Condemning Jewish Heritage TourOn April 16, 2018, Fraenkel participated in a Return the Birthright protest outside the Taglit Birthright Gala in New York City.
In an interview with the Washington Square News about the protest, Fraenkel claimed that “young people are kind of indoctrinated into accepting Zionism, into promoting Israel and not recognizing the crimes."
He also alleged that “that a lot of the cities people go to were originally on the site of destroyed Palestinian villages that were destroyed by Israel and ethnically cleansing [sic]."
On December 3, 2017, Fraenkel participated in a Return the Birthright protest outside the Taglit-Birthright offices in New York City. Fraenkel took the microphone at the event [1:17:26] and spoke to the crowd about returning his Birthright trip. He told the crowd: “I’m going to put this ticket in the box for all the Palestinians here who can’t return home."
JVP members from across the United States assembled to chant anti-Birthright slogans outside the Birthright offices.
In an October 24, 2017 article titled “The Opposition to Birthright at NYU, Explained," Fraenkel demonized Birthright.
Fraenkel condemned Birthright for its Jewish focus, stating: “Birthright is deceptive. It’s not for any students and specifically targets young Jews. Though marketed as an apolitical organization, it leaves out the reality of Palestinian refugees."
On October 12, 2017, NYU JVP featured Fraenkel in a photo on their Facebook page to promote JVP’s #returnthebirthright campaign.
Fraenkel held a sign that read: “I #ReturnTheBirthright because EVERYONE deserves to go home."
The photo was also shared by the Return the Birthright Facebook page with the caption: “#RETURN #THE #BIRTHRIGHT: We, NYU JVP, pledge that we will not go on Birthright because it is fundamentally unjust that we are given a free trip to Israel, while Palestinian refugees are barred from returning to their homes.
We refuse to be complicit in a propaganda trip that whitewashes the systemic racism and daily violence faced by Palestinians living under endless occupation.
Our Judaism is grounded in values of solidarity and liberation, not occupation and apartheid. On these grounds, we return the Birthright, and call on other young Jews to do the same."
Demonizing IsraelOn December 9, 2017, Fraenkel attended a Shabbat dinner at NYU’s Jewish center. He and two other NYU JVP members read [00:00:04] prepared remarks demonizing Israel.
Fraenkel claimed [00:00:55]: “Palestinians were systematically and regularly stripped of their land, economy and fundamental human rights."
On January 6, 2018, Fraenkel posted a status on Facebook denouncing Israel for several reasons, including blacklisting supporters of BDS.
Fraenkel continued, “The fact of the matter is that Israel is a deeply racist and reactionary state. But the insidious nature of racism is that it doesn't only harm the Other, its poison will always manage to seep back into the society from which it originated."
He concluded, “I think it's a farce to call Israel a Jewish and democratic state. It's clear that Israel will do everything in its power to demonize and marginalize dissent, Jews of color, and of course Palestinians."
Return the Birthright CampaignIn September of 2017, JVP issued its #ReturntheBirthright campaign manifesto, calling on American Jews to boycott the Birthright Israel (Birthright) program. Birthright was founded by Jewish philanthropists “in 1999 to address the growing divide between young Diaspora Jewish adults and the land and people of Israel."
After decades of demographic decline in the American Jewish community, Birthright set out “to strengthen Jewish identity, build a lasting bond with the land and people of Israel, and reinforce the solidarity of Jewish people worldwide." The program offers “the gift of a life-changing, 10-day trip to Israel to young Jewish adults between the ages of 18 and 26."
JVP’s anti-Birthright campaign was launched precisely to coincide with “the very moment that college students across America are returning to campus and registration for Birthright winter visits are underway."
The #returnthebirthright manifesto accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing" and alleged “the modern state of Israel is predicated on the ongoing erasure of Palestinians."
The text claimed: “We reject the offer of a free trip to a state that does not represent us, a trip that is only ‘free’ because it has been paid for by the dispossession of Palestinians."
The manifesto concluded: “And as we reject this, we commit to promoting the right to return of Palestinian refugees… Israel is not our Birthright… Return the Birthright."
On June 22, 2017, just prior to the launch of JVP’s #returnthebirthright campaign, JVP received a $140,00 two-year grant for general support for its operations from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF).
Since 2015, JVP has received $280,000 from RBF, which has a history of supporting anti-Jewish causes, including BDS campaigns and various organizations that promote BDS campaigns throughout the United States.
JVP was founded in Berkeley, California in 1996, as an activist group with an emphasis on the "Jewish tradition" of peace, social justice and human rights. The organization is currently led by Rebecca Vilkomerson and its board members include controversial Israel critics Naomi Klein, Judith Butler, Noam Chomsky and Tony Kushner.
JVP, which generally employs civil disobedience tactics like disrupting pro-Israel speakers and events, consists of American Jews and non-Jewish "allies" highly critical of Israeli policies. A staunch supporter of the BDS movement, JVP claims to aim its campaigns at companies that either support the Israeli military (Hewlett-Packard) or are active in the West Bank (SodaStream).
Although several Jewish groups critical of Israeli policies, like J Street and Partners for a Progressive Israel, make efforts to operate within the mainstream American Jewish community, JVP functions outside. The group is often criticized for serving as a tokenized Jewish voice for the pro-Palestinian camp and is widely regarded as the BDS movement's "Jewish wing."
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has accused JVP of being "the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States," and said the group "exploits Jewish culture and rituals to reassure its own supporters that opposition to Israel not only does not contradict, but is actually consistent with, Jewish values... JVP consistently co-sponsors rallies to oppose Israeli military policy that are marked by signs and slogans comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, demonizing Jews and voicing support for groups like Hamas and Hezbollah."
According to the ADL website, JVP "uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and provide it with a greater degree of legitimacy and credibility."
- Return The Birthright, NYU
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