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Thank Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for Slam-Dunking Israeli Apartheid!

June 28th, 2011

Two months ago, YNet News reported that legendary basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was planning to visit Israel in coordination with the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Consulate of New York. NBA Sporting News reported that Abdul-Jabbar would be competing for the "Spirit of Freedom Award" at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

In private correspondence, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has confirmed that the former Los Angeles Lakers star has decided not to visit Israel, due to concerns arising "after the Nakba Day violence." This year's commemoration of the 1948 expulsions left 12 unarmed Palestinians dead after Israeli forces opened fire on refugees attempting to exercise their internationally recognized right of return.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, thank you for calling Israel's foul! Israeli cultural institutions like the Jerusalem Film Festival are used cynically to brand Israel as a beacon of cultural and technological progress, diverting attention away from its occupation and apartheid policies. For this reason, cultural boycott of Israel is a key component of the growing Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. You can read the Palestinian guidelines for cultural boycott here.

101 organizations have signed a thank-you letter to Abdul-Jabbar, urging him to hold fast to his decision not to let his good name lend an air of legitimacy to Israeli human rights violations. In addition to the US Campaign, signatories include the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within (Israel), the Organization for Black Struggle, six Islamic-American organizations, four Jewish organizations, 14 campus groups, and dozens of other US Campaign member organizations.

The letter points out to Abdul-Jabbar:

Your film, "On the Shoulders of Giants," documents the policies of segregation and racism that characterized the world of basketball in the 1930s. Ironically, the majority of Muslim and Christian Palestinians could not even have attended such a screening because they are excluded from entering Jerusalem on the basis of their ethnicity and religion.

Join 101 organizations in showing support for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's decision and urging him to consider the Palestinian call for BDS!

Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman similarly declined an invitation to the Jerusalem Film Festival last year following the deadly attacks on the first Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The second Freedom Flotilla is set to sail to Gaza this month.