NFL firecracker and Seattle Seahawks player Michael Bennett has cancelled a Post- Super Bowl trip to Israel.
He decided to forgo the trip reportedly after reading a Times of Israel article in which comments made by the country’s Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister, Gilad Erdan compelled him to drop out.
Erdan had said:
The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanction] campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport
Bennett didn't like the idea of being used as a tool for propaganda.
He outlined his reasoning in an Instagram post, saying that when he does travel to the region,
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.
Benjamin Netanyahu recently passed a bill by the Knesset which legalises 4,000 Jewish settler homes.
The law came following plans for an additional 11,000 new settler homes to be built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The decision has been condemned by a number of politicians, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly cancelled a conference with the Israeli Prime Minister because she is angry at the “Regulation Bill” and Israel’s recent decisions vis-à-vis settlement policies.
Writing for Mondoweiss, journalist Shireen Ahmed said:
Empathy, support and cohesion from different parties only strengthens movements like BDS and other campaigns fighting for social change and human rights. Bennett is a leader in the NFL towards understanding those intersections. He shows us that solidarity is not selective.
The Nation also published an open letter, signed by a number of civil rights activists compelling the NFL players to reconsider travelling to Israel, citing the many human rights violations by the Israeli government towards the Palestinians.
Since then Kenny Stills (Miami Dolphins) also expressed his intention to cancel the trip. Justin Forsett, of Denver Broncos said he had cancelled weeks prior to this because his wife was pregnant, but when pushed by a CNN reporter, said he didn't know much about the issue, but will "get up to speed" with it in order to make a decision.
Netanyahu is to meet with Donald Trump on Wednesday, and a White House official has confirmed that he may be departing from a two state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. The official said there will be a number of options on the table and “whether that comes in the form of a two-state solution if that's what the parties want, or something else” will remain to be seen.