The Ethics of Organized Travel between the River and the Sea

February 8, 2022

Last December, Jewish Currents provoked a public conversation about organized travel to Israel/Palestine by mistakenly publishing, and then apologizing for publishing, an ad promoting a free trip to Israel for young American Jews.

How should Jewish groups respond to the fact that American Jews can travel freely to Israel/Palestine when travel for Palestinians—both in the Diaspora and on the ground—is severely limited? How can it benefit but also burden Palestinians to host Jewish travelers seeking to better understand Palestinian experiences? How can Americans of all backgrounds challenge travel restrictions that prevent Palestinians and others who support Palestinian rights from visiting Palestine/Israel themselves? We’ll discuss these issues with three panelists who have grappled deeply with these questions in their life and work.

Osama Silwadi

Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American business consultant from Ramallah/Al-Bireh in Occupied Palestine. He is a frequent independent political commentator and is co-editor of “Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians” (1994). He blogs at You can find Sam on twitter @SamBahour.

Emily Siegel is the Program Director at Eyewitness Palestine and has led their Delegation Program since 2010. She also serves on the board of the Refuser Solidarity Network and Friends of Tent of Nations North America. Emily holds an MA in International Peace and Conflict Resolution from the School of International Service at American University and graduated with a BA in International Relations, with minors in Jewish Studies and Sociology, from the University of Delaware. Her research and professional work has focused on the intersection of justice, peace-building, and social change through education. Emily’s own political transformation is described at length in Reclaiming Judaism from Zionism (2019).

Ilana Sumka is a leading educator and activist addressing Israel/Palestine, with more than two decades of experience as a nonprofit executive, community organizer, and writer. After serving as the Jerusalem Director of Encounter, she went on to found the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, which she led until 2018. Originally trained as a community organizer, Ilana was one of the first staff with New York’s progressive Working Families Party and has worked in international human rights with American Jewish World Service. She is the founding director of the new initiative Shleimut, supporting leaders to align their approach to Israel/Palestine with their social justice values through immersive educational and spiritual programming. She’s currently finishing a memoir about her seven years in Jerusalem.

Peter Beinart (moderator) teaches national reporting and opinion writing at the Newmark J-School and political science at the CUNY Graduate Center. He is editor-at-large for Jewish Currents, a CNN political commentator, and a fellow at the Foundation for Middle East Peace. He is also a nonfiction author and former Rhodes Scholar.