OverviewYoel Bitran has spread hatred of Israel and Zionism and was a leader within the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement at Princeton University (Princeton).
In 2010, Bitran was the president of the Princeton Committee on Palestine (PCP).
Bitran also promoted the #returnthebirthright initiative launched by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) against the Birthright Jewish Heritage tour.
Bitran is also an activist with IfNotNow, an organization that uses disruptive tactics to drive a wedge between American Jewry and Israel.
As of September 2017, Bitran’s LinkedIn account said he graduated Princeton in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Bitran is listed as an organizer with Unite Here Local 23.
Spreading Hatred of Israel and ZionismOn May 7, 2015, a photo of Bitran was posted on Facebook that showed Bitran with another person painting a wall with the words: “Question your leaders!!! US AID… Israel in ethnic cleansing/apartheid in Palestine…"
On September 1, 2017, Bitran shared a Facebook graphic posted by the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) that read: “if you have an opinion about the US-Mexico wall you have an opinion about Israel’s apartheid wall."
In a December 2, 2010 video interview, representing PCP, Bitran likened Israel to apartheid South Africa, saying “...we actually have to take action, we actually have to do what we did… in apartheid South Africa." He went on to say “constructive criticism of Israel" doesn’t work and promoted BDS.
On September 17, 2017, Bitran shared a Facebook status that read: “Pretty much the entire Zionist historical framework is post-facto shameless propaganda."
On July 20, 2017, Bitran wrote a Facebook post that read: “The Zionist movement -and many many Democrats- is supporting legislation that is so authoritarian and repressive. This is what Zionism really stands for, always has and always will, an ideology in fundamental contradiction with basic Democratic values that can only be maintained with the logic of Dictatorship."
The Facebook status continued: “For Jews in the United States who claim to stand for freedom and justice and yet support Zionist Apartheid and its repressive policies in Israel and around the world: You need to pick a goddamn side."
On June 28, 2017, Bitran shared a Facebook status linked to a New York Times op-ed that accused Chicago Dyke March organizers of anti-Semitism for expelling Jewish march participants for carrying rainbow flags emblazoned with Jewish stars.
Bitran commented: “This oped is a lame sack of Zionist bulls**t…."
Promoting BDS at PrincetonIn 2010, Bitran led a PCP campaign at Princeton "calling for a boycott of Sabra hummus" because the company reportedly “provides Israeli soldiers with care packages."
Bitran also referred to Sabra “a product that is connected to human rights abuses against Arab civilians." Students voted down the referendum by 1,014 to 699.
Condemning Jewish Heritage TourOn September 5, 2017, Bitran shared a Facebook post supporting the #returnthebirthright campaign launched by JVP.
Bitran shared a screenshot of a text message posted by the Return the Birthright Facebook page as a model response rejecting Birthright recruitment messaging.
The text read: “Hello, I do not believe it is right for me to get a free trip to Israel, a place where I have no familial connections whatever, when my Palestinian friends can’t return to their homeland. I would like to give my spot to someone who truly deserves to go there."
The text continued, “Let me know if you’d like a list - I am sure I could connect you with plenty of young Palestinians who would relish the opportunity to go on a free trip to their country."
On September 6, 2017, Bitran shared a photo posted by JVP of a sign that read: “How was your trip to Israel? The 5,149,742 Palestinian refugees are curious."
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).
The BDS movement was founded in 2005 by Omar Barghouti and asserts that it "works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law."
The movement's most notable achievement has been the infiltration of university campuses through lobbying for "BDS resolutions." In these cases, backed by university anti-Israel affiliates, student governments have brought to vote on some form of boycott of — or divestment from — Israel and Israeli-affiliated entities. These resolutions, although non-binding, have been passed by student governments on numerous North American campuses.
BDS activity is often aggressive and disruptive. It has been noted that universities that pass BDS resolutions see a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents on campus. In 2013, when the student government of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) debated a BDS resolution, reports emerged of violent threats and the spitting on a student wearing a Star of David necklace. As a result, the student government chose to vote via a "secret ballot" in order to ensure its members' safety.
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."