A young woman named Leah Molayem, who seems first to have visited Israel a few years ago with a Birhtright tour, has now returned and is disappointed to learn that Israelis are pushy. Why weren't we told this, she complains.
Israelis are pushy, of course. That's why they've created such a miraculous country in the face of such resistance. It's part of the same story: it's hard to have a society that pushes against all odds for generations, without people being pushy.
Molayem's basic point however is more substantial. All these young American (and other) Jews who come on Birthright tours don't really see Israel as it is. Yet it's hard to blame Birthright for this: Israel is here, 75-80% of American Jews have never visited, and when they finally come for a short 9 days, the idea is to have them leave with great memories. Maybe someday they'll come back and see the more serious stuff (of which the pushiness isn't).
Staying at home and reading the New York Times won't do the trick. Case in point: Nicholas Kritstof's recent trip. He wrote at least three columns for his paper in one quick trip, all slanted.
First, he reported from the West Bank. A large majority of Israels actually agree with him that the settlement project is wrong and should be ended, but you'll not learn that from this column. On the contrary: there are some brave Israeli human rights activists facing down their country, lots of Palestinian victims, and that's it. Any pieces of the picture missing?
Kristof's second report was again from the West Bank, this time a paean of praise for Rabbi Arik Ascherman, head of Rabbis for Human Rights. Again, no real context, certainly no explanation of the fact that while there's that majority of Israelis who'd love to leave the West Bank, there are a reason or two to make them pause. Nothing. By implication, there's a Jim Crow Israeli majority, and some Freedom Riders standing up to them. (Kristof's imagery).
Finally, Kristof traveled to Gaza. There's no starvation, he found, and actually things are better than his last visit (which was when, I'm curious to know but he doesn't tell), but the Israeli siege is counter productive. It has made Hamas popular. No mention of the fact that Hamas won an election six months after Israel left Gaza entirely, when there was no blockade - that wouldn't fit the narrative, would it - nor of the fact that the last time Israel really and fully left occupied Arab territory Hezbullah filled it with rockets, then shot them at Israel, and since then has filled it again in flagrant contravention of UNSC 1701.
Kristof, unlike the Birthright kids, could have seen and talked to whomever he wished. He's a NYT columnist, no-one would have turned down the opportunity. He might have learned a bit about Israel, and then taught his readers. But no. In all his columns he never cites any of the 99% of Israelis (literally 99%, not a rhetoric exaggeration) who are to the right of B'Tselem and Rabbi Ascherman.