Five quit 'one sided' Birthright Israel tour in protest and head to Palestinian Territories

The group of American Jews objected to the lack of teaching about the occupation of the West Bank


Five people who were taking part on a Birthright tour of Israel abandoned the programme in protest calling it “one sided” and visited the Palestinian Occupied Territories instead.

The group of American Jews, who live streamed themselves leaving the tour, objected to the tour not teaching about Israel's occupation of the West Bank and left the tour on Thursday in order to visit Hebron and Bethlehem with anti-occupation group Breaking the Silence.

Danielle Raskin, who walked off the tour, released a statement on Twitter defending their decision.

"We can no longer go on with this trip that was so deliberately hiding the truth from us," it said.

"We came with questions about what’s happening in the occupied territories and wanted to engage with new perspectives, but what became clear over the course of ten days was that Birthright did not want to fully engage with our questions.

"It is clear that young Jews who have critical questions about Israel are not welcome on Birthright."

The group accused Birthright of using "a political agenda to miseducate tens of thousands of young Jews".

"Birthright cynically believes the only way to get us to be in touch with their Jewish identity is to hide the occupation from us," they said. 

The participants left on the eighth day of the tour, which takes Jews aged 18 to 30, to the country for free.

One participant told Haaretz, the tour was “not providing the kind of education that we really need... and is telling a one sided story. This is not fair, and we deserve the truth."

Sophie Lasoff, one of those who left the tour, said that she wanted to take part in Birthright because it was important to the American Jewish community.

Ms Lasoff, 24, said she was not expecting to find the Birthright program problematic.

“I wanted to give Birthright a chance. We didn’t want to do something like that, but we felt that it was the right thing to do.”

Another participant said: "We love our Jewish community and that's why it's so hard for us to see Birthright systemically miseducating it. We cannot stand this injustice."

Birthright defended its tour by saying that it is "an apolitical project and the leading educational initiative in Israel."

It said that it allows participants' to form their own opinions on Israel and “rejects the promotion of any agenda and any attempt at manipulation of provocation by any political side".

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