Avi Schwartzberger just launched an outlandish, hilarious video series showing the most taboo sides of Israeli society through the lens of a Birthright alumn. A terrifyingly real interview with a not-quite-real person.
Ever since Peter Beinart first awoke North American Jewry to the increasingly pronounced dichotomy between Zionism and liberalism among young Jews, the discourse on Israel and Palestinian civil rights has become more nuanced and inclusive, paving the way for the rise of organizations like If Not Now, Open Hillel, and J Street.
But six years have since passed, and all that is about to change. Budding YouTube star Avi Schwartzberger, a self-described “Canadian Jewess who fell in love with Israel on Birthright,” is on a one-woman mission to return world Jewry’s relationship with Israel to the black-and-white, zero-sum paradigms of yesteryear.
“I wanted to make something viral to make all the haters shut up,” Schwartzberger told me in her first English language interview to be published since her new video series, “Avi Does the Holy Land,” took the Jewish world by storm.
In the first four episodes of what promises to be a biting satirical critique of Israeli society, Avi, whose too-bad-to-be-true persona seems to be throwing a good number of her viewers for a loop, transitions from a what-the-hell-is-going-on episode full of tips for future Birthright participants to more serious attempts at journalism. Take, for instance, the episode where she comes up with her own offensive solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at Tel Aviv’s Pride Parade.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the episode where she interviews the man who stands for everything she stands against — Peter Beinart.
Asked to describe what the hell it is that she’s doing, Avi, who isn’t quite a real person, says: “think hard-hitting journalism with a sexy Zionist touch. I’m a cross between Oprah, Golda Meir, Fiddler on the Roof, and Bar Rafieli.” She’s also unabashedly racist, refuses to recognize the existence of the Palestinian people, and understands the nuances of Israeli society about as well as Benjamin Netanyahu understands Islam.
However, when Avi offered to give an interview to +972, I couldn’t resist. So with a healthy dose of willful suspension of disbelief, I sat down with Ms. Schwartzberger this week to discuss how she became the young woman she is today, what she hopes to accomplish with her “journalism,” and the intersectionality of indigenous struggles from Palestine to Nova Scotia.
Tell me about yourself. How did you end up in Israel and why are you making this video series?
I’m a Canadian Jewess who came to Israel on a Birthright trip and fell in love with the holy land. The guys were so hot I decided to stay.
Also, I wanted to make something viral to make all the haters shut up. So many people are hating on Israel and I wanted to show my friends, the Jews and non-Jews back home, the real Israel — not the “evil” Israel they show on anti-Semitic CNN.
Why would you agree to have your debut interview with +972? This isn’t the StandWithUs newsletter, you know. What gives?
I always think back to something the guide on my birthright trip told me: “Every time a Jew criticizes Israel a tiny Jewish angel loses its wings.”
When you asked me to do the interview I was excited that your belly-aching leftist shithead readers would hear what I have to say. I really want the self-hating Jews and their allies to know that they can always return to the fold.
Canada is a known for being a pluralistic society. How did you come to espouse such abhorrent, racist views, and why do you think it’s okay to disseminate them all over the Internet? Where does that come from?
I can’t accept the premise of your question. Jews can’t be racist! We’re the chosen people! And after the Holocaust, what right does anyone have to judge us.
I’m sorry, I can’t let you use the Holocaust card. You’ve said some very offensive, ugly, racist things in your videos and on social media. How can you justify that?
First of all, I take my lead from Bibi, leader of the Jewish people. I’ve been wary of Arabs every since he warned that they were showing up to vote by the busload. By the busload! To vote! Can you imagine? I don’t say anything that hasn’t already been said by Bibi — except maybe the blowjob jokes.
Birthright and the Tel Aviv club scene can only show you a small cross-section of Israel, and of Israelis. Have you made any effort to see another side of the country? Have you considered going on a tour with Breaking the Silence, for instance?
I hear their soldiers aren’t as good looking as real soldiers, so why even bother?
How have you found Israelis to be?
Israeli men are amazing because they can kill with their bare hands yet they’re sensitive enough to cry when they talk about their mothers. I haven’t really gotten to know Israeli women — they don’t really talk to me at the bars. But they have great hair.
It’s intriguing that you chose to focus on Pink Washing in one of your recent episodes. It’s a topic that a lot of North American Jews tend to shy away from. You went even further, airing a Palestinian narrative of the issue. Are you worried about backlash from the right-wing, pro-Israel community back home?
No, I think I put that issue to rest. Israel cares so much about gay rights, so maybe if the Palestinians tried more to be gay, people would care more about them.
You just interviewed Peter Beinart, who to a lot of people represents efforts to create a “big tent,” efforts to push the Jewish community into becoming more inclusive of Jews who are critical of Israel. Do you think that there should be a place for diaspora Jewry to think and speak critically about the occupation? About the settlements?
First off, just this week, Tzipi Hotovely, the deputy foreign minister, set the record straight that there is no occupation.
But the biggest issue facing North American Jewry are these new people questioning Israel — and far worse, stopping their donations to JNF. We need to push these people out of the tent. Somebody needs to send them to Jewish re-education summer camps.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was considered one of Israel’s closest allies in an increasingly hostile international community. Your new prime minister looks like he might take a more critical line. Do you think the relationship between Canada and Israel is going to change?
I’m part of a committee of sexy Canadian birthright alumni that is planning an honorary adult bar mitzvah for Prime Minister Trudeau, to help him understand the plight of the Jewish people and Israel. Drake is going to DJ the party.
Palestinian activists have tried to seize on the intersectionality between their own struggle as an indigenous people and the First Nations struggle in Canada. Do you see a correlation?
Until the Arabs start making totem poles then I don’t see how the two are related.