memri

February 25, 2019
Clip No.
7071

American Muslims for Palestine Official Taher Herzallah: Young Jews Who Participate in Birthright Are Engaging in Ethnic Cleansing; "Ludicrous" That American Jews with No Connection to Palestine Can Claim Citizenship in Israel

On February 25, 2019, the Al-Jazeera English live streamed an episode of a show called "The Stream" on its YouTube channel that featured a debate about the Birthright Israel program. Taher Herzallah, American Muslims for Palestine's Associate Director of Outreach and Grassroots Organizing, said that young Jews who participate in Birthright Israel are engaged in the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people and the erasure of their history, and that it's "ludicrous" that young American Jews can claim citizenship in a land to which their only connection is a religious one. Rami Allan, co-founder of the Palestine Solidarity Alliance of Hunter College, called on young Jews to boycott Birthright Israel and it denies the Palestinian right of return, and he said that young Jews should be on the "right side of history" rather than partake in a trip funded by Netanyahu government. American-Jewish filmmaker and writer Ariel Sobel argued that members of Jewish organizations that attend Birthright and stage walkouts are taking money away from low-income people who couldn't otherwise attend the trip, and Herzallah responded: "Painting this a class thing is absolutely ridiculous considering that Sheldon Adelson, one of the richest billionaires in America, is the funder of the Taglit Birthright program." He added that Birthright Israel is "a problem" because it whitewashes Israel's crimes and strives to "establish a politic" in the minds of young Jews. According to AMP's website, Taher Herzallah studied Political Science and International Affair at UC Riverside and has been arrested for protesting.

Following are excerpts:

 

Taher Herzallah: It’s totally great that young Jews have a place to feel at home. However, not at the expense of the indigenous Palestinian people. I think it’s absolutely ludicrous that a young Jewish boy or girl from Boston, or Philadelphia, or New York can arrive at Tel Aviv airport and claim citizenship to a land they have absolutely no connection to besides their religious connection to the land.

 

[…]

 

Ariel Sobel: How can you say I have no right when Nazis are marching in the streets…

Taher Herzallah: I’m not saying that Jews have no connection to Israel, I’m saying that when young Jews participate in Birthright and erase the existence of Palestinians, and do not demand the right to return for Palestinians, they are effectively engaged in the process of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians people, erasing the Palestinian people and their history from that land.

 

[…]

 

Rani Allan: I call on young Jews to boycott Birthright because, as a Palestinian America, I am banned from entering my homeland, but meanwhile Birthright offers a free trip exclusively for Jews, with the aim of whitewashing the Israeli military occupation and maintaining the denial of the refugee right of return. We need our allies to stand on the right side of history by undoing complicity in their own communities rather than partake in a trip funded by the government of Benjamin Netanyahu.

 

[…]

 

Ariel Sobel: You’re allowed to protest Israel, but you’re taking away dollars from low income people who can come, when there are plenty of trips specifically about discussing the occupation…

Taher Herzallah: Painting this is a class thing is absolutely ridiculous, considering that Sheldon Adelson, one of the richest billionaires in America, is the funder of Taglit Birthright program, and Sheldon Adelson’s politics are very clear. We all are well-aware of what he stands for and his relationship with Benjamin Netanyhau, so I think it’s very descriptive and illustrative of the program of Birthright in particular, where they go to Palestine, and they engage in their tourism…

Ariel Sobel: Why aren’t you saying the term Israel? Will you not say the term Israel? They don’t go to Palestine, they don’t go to the West Bank, they go to Israel…

Taher Herzallah: Why won’t you let me finish my point? And then they organize programs where Benjamin Netanyahu himself comes and speaks to the participants.

 

[…]

 

Our return is not guaranteed. There is no right to return for Palestinians, even though we are the indigenous inhabitants of that homeland…

Ariel Sobel: So are Jews, Jews are just as indigenous…

Taher Herzallah: Whereas young Jews have immediate birthright upon arrival. So this is the contradiction that we see here, this is the problem that we see here, and this is why programs like Birthright are a problem because they continue to exacerbate the issue at hand.