“There was no Palestinian people.” So said American hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt, one of the biggest donors to Birthright Israel, a program that doles out free ten-day trips to Israel in an attempt to entice Jews to leave their homelands around the world and settle in Israel and the 1967 occupied territories – the West Bank and Golan Heights.
Netanyahu told the international gathering of youth that “Israel” was their “birthright” and “homeland.”
Blumenthal’s video report, with Lia Tarachansky, for The Real News, said that the Israeli government has pledged $100 million to support the program. This means – since Israel receives so much aid from the US – that US taxpayer funds could indirectly be subsidizing a blatantly discriminatory and sectarian program. Birthright Israel targets American youth in particular, but only Jews.
A more or less open, but often unspoken goal of Birthright Israel, is to encourage young Jews to marry and increase the Jewish birthrate, something Steinhardt acknowledges.
Under Israel’s racist “Law of Return,” Jews, as defined by Israel, from anywhere in the world are instantly given citizenship, while Palestinian refugees, born in historic Palestine, or directly descended from parents who were, are not allowed to return home solely because they are not Jews.
Easier to be a Zionist in Manhattan than in Tel Aviv
But while Steinhardt is eager for young Americans to leave home and join a foreign state and army, he’s not so keen on doing so himself. Steinhardt said of Israel in 2010:
“Its politicians are, writ large, awful; its businessmen are of less than glorious quality; and when you walk down Dizengoff Street in Tel Aviv and you look around at these people and you say, ‘This is who you admire?’ I often say it’s easier to be a Zionist in Manhattan than it is in Tel Aviv.”
“High on Zion”
As the youth dance, they tell Blumenthal about their impressions, one young American speaking of his excitement to join the Israeli army. Another speaks of being “high on Zion.” When Blumenthal suggests “Ziocaine,” the young man responds, “Zionjuana.”
As young women bop, they tell Blumenthal they want to see the “real Israel” meaning the settlements in the occupied West Bank.
This ultra-nationalist and sectarian rally, aimed at enticing American teens to leave their country, has to be seen against the cold, hard reality of millions of young Palestinians who cannot even enter their homeland just because they are not Jews, and of those who are there, like Muhammad al-Salaymeh, who can be shot dead walking in their own streets, with total impunity.