Dan Drezner links a possible relative writing about going on an AIPAC-funded trip to Israel:
I've found myself picking over the question: how much has my opinion on Israel been moved?
It's not hard for me to acknowledge that I'm much more sympathetic to the predicament of Israel than I was before I saw the place so extensively with my own eyes. Traveling the countryside has given me a much clearer picture of its precarious state, with a mere 9 miles separating the West Bank from Tel Aviv - less than from Boston to Concord, and easy distance for rockets. You can certainly see why Israel wouldn't give up the West Bank until it has a partner it can trust. Its existence - and the lives of the people we met - are at risk.
Before the junket, I would have described myself as admiring of Israel but increasingly disturbed by its human rights violations.
Now I would say I find myself aligned with a growing group of former Israeli leftists, those who once believed a peaceful solution was imminent but after the debacle of Gaza have, with heavy hearts, lost their bearings and moved toward the center.
Is this a seismic shift? No. But I also have no way of knowing where I would stand had I paid for the trip with my own money, organized my own interviews, and gotten equal access to the Palestinian point of view.
Our guides, to their credit, showed us the separation wall at its most formidable and depressing. But what life is like on the other side of that wall - whether families are eating olives and grilled fish, what their hopes and dreams for the future are, whether they dream of a nonviolent resolution to the conflict - of this, I have no personal experience.
It's only anecdotal, but the one journalist I've known who went on an Israel junket that included both Israel and the Palestinian territories did not return with an improved opinion of Israel.
My personal feeling is that no journalist, or Congressman, should go on any junket sponsored by a group with as clear an agenda as AIPAC has. Information gathered in person, with vivid technicolor skies overhanging the ancient landscape, feels much realer than something you read in a stupid book. That means you tend to overweight it. A skilled gatekeeper can easily sway your opinions, even while putting a patina of balance over the thing with carefully chosen "negative" exhibits.
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