Why Michael Bennett is boycotting the NFL trip to Israel

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Recently it was announced that a delegation of NFL players would be taking a trip to Israel as part of a joint initiative launched by the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry and Tourism Ministry. The group of players are scheduled to arrive in Israel on Monday to do a week long tour of Israel which will include visits to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The delegation is also set to participate in an exhibition game against Israel’s national team in Jerusalem on Saturday, February 18th.

“There is great importance to the visit of a delegation of NFL stars to Israel,” stated Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, “I’m sure that this visit will be a great experience for them and that it will give them a balanced picture of Israel opposite the deceptive campaign being waged against Israel across the world. The players will show their tens of millions of fans the true face of Israel. We are leading a campaign against the delegitimization of Israel and part of this campaign is to arrange visits of celebrities in different fields, including sports.”

One of the NFL players on this delegation was Michael Bennett, who announced in a tweet on Thursday that he would be boycotting the trip. On Friday, he released an open letter on Twitter explaining why he refused to participate.

Bennett explained that, in the words of a government official, the intended purpose of this trip was to make every member of this delegation an “influencer and opinion-former” and an “ambassador of goodwill” for Israel.

He went on to say that he refused to “be used in such a manner,” and that when he does decide to visit the Holy Land, it will not only be to see Israel but also to visit the West Bank and Gaza so that he may see how “the Palestinians, who have called this land home for thousands of years, live their lives.”

Bennett told readers that one of his personal heroes was Muhammad Ali, who always stood with the Palestinian people, often visiting refugee camps and attending rallies in solidarity with Palestine.

Read the full text below.

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[Pictured] Michael Bennet’s open letter regarding his refusal to go to Israel, released on Twitter.

Michael Bennett’s words appear to have influenced fellow NFL player Kenny Stills, who retweeted Bennett’s post soon after with the caption, “Couldn’t have said it any better. I’m in!”

This news came in the wake of an open letter that was released by a coalition of athlete-activists which urged the NFL players to boycott the trip to Israel, published by The Nation.

It also came in the wake of a recent Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which killed 2 civilians and injured at least 8 others. These airstrikes were said to have been in response to attempted rocket fire in the southern city of Sderot, which failed to harm anyone.

 

Why Michael Bennett is boycotting the NFL trip to Israel

While everyone was talking about the Superbowl, Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip

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Today as thousands of people were ranting on social media about Lady Gaga’s ‘dazzling’ half-time performance at the Superbowl and the New England Patriot’s ‘thrilling victory’ over the Falcons, the Israeli army was launching airstrikes and tank shellings in one of the most densely populated places on earth – i.e. the Gaza Strip.

According to the AFP news agency, two Hamas outposts were targeted by Israeli tank fire as air strikes struck targets in northern Gaza. Later on in the day, Gaza City was hit by at least five airstrikes, while another strike hit the southern city of Khan Yunis.

The attacks are said to have injured at least three civilians in Gaza, according to Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry.

 

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[Pictured] An airstrike launched by the Israeli military captured by the AFP news agency.
Hamas spokesman Abdulatif al-Qanou stated in a press statement that the movement holds Israel responsible for the current escalation taking place in the Gaza Strip,

“The occupation is trying to export its internal corruption crisis to the Gaza Strip. Therefore,” he said, “the role of the ‘Palestinian resistance’ is to defend our people from this aggression.”

Two days later, Palestinian civilians Hussam Hamid al-Sufi, aged 24, and Muhammad Anwar al-Aqraa, aged 38, were martyred during an airstrike in Rafah as five other civilians were injured.

شهيدان و 5 جرحى في غارة "إسرائيلية" جنوب رفح
[Pictured] The bodies of Palestinian martyrs Hussam Hamid al-Sufi from the town of Rafah, and Muhammad Anwar al-Aqraa, a resident of Gaza city.
The occupational army has claimed that these airstrikes were in response to an attempted rocket attack in the Ashkelon region in the southern Israeli city of Sderot, which failed to harm anyone.

The al-Mezan Center for Human Rights has expressed concern that the Israeli military may be leading up to another wide-scale military offensive in Gaza.

During Israel’s last major offensive in the Gaza strip in 2014, known as Operation “Protective Edge,” over 2,100 Palestinian civilians were killed – at least 500 of those civilians were children, and nearly 300 were women. The Palestinian Ministry of Health states that 11,100 Palestinians were wounded, including 3,374 children, 2,088 women, and 410 elderly. Studies show that over 160,000 children are estimated to need continuous psychological support following the 2014 hostilities.

While everyone was talking about the Superbowl, Israel was bombing the Gaza Strip