Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Nub of the IfNotNow/Birthright Dilemma

The crux of the dilemma in observing the fallout over the latest IfNotNow Birthright protest is as follows:
1) Everything I've seen from institutional and establishment Jewish organizations over the last few years indicates that a group like Birthright is wholly capable of wildly overreacting to perfectly legitimate demands that they take seriously the occupation and the equal standing of Arabs in Israel in Palestine.
2) Everything I've seen from IfNotNow over the past few years indicates that they're exactly the sort of organization whose activists would stage a preplanned massive disruption that completely obstructs the operation of their Birthright trip, then innocently bat their eyes at passing journalists while saying "we were only asking questions!"
Since both #1 and #2 are equally true, the fair-minded observer stands at an impasse. And impasses like these permeate this entire arena.

It is simultaneously true that open questioning and free inquiry are at the heart of any Jewish communal experience worth its salt, and true that operators acting in bad faith can hijack such openness and freedom in order to take over a space in service of a narrow ideological agenda.

It is simultaneously true that no understanding of Israel is complete without a fair and honest reckoning with the reality of the occupation and the continued unequal and subordinated status of Palestinians (both in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Israel proper), and true that not every single Israel-related experience needs to be constantly refracted through that lens at all times.

It is simultaneously true that participants signing up for Birthright presumably know that they are getting only a partial view of Israel (what curated trip could promise otherwise?), and true that Birthright would be betraying its own mission if it ever started to conceptualize itself as a propaganda vehicle sold via the bribe of a free vacation.

It is simultaneously true that there is something tacky about taking Birthright's money and then spitting in its face, and true that there is something tacky about acting like the young Jews who take Birthright's money are somehow cheating if they don't agree that they've been bought off.

These and these are the words of the living God.

1 comment:

LewLorton said...

Without being argumentative, it might be possible that Birthright is attempting to present a balanced view and also that the IfNotNow group would not accept anything but their own statements as the 'truth'.