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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Letter to the Editor: Birthright Is Designed To Obfuscate, Not Educate

While supporters of Taglit-Birthright advertise it as an apolitical and educational program, in reality it propagates an incomplete and misleading image of Israel.

Re: Q&A with Chabad Rabbi Moshe Gray

In 2018, five participants from one of Taglit-Birthright’s annual trips to Israel deserted their tour group in protest, stating that the program dismissed their concerns over Israel’s human rights violations and erased the perspectives of those affected by the ongoing settlement and occupation of Palestine. Consequently, Taglit-Birthright updated its contract, barring the participation of anyone who might seek to “hijack discussion.”

Dissuading criticism is a hallmark of the organization. Every step of the 10-day itinerary is curated to shelter participants from critical perspectives. In 2017, Birthright cut all encounters with Arab Israelis — 20% of Israel’s population — from their programming. Additionally, even though tour groups will often visit illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, interaction with Palestinians in the occupied territories is disallowed. In fact, Birthright avoids all discussion of the occupation — when it does happen to be brought up, the matter is dismissed with talking points meant to divert attention away from the issue.

Birthright might claim that it is apolitical, but with Israel — which provides 27% of the organization’s funding — there is no such thing. This is especially true today: Israel’s campaign in the Gaza Strip has destroyed 70% of Gazan homes, brought starvation to one out of every four Gazans and killed over 16,000 women and children. This brutalization of Gaza’s population is not merely “political” — it is as much a reality of life in Israel as any desert camel ride or resort stay on the Dead Sea. A truly educational program would hear from not only the Israeli voices affected by the Oct. 7, 2023 attacks but also the voices of Palestinians affected by the subsequent war in Gaza and the long history of occupation. By omitting the latter perspective, Birthright cannot be considered educational. Instead, it should be recognized for what it is: just another instrument of Israel’s propaganda apparatus.

Joe Fausey is a member of the Class of 2023 and the Palestine Solidarity Coalition. Letters to the Editor represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.