A TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT group climbs down the slope of Masada.
(photo credit: TAGLIT-BIRTHRIGHT)
Birthright Israel should organize a trip to Israel for Jewish students who support the movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction the Jewish state, Likud MK Sharren Haskel wrote in a letter to Birthright Israel Foundation chief executive officer Izzy Tapoohi that was obtained by The Jerusalem Post.
Haskel referenced a letter to Birthright International CEO Gidi Mark in April by 575 students who do not support the BDS movement but oppose Israel’s settlement policies in the West Bank.
The students wrote that they were concerned about a law passed in March that forbids granting entry visas or residency rights to foreign nationals who call for boycotting Israel or settlements.
Mark responded to them that Birthright does not inquire into the political views of students, that border policies are the sole prerogative of the democratically elected Israeli government, and that the law was intended to bar activists who proactively and continuously act to undermine Israel and boycott it.
Haskel wrote Tapoohi that she believes it is more important that Jews who support BDS come to Israel than for regular Jewish youth.
“They are the ones who truly need to come and see the Land of Israel, who have to go to the hospital in Nahariya and see how the wounded from the Syrian war are taken care of, and how Arabs receive the exact same treatment as any other citizens,” she wrote.
Haskel wrote that she wanted BDS backers to see how the Arab director of the hospital, Dr. Massad Barhoum, takes equal care of Jews and Arabs living in the Galilee.
“This could not happen in an ‘apartheid’ state, and this could not happen in one of our neighbors,” she wrote.
“I call upon them to come and see the over 4,000 wounded from the Syrian civil war who receive complete and dedicated care from the hospital and can go back to a regular life.”
Haskel told Tapoohi that students who support BDS should come see Israel’s judicial system, where Jews and Arabs work and serve together in complete equality, from the most junior staffers to the judges on the Supreme Court.
“Did they see that in Jordan or in Syria, or maybe in Egypt or in the Palestinian Authority?” she asked. “Could Jews be allowed to sit on their Supreme Court? We all know the answer.”
She wrote Tapoohi that she also wanted BDS supporters to come to Judea and Samaria and see the factories that were built there where Jews and Arabs work together in complete equality.
“Let them speak with the Palestinians there, and they will tell how the Palestinian Authority mistreats its own population and how the leaders steal all the money that should be used for developing infrastructures and services to their own pockets,” she wrote. “Let them come and see the fabulous mansions where they live while it is the State of Israel who builds for the ones left in refugee camps.”
Such students should also see the geographic reality of the land and the security threats on its borders, she wrote.
Asked whether investing in bringing BDS supporters to the country was wise considering that their minds were made up, Haskel said that such people’s opinions of Israel could only improve.
Tapoohi responded to Haskel that Birthright “encourages all to come to Israel, regardless of their views.”
Birthright Israel’s official response to the Post
was that over the past 17 years, the organization has hosted 600,000 young adults from the Diaspora on important cultural and educational trips.
“We do not screen applicants according to political orientation, and hope that all eligible Jewish young adults are able to explore their heritage in the country,” the response said. “We also promote a culture of open and meaningful dialogue about Jewish identity and the State of Israel, but of course will comply with any border policies in place.”