AVPE founders Same Bahour (left) and Edward Thompson (right) with civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. III. (center) in Jenin, West Bank.

AVPE was founded in 2014 by Ed Thompson and Sam Bahour, who learned to know each other when Ed traveled to Palestine with Eyewitness Palestine; Sam was one of the featured speakers. Sam’s subsequent speaking tour in Chicago deepened their relationship. Both men saw the need to build bridges between American and Palestinian businesses—as a way to support Palestine, and a challenge to often-negative political interactions. Enlisting a board of professionals, Sam and Ed envisioned a volunteer non-profit organization that would connect businesses across the world. Today, the organization has transformed and expanded, with paid staff carrying out its important work in both countries. AVPE also cultivates a network of business people in the U.S. and Palestine who offer voluntary and paid advice and expertise.