NYU Trustee Steinhardt’s `Birthright Israel’ Connection
Steinhardt also revealed in his 2001 autobiography other ways in which he has apparently historically collaborated with the militaristic Israeli establishment that has historically violated Palestinian human rights:
“…I also set up the Steinhardt Family Foundation in Jerusalem…I have derived the most satisfaction from my most ambitious…project `Birthright Israel…’ In the spring of 1997…I ran into Charles Bronfman…whose family controlled The Seagram Company…We agreed to each put up $5 million to start developing an organization called `Birthright Israel.’,,,
“By the summer of 1998, we had developed a plan that would fund `Birthright Israel.’ In Jerusalem,…Benjamin Netanyahu announced he would commit $20 million a year to the project…In addition, Charles and I would raise another $20 million a year on our own…Starting Jan. 1, 2000, 15,000 college-aged Jews would be brought to Israel…In 1999, Charles and I each wrote a check for $9 million…The kids…met Israeli politicians…A number of them took Jeep trips…through the Golan Heights…After seeing the topography…they were absolutely opposed to giving up the Golan Heights in any peace negotiations…”
According to a July 4, 2011 article by Kiera Feldman (no relation to this writer) in The Nation magazine, between 1999 and 2011 Steinhardt’s “Birthright Israel…spent almost $600 million to send more than 260,000 young diaspora Jews on free vacations” to Israel. The same article also noted that by 2011, “far-right Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson” was “the largest individual donor, having given Birthright $100 million over the” previous “five years,” while “the Israeli government provided Birthright $100 million during the program’s first decade; and in 2011 Israeli “Prime Minister Netanyahu…announced another $100 million in” Israeli “government funding” for NYU Administration funder Steinhardt’s project.
One reason the militaristic Netanyahu government was so eager to spend $100 million more to fund Steinhardt’s Birthright Israel project in 2011 was perhaps because “after the 2006 Lebanon war, Brandeis researchers found that Birthright alumni were more likely than other young American Jews to view Israel’s military conduct as justified,” according to The Nation magazine article. The same article also described Birthright Israel’s 2000 to 2011 U.S.-based funders in the following way:
“…Most of them just happen to share hawkish Israel politics. In 1998, during his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu gave the initial guarantee of Israeli government funding. By 2000…at least eight funders were trustees of AIPAC’s think-tank spinoff, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy—including Steinhardt and Bronfman. Casino magnate Adelson…once…broke with AIPAC—for not being conservative enough. Other notables: oil billionaire Lynn Schusterman,…thirty-five-year AIPAC veteran and the purse for many `pro-Israel’ youth initiatives such as the Israel on Campus Coalition,…; diamond baron and settlement construction impresario Lev Leviev; Slim-Fast billionaire S. Daniel Abraham, a member of the AIPAC board; and neoconservative philanthropist Roger Hertog, emeritus chair of the Manhattan Institute. Then there’s [now-deceased] donor Marc Rich, a founding Birthright board member, the billionaire oil trader controversially pardoned by President Clinton; throughout his business dealings, Rich gathered intelligence for the Mossad.
“Several Birthright donors, including family foundations operated by the Gottesmans, Grinspoons, Steinhardts and Schustermans, have also financially supported illegal Jewish settlements…”
But in an Apr. 29, 2013 article that was posted on The Electronic Intifada website, three non-Israeli Jews who launched the website Renounce Birthright called for an end to Steinhardt’s Birthright Israel program, because it is “based on the belief that Jews have a right to settle in modern-day Israel, to the exclusion of the indigenous Palestinians” and “operates under the premise that all Jewish people have an exclusive `right’ to Palestinian land;” while “a Palestinian refugee population of nearly 7 million people is to this day excluded from returning to their lands by Israeli state discrimination.”
As a late September 2014 press release of the Loyola University Chicago Students for Justice in Palestine [SJP] chapter—that was issued after 15 Palestinian students lined up on Sept. 9, 2014 at a Birthright Israel table on Loyola University’s campus and asked if they, as Palestinians whose families were expelled from villages inside present-day Israel, could also register for a Birthright trip—also observed:
“…Birthright Israel is an Israeli government-funded program that sponsors free trips to Israel exclusively for Jewish students…Any Jewish student worldwide can register for the program, while indigenous non-Jewish Palestinians are not only ineligible for the program, but often are denied the right to live in or even visit their homeland freely.”
(end of part 6)