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Jewish Journal

Birthright rejects J Street partnership

By Ben Harris, JTA

February 1, 2011 | 3:34 pm

Birthright Israel has rejected a proposed partnership trip with J Street, saying it no longer works with organizations with Israel-related political leanings.

J Street had begun promoting the trip last week being organized by its campus arm, J Street U, in cooperation with Israel Experience, one of several tour providers used by Birthright. But Birthright said it nixed the idea for a J Street trip focusing on progressivism and social action when it was first presented months ago.

“We said such a trip, as described in a brief conversation with the Israel Experience, would likely be out in keeping with our longstanding policy of not conducting trips with a political orientation,” Birthright said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Birthright subsequently confirmed that the policy was adopted in 2009, when the organization decided not to partner any longer with groups that are “overtly political.”

Prior to 2009, Birthright trips were run in conjunction with the Zionist Organization of America and the Union for Progressive Zionists, the precursor to J Street U.

Birthright continues to partner with AIPAC, though references to the pro-Israel lobby group were scrubbed recently from the website of the Israel Experience. Birthright said AIPAC did not fall under the 2009 policy change because the organization does not generally seek to influence Israeli policy.

According to e-mails obtained by JTA, planning for the trip continued through mid-January. It was not immediately clear why Israel Experience continued to work on the trip despite Birthright’s claim that it rejected the idea at the outset. Birthright said it was looking into the matter.

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