(16 June 2011) Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s decision to cancel his appearance and showing of his film “On The Shoulder’s Of Giants” at the Jerusalem Film Festival comes as a welcome victory to the PACBI(Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), as well as to scores of solidarity activists and humanitarians across the globe. The legendary basketball player showed us what a giant person he really is when he chose justice and solidarity with the oppressed of Palestine.
UPDATE (June 28, 2011) In a Media Release, a verified confirmation was made that Kareem Abdul-Jabber will not visit Israel. Over 100 organizations have signed a letter thanking the Laker’s Legend here. Apparently, the cancellation was made due to “concern over Nakba Day violence.”
On 19 April, 2011, “One Country Israel Palestine: Say “NO” to apartheid” posted a story titled “BDS : Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Boycott Israel PACBI.” (link). Since April, many changes in how solidarity for Palestine is viewed have occured. OneWorld released “Freedom For Palestine” and it went viral on youtube and is still spreading around the globe. Various young American Jewish activists have courageously stood before AIPAC, and even the US Congress, vocalizing support for Palestinian human rights. Lupe Fiasco and LUSH cosmetics shared their great concern for the need for freedom for Palestinians. Students held a Flash Mob at an “ethical” grocery store in Portland, Oregon, singing about the violations of human rights that many businesses actually make a profit from. Each passing week, brought into question the “appropriateness” of public figures taking the side of the oppressor, in this case, the apartheid nation of Israel.
The Jerusalem Film Festival was the planned venue for the retired Basketball player, and his appearance was in coordination with both the Israeli Foreign Ministry, and with the Israeli Consulate of New York.
As an added flourish, the former NBA star was also embraced by Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, known for his firm allegiance to Zionism.
Kareem has done extensive fundraising and shown diligent support for many Jewish organizations, such as the Mizal Museum in Denver, and the Jewish Telethon for Annual Chabadas well as himself visiting the Western Wall in Israel in 1997.
It was however, not appropriate that his film be used by Israel in a desperate attempt to legitimize apartheid. The film documents the policies of segregation that were seen in the 1930’s in the world of pro-basketball in the USA. The cast includes Maya Angelou, who read Rachel Corrie’s famous email in 2006 for the commemoration of Rachel’s life on the third anniversary of her killing.
The initial response to the cancellation by Israeli tweets are that his appearance did not matter. This is far from the truth, when celebrities of such worldwide recognition such as the legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar make decisions to cancel their scheduled appearances in Israel, it adds to the growing list of people who have taken a stand against apartheid. It also calls attention to the need to boycott Israel.
The Jerusalem Film Festival saw both Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman cancel their appearances in 2010. Their decision to boycott came following Israel’s massacre (close range execution-style) of 9 peace activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla ship the “Mavi Marmara.”