NFL player Michael Bennett, has pulled out of a planned trip to Israel sponsored by the Israeli government.
Im not going to Israel pic.twitter.com/KWzA0nCiFb
— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) February 10, 2017
He pulled out after an open letter was published calling on NFL players to not participate in the trip because of Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinian people. Here is an excerpt of the letter:
Based on the public dedication to social justice that many of you share, it came as a surprise to us to see that you will be going on a tour of Israel next week sponsored by the Israeli government as part of an effort to get you to “become ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.” We would ask that you reconsider attending. These trips bringing celebrities to Israel are part of a larger “Brand Israel” campaign to help the Israeli government normalize and whitewash its ongoing denial of Palestinian rights. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dedicated a lot of resources to this campaign, which is designed explicitly to improve Israel’s image abroad to counter worldwide outrage over its massacres and war crimes.
The letter was signed by the Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
Michael Bennett penned his own open later which he posted on Twitter explaining his reasons for pulling out. He cited the late Muhammad Ali’s solidarity with the Palestinian people who he described as being a “voice for the voiceless” and said he wanted to do the same:
One of my heroes has always been Muhammad Ali. I know that Ali always stood strongly with the Palestinian people, visiting refugee camps, going to rallies, and always willing to be a “voice for the voiceless.” I want to be a “voice for the voiceless,” and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel.
Read Michael’s letter in full:
— Michael Bennett (@mosesbread72) February 11, 2017
I was scheduled to make a visit to Israel with fellow NFL players. I was excited to see this remarkable and historic part of the world with my own eyes. I was not aware, until reading this article about the trip in the Times of Israel, that my itinerary was being constructed by the Israeli government for the purposes of making me, in the words of a government official, an “influencer and opinion-former” who would then be “an ambassador of good will.” I will not be used in such a manner. When I do go to Israel — and I do plan to go — it will be to see not only Israel but also the West Bank and Gaza so I can see how the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives. One of my heroes has always been Muhammad Ali. I know that Ali always stood strongly with the Palestinian people, visiting refugee camps, going to rallies, and always willing to be a “voice for the voiceless.” I want to be a “voice for the voiceless,” and I cannot do that by going on this kind of trip to Israel. I know that this will anger some people and inspire others. But please know that I did this not for you, but to be in accord with my own values and my own conscience. Like 1968 Olympian John Carlos always says, “There is no partial commitment to justice. You are either in or you’re out.” Well, I’m in.
Sincerely, Michael Bennett