AJC hasbara video includes ethnically cleansed Palestinian village

Earlier today, IDF Spokesperson Avital Leibovich tweeted a link to a video she says was prepared for the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) recent Global Forum conference.

This ‘Rhythm of Israel’ clip was made by Project Interchange, which describes itself as “an educational institute of AJC” and “brings opinion leaders and policy makers to Israel for a week of intensive travel and learning”.

It’s fairly standard hasbara fare, highlighting the “diversity” and “creativity” of Israel so that it is not associated with anything unpleasant like occupation or apartheid.

Unfortunately for this particular rebranding exercise, the video - presumably accidentally - includes a reminder not only of the ethnic cleansing through which the “Jewish and democratic” state was established, but also of its ongoing systematic racial discrimination. About a minute in, we see this.

Bar’am is a kibbutz in northern Israel, on the border with Lebanon, built on the land of the ethnically cleansed village of Kafr Bir’im, whose Christian Palestinian inhabitants were expelled in 1948. They, like many other Palestinians, became internally displaced ‘present absentees’, receiving Israeli citizenship but prevented from returning to their homes and lands.

The depopulated village was declared a ‘closed area’ by the military, and then, in 1953, after the Israeli government had confiscated the land on the pretext that it was ‘abandoned’ and ‘uncultivated’ by the owners, the houses were destroyed.

The ongoing refusal to respect the rights of Kafr Bir’im’s refugees is instructive with regards to Israel’s ethnocratic policies that keep Israel a ‘Jewish state’, rather than a genuine democracy. And that’s something no amount of YouTube clips can hide.



On 31 October 1948 Jewish Haganah terrorists destroyed Kafr Bir’im, and demobilized Palmach terrorists built the Arab-free Bar'am next to the site. In 1953 the inhabitants appealed to the High Court, which decided that it was the responsibility of the local authorities to explain to the inhabitants why they weren't allowed to return. Shortly after the whole of Kafr Bir’im was flattened, and the land was conficated by the state of Israel. Until today, despite the promise of Menachen Begin, and action from sympatizers (Israeli and catholic) the inhabitants aren't allowed to return to their land.

The ruins of Kafr Bir’im are still there, image: http://www.al-awdasandiego.org...

Beyond words is that when you want to visit the ruins, the state charges an entrance fee in order to marvel at their ethnic cleansing! Image: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-IF02...

Ben White

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Ben White is a freelance journalist, writer and activist, specialising in Palestine/Israel. His articles have been widely published in the likes of The Guardian‘s Comment is free, Al Jazeera, Electronic Intifada, New Statesman, and many others. He is the author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’ (2009, Pluto Press) and ‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination & Democracy’ (2012, Pluto Press). Ben is a researcher/writer for the Journal of Palestine Studies.