BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — US-based organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has launched a campaign targeting Birthright Israel, a non-profit organization that sponsors and sends Jewish young adults on a free ten-day trip to Israel that “aims to strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities, and connection with Israel and its people,” according to the Birthright website.
“While all Jews worldwide are handed this free trip, and, furthermore, automatic citizenship if they choose to immigrate to Israel, Palestinians are barred from returning to the homes and villages where their ancestors lived for centuries,” JVP said.
The group called the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” in 1948 when the state of Israel was established and Zionist militias expelled over 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and villages “an act of ethnic cleansing,” noting that “when young Jews are taken by Birthright guides on hikes through forests in Israel, they still sometimes stumble across the remnants of these destroyed Palestinian villages, covered over, often deliberately, by the Jewish National Fund’s tree-planting programs.”
“Meanwhile, millions of these Palestinians and their descendants continue to live in refugee camps and elsewhere in the global Palestinian diaspora, unable to return to their homeland, while those that remain in historic Palestine continue to face discriminatory, second-class citizenship within present-day Israel, and permanent military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza,” JVP said.The group implored young Jews between the ages of 18-26 — those eligible for the Birthright trip — to sign a pledge not to play “an active role in helping the state promote Jewish ‘return’ while rejecting the Palestinian right of return.”
“The modern state of Israel is predicated on the ongoing erasure of Palestinians,” JVP said, adding that the Birthright trip “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.”
“Don’t take a trip sponsored by conservative donors and the Israeli government, where the ongoing oppression and occupation of Palestinians will be hidden from you, just because it’s free. There are other ways for us to strengthen our Jewish identities, in community with those who share our values. Israel is not our Birthright,” JVP concluded.Today, 69 years after the Nakba,
more than six million Palestinians, whether in the occupied Palestinian territory or in the diaspora, still call for the application of their internationally recognized right of return to their homes and villages in present-day Israel, a right which has been enshrined in international law following the adoption of United Nations Resolution 194.
Palestinian legal rights NGO BADIL estimates that 66 percent of the 13 million Palestinians in the world today have been displaced “at least once in their lifetime, with significant numbers experiencing it more than once.”
Meanwhile, Visualizing Palestine detailed in a graphic on the occasion of Nakba Day that 77 percent of former Palestinian towns and villages in present-day Israel had never been built over, corroborating the belief that the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians was part of a plan to ethnically cleanse the area as opposed to a struggle for space between Israelis and Palestinians.