'Birthright Palestine' mimics Jewish world's flagship program

New Palestinian NGO is taking a page out of the Jewish educator's handbook.

temple mount 224.88 (photo credit: Areil Jerozolimski [file])
temple mount 224.88
(photo credit: Areil Jerozolimski [file])
A new Palestinian NGO is taking a page out of the Jewish educator's handbook in its search to strengthen the connection of Palestinians overseas to their "historic homeland" and Palestinian society. The name of the program leaves no doubt as to its intent, or its inspiration. Birthright Palestine is described on its Web site as a "program created by native Palestinians for diaspora Palestinians." The program, which will begin its first session in May, is run by the newly established Palestine Center for National Strategic Studies, which says it is a "nonprofit, nongovernmental Palestinian organization" based in the Dehaishe refugee camp in Bethlehem. The group is not shy about its motivation. Its Web site explains: "Simply coming back to visit the land that your parents or grandparents were forced to flee from is a form of active nonviolent resistance against the illegal Israeli occupation. This is because this simple act opposes everything that the 'State of Israel' was founded on (the idea to ethnically cleanse the Holy Land/Palestine of all Arabs, so as to create a purely Jewish state)." To establish a stronger Palestinian identity, the program is looking to bring first-generation, Western-born participants, 18 years of age or older, to Israel and to the West Bank for educational programs lasting between one and three months. Reads the Web site: "Upon witnessing the situation in Palestine and completing the program, you will become an ambassador for the Palestinian Cause - your cause - and convince other diaspora Palestinians to return to their homeland so that our nation can continue to survive in exile until the day that we are able to all return home permanently." The program mimics Zionist and Jewish initiatives almost exactly, even offering "ethnic Palestinian" participants the chance to "apply for Palestinian citizenship" at the Palestinian Authority's Interior Ministry, thus "formally requesting your right to return." For all the similarities, the program does not support a two-state solution, offering trips to "all of historic Palestine, which includes both the 1967 territories (West Bank, Gaza Strip - OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories]) and [the] 1948 territories, which some people refer to as 'Israel.'" Birthright Palestine includes volunteer internships in Bethlehem, daily study of Arabic, cultural events and Thursday-night parties. Costing up to $2,900 for the three-month program, Birthright Palestine bills itself as a way to "contribute to the Palestinian economy... Every time you buy a bite to eat, hop in a cab, or buy something, you are putting food on a Palestinian family's table." Repeated attempts to contact the Palestine Center for National Strategic Studies were unsuccessful.