J Street thinks that “Birthright” trips are too pro-Israel. So it has announced that it is launching some trips of its own. Perhaps they should be called “Birthwrong” since their purpose is to convince young American Jews that Israel is wrong and the Palestinian Authority is right on pretty much every issue.
Jewish control of united Jerusalem? Israel is wrong, J Street says; the city should be re-divided, with the eastern portion turned into the capital of “Palestine.”
Allowing Jews to build homes in Judea-Samaria, just as Arabs do? Israel is wrong about that, too, says J Street; those territories should be Arab-only.
And opposing the P.A.’s payments to terrorists? Wrong again, according to J Street; complaining about pay-for-slay could “harm the peace process.”
Israel is wrong, wrong, wrong. And the Palestinian Authority is always right, which is why J Street never criticizes it.
Despite all this, there actually might be some value in the Birthwrong trips. Here’s why.
J Street and its campus division, J Street U, teach their students that the Palestinian Arabs are “occupied” by Israel. In fact, the struggle against “the occupation” has become something of a religion among the J Streeters. Their entire political agenda—indeed, their entire raison d’être—revolves around claiming that “the occupation” is the central obstacle to peace.
So imagine the shock that J Street’s Birthwrong students will experience when J Street brings them to the Palestinian Authority-ruled areas and, lo and behold, there are no “Israeli occupiers” anywhere in sight.
J Street’s news release announcing the new travel program says that it will “show participants how the occupation impacts daily life in the West Bank.” But when the participants get there, they will see how much it really impacts life there: not at all.
They will see that in P.A. cities and villages —where 98 percent of the local Arabs reside—there are no Israeli soldiers, only P.A. “security forces.”
In the courthouses, they will find only Palestinian judges. In the police stations, only P.A. policemen. In the theaters, only Palestinian films and plays. In the stores, only Palestinian shoppers. On the buses, only Palestinian drivers and passengers.
J Street should take the Birthwrong visitors to some P.A. schools. They will see that all the teachers are Palestinian Arabs. So are all the students. And all the textbooks are provided by the P.A.
But the J Street tour guides better not let the visitors see any translations of those textbooks, or they will learn that the curriculum is filled with hatred of Jews and glorification of violence. Oops!
And the guides better take care not to tell the Birthwrongers the names of any of the streets on which they are walking or the parks where they picnic. Otherwise, they’ll see that the P.A. names its public places after mass murderers, including murderers of Americans just like the Birthwrong visitors. That would certainly make for an uncomfortable moment.
Imagine how much squirming and cringing would ensue if, for example, the J Street students were to see a street or public square named after the terrorists who murdered Richard Lakin.
Anybody remember that name? Lakin, a 76-year-old former school principal from Connecticut, was a passenger on an ordinary bus in Jerusalem on an ordinary autumn afternoon in October 2015. Then Baha Alyan and Bilal Ghanem boarded the bus with guns and knives.
Richard Lakin was a lot like many J Streeters. He was a veteran civil-rights activist. He “taught English to Israeli and Palestinian children” in Jerusalem and “never missed a peace rally,” according to his rabbi. The cover photo on Lakin’s Facebook page featured a Jewish child and a Palestinian child under the heading “Coexist.”
J Street likes to pretend that it’s the “settlers” who “provoke” Palestinian violence. Not Jews like Lakin. But the truth is that Palestinian terrorists make no such distinctions. They kill left-wing Jews; they kill right-wing Jews. It’s all the same to them. Nor were Alyan and Ghanem deterred by the fact that Lakin was obviously an elderly man. They stabbed him in the face and chest. But that wasn’t enough. They also shot him in the head. And now Alyan and Ghanem are considered heroes by the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian public. Wouldn’t want J Street students to find that out!
So by all means, J Street leaders, bring your students to Palestinian cities. They might actually learn some of the painful facts that you keep hidden from them.
Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney in New Jersey, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” has just been published.