The picture of Birthright founder Michael Steinhardt flipping off young Jewish protesters says more about the total moral failure of the organized Jewish community than any op-ed ever could. pic.twitter.com/kq8K05LJKQ— Joshua Leifer (@joshualeifer) April 17, 2018
Birthright Israel’s co-founder and top funder Michael Steinhardt may be loved among the thousands of young Jewish men and women who got a free trip to Israel, but he sure knows how to be hated among literally everybody else.
Just outside the gala dinner celebrating the 18th anniversary of the program, Steinhardt was seen flashing his middle finger to protesters standing for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS).
Students protesting the event just outside the Ziegfeld Ballroom in New York were from universities both in the New York and New England areas. They also represented groups that included Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the Palestine Solidarity Alliance, Students for Justice in Palestine, and the Democratic Socialists of America.
The protest, headed by JVP and Independent Jewish Voice's Return the Birthright campaign, happened just as one of Birthright Israel’s top funders, billionaire philanthropist Sheldon Adelson, was present to receive the “Guardian of the Jewish Future” award.
In case you missed it, the @birthright gala just honored Sheldon Adelson, Trump & Birthright megadonor, as the "Guardian of the Jewish Future." ??— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) April 17, 2018
We didn't miss it. We started to #ShedLightOnBirthright. pic.twitter.com/NkQ5vjC2lz
“Israel Isn’t Going to Be a Democratic State – So What,” a quote attributed to Adelson, was projected on the wall outside the gala by the Jewish activist group IfNotNow, along with the phrases “Birthright Lied To Us” and “Jewish Youth Demand the Truth.” The group, which does not take a stance on BDS, does stand against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
In the photo snapped by the chief photographer for Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency, Atılgan Özdil, Steinhardt is seen showing his middle finger to protesters while at least one of the participants is returning a symbolic Birthright plane ticket.
Here's Birthright co-founder Michael Steinhardt flipping off a group of @jvplive protesters at the Birthright Gala last night.— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) April 17, 2018
As young Jews, is this the the kind of person we trust to lead the orgs that claim to serve us?#ShedLightOnBirthright
More: https://t.co/1oYH804XeY pic.twitter.com/7b6zd42nB6
What’s unknown is if Steinhardt stepped outside the ballroom just as students wrapped in personalized Jewish prayer shawls read the names of the 32 Gaza protesters killed by Israeli forces or all the names of the Palestinian villages destroyed 70 years ago.
Regardless of what made him do the gesture, it’s clear that he appears to have no desire to discuss the protesters’ concerns in a civilized manner. But then again, why would he? After all, Birthright Israel is basically an Israeli government program. He wouldn’t want to give in to protesters who are pointing out the government’s wrongdoing.
Banner/Thumbnail Credit: REUTERS, Ronen Zvulun