Is Birthright Israel to blame for the death of Max Steinberg, one of two American-Israeli soldiers killed in the war in Gaza?
That’s what Allison Benedikt, a senior editor at Slate, is arguing. Benedikt first provoked Israel supporters in 2011 with an angry essay about how after her nefarious Zionist youth group (she doesn’t name it, but it’s Young Judaea) brainwashed her into liking Israel she eventually learned better.
In Benedikt’s latest piece, she argues that Steinberg’s decision to enlist in the Israel Defense Forces “seems like the ultimate fulfillment of Birthright’s mission” and asks in the story’s teaser, “What makes an American kid with shaky Hebrew decide he is ready to die for Israel?” Not surprisingly, it already has sparked over 300 comments online.
Meanwhile, Haviv Rettig Gur of the Times of Israel published a point-by-point rebuttal, in which he notes that very few Birthright participants go on to serve in the army and castigates the “casual disrespect” Benedikt shows Steinberg “by assuming his life choices are a sign of psychological or moral failure.”
Benedikt’s article isn’t the only conflict-fueled attack on Birthright. A darkly satirical Tumblr feed, “My Birthright Summer in Israel,” features perkily captioned photos of happy, partying Birthright participants superimposed over images of carnage and destruction in Gaza.