELI OCCUPATION TO ITS 40,000 YOUNG JEWISH PARTICIPANTS THIS SUMMER
The campaign, being coordinated across the country by members of IfNotNow, is part of a larger effort this summer to ensure that wherever young Jews are engaging with Israel — at summer camps or on Birthright trips — they are learning about the true realities of the Occupation.
Yonah Lieberman // firstname.lastname@example.org // (716) 537-6238
USA — Today, IfNotNow launched NotJustAFreeTrip.com, announcing that it will be urging Taglit-Birthright to tell the truth about the Israeli Occupation to the tens of thousands of young American Jews that will participate in its programming this summer. With the recent Israeli violence on Palestinian protesters in Gaza and Trump’s reckless embassy move, organizers felt moved to transform the way young Jews are educated about Israel this summer.
With the #NotJustAFreeTrip campaign, young Jews are challenging the outdated perception that Birthright is nothing more than an apolitical trip for Jews to connect with their Jewish identity. The campaign is led by alumni of Birthright who found the education on their own trips dishonest and were shocked to learn about the denial of freedom and dignity to Palestinians when they came home and did their own research.
“More important than what I was shown and taught in Israel is what I didn’t see or learn: the reality of the Israeli Occupation and the uncensored narratives of Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip,” said Alyssa Rubin, a 23 year-old from Boston who went on Birthright in 2013. “It was a painful experience to force me to learn about the brutality of Israeli military rule over Palestinians in books and movies back home when I know how physically close I was to seeing it for myself on my trip. Why is Birthright so afraid of what their participants will find on the other side of the wall?”
According to public records, the vast majority of Birthright’s financial support comes from billionaire right-wing philanthropists. Sheldon Adelson, who has contributed more than $200 million to Birthright since 2009, has also used his wealth to financially endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. Adelson made the largest single donation in history to an incoming president when he gave the Trump inaugural committee $5 million. The money from Adelson and other politically minded donors like him has funded over 600,000 people to go on Birthright since it began in 1999. That Birthright shares donors with Trump is further proof that both are invested in the perpetuation of the 51-year-old occupation and the continued denial of freedom and dignity to Palestinians and Israelis.
The IfNotNow campaign will engage and mobilize this summer’s Birthright participants, potential Birthright participants, and Birthright alumni in a variety of ways to show the costs of a right-wing-funded Jewish education that deliberately hides the truth from its participants. IfNotNow members will continue to gather at airports for “Birthright Send-offs”, like they did last week at JFK, meeting participants to share information about the Occupation and questions they can ask their tour guides. They also plan to engage Birthright alumni in sharing testimonies of experiences they had on their trips that reveal its political motivations, like sending participants unknowingly into settlements and leaving out the voices of Palestinians living under Occupation.
“It has never been acceptable for Birthright to leave out honest education about Israeli military rule over another people or to not share Palestinian narratives with young Jews looking to understand this place, but the recent violence reminds us the urgency to tell the truth about the Occupation,” said Jeremy Oziel, 26 from Oakland, who staffed a Birthright trip in 2016. “I’ve seen first hand how this free trip comes with high costs, and we refuse to be fed a political agenda any longer.”
In the past several years, IfNotNow, a movement led by young American Jews to end the American Jewish community’s support for the Occupation, has been growing both in membership and public influence, spanning across 14 cities and a dozen college campuses. After mobilizing 1,000 young Jews to protest outside of AIPAC’s annual conference last spring, this year they organized historic resistance to Israeli violence on Palestinian protesters and launched the #YouNeverToldMe Campaign to ensure that Israel education programs at summer camps, day schools, and youth groups talk about the Occupation.
IfNotNow is a movement led by young Jews to transform the American Jewish community’s support for the occupation into a call for freedom and dignity for all Israelis and Palestinians. The organization was founded in 2014 during the Gaza War as a moral call to the American Jewish community to oppose the war. IfNotNow has over 1,700 members and chapters in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Toronto, and Washington, D.C. Learn more about IfNotNow at www.ifnotnowmovement.org and learn more about their #NotJustAFreeTrip Campaign at www.notjustafreetrip.com.