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Only five of eleven NFL stars make Israel trip

Seahawks star Michael Bennett was the first NFL player to withdraw from the tour [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 February, 2017

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An Israeli PR exercise has backfired badly after more than half of 11 NFL American footballers due to visit the country refused to take part, following calls for a boycott.
Less than half of the 11 NFL players booked for an all-expenses trip to Israel have arrived in the country, as the Tel Aviv government's latest public relations exercise backfires badly.

Six of the American football stars refused to take part in the week-long tour of Israel follwing calls for a boycott of the PR jaunt.

It left just five of the planned party of 11 footballers to make the trip, which is the latest attempt by Israel to boost its image overseas with visits from US celebs.

Seattle Seahawks star Michael Bennett was the first to pull out of the tour saying he felt "used" by the Israeli government and wanted to be a "voice for the voiceless".

There have been calls by Palestinian activists for boycotts of Israel due to Tel Aviv's continued occupation of the West Bank and other human rights violations.

In the recent NFL trip, Seahawks' Cliff Avril, Miami Dolphins' Kenny Stills, San Francisco 49ers' Carlos Hyde, Denver Broncos' Justin Forsett, and retired NFL star' Kirk Morrison all pulled out.

Bennett, a former Superbowl winner, issued a statement on Friday saying his decision to boycott the trip was in part due to the fact his "hero", the late boxer Mohammed Ali, "always stood strongly with the Palestinian people".

In December, Israel faced another embarrassment when a high-profile cultural tour from the US ended up being largely made up of D-list celebs.

Its PR team will also dish out vouchers for five-star trips to Israel worth $55,000 in the swag bags of Oscar winners at this year's Academy Awards.

Israel's right-wing government has attempted to shore up support in the West following growing international anger at its settlement expansion and a surge of killings in the occupied West Bank by Israeli troops.

The latest rebuff is just the latest sign that Israel's PR strategu isn't going as planned.

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