When I learned of the courageous decision made recently by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, I remembered my 1973 trip to Israel.
Bennett (above) made headlines when he pulled out of an Israeli government-sponsored trip to Israel designed for NFL players.
He refused to be a part of Israel's hasbara campaign.
Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, interviewed Bennett after he had written an open letter in which he said:
"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 made a similar trip just after the 1973 war, a trip arranged, but not paid for, by the American Jewish Committee. It was a journey with a surprise ending.
It was on that trip that I had the epiphany that opened me to the incredibly one-sided Israeli version of events that had led to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, and to the occupation of Palestinian territory since the 1967 war.
On that trip, I was guided by an American Jewish Committee (AJC) staffer. One day on the trip, I had three experiences my AJC host did not want me to have.
Through these three experiences I had a consciousness-raising, life-changing epiphany.
First, I saw my first Israeli settlement planted illegally on Palestinian land. That settlement is now Ma'ale Adumim, which became a "Jewish City" in 1991. Its 2015 population was 37,525.
Second, I had a long discussion with a Palestinian farmer whose water supply had been stolen by Israeli industrial farms in the Jordan Valley. He showed me his almost-empty well down the hill from a modern Israeli well.
Third, I met the Bir Zeit College President and his latest faculty member. More on them below.
I have written elsewhere of my epiphany, and the young Mennonite minister who took me on my journey along the Jericho Road and up the Jordan Valley, to the Golan Heights and down to the campus of Bir Zeit College.
That longer story is available on line at Linkmagazine, published by Americans for Middle East Understanding (AMEU).
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