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“Nonprofit advocacy group J Street has recently been campaigning against Birthright Israel, an educational program that sponsors free 10-day heritage trips to Israel for young Jewish adults. Over 600,000 young adults have participated in the program since its founding in 1999.
J Street charges that Birthright trips lack Palestinians voices, fail to incorporate the Palestinian narrative and neglect to visit Palestinian sites in the West Bank. As an alternative to the traditional Birthright tour, J Street recently sponsored a trip to Israel for 28 participants who visited Palestinian sites in the West Bank and heard from spokesmen for the Palestinian cause.
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According to The New York Times, “In the West Bank settlement of Har Gilo,” the J Streeters “received a harsh history lesson from a veteran opponent of the occupation. Then they toured an impoverished, water-starved Palestinian village that Israeli settlers want to demolish, and visited the city of Hebron, where repeated outbreaks of violence have turned an entire Palestinian business district into a ghost town.”
The J Street trip and the Times article about it were highly criticized in a pointed piece in Commentary magazine. The Commentary review noted that there was not a word in either the trip or the Times article “on the murderous Palestinian anti-Semitic violence that necessitates Israel’s policing of such places [as Hebron] to begin with,” “no mention of the kleptocratic Palestinian leadership that’s consigned generations of Palestinians to certain ruin” and “no mention of the fact that the Palestinians have, again and again – and again – refused to make peace with Israel when it was offered.””
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