Morgan Freeman and Jian Ghomeshi, say no to Israeli apartheid on May 6!

Canadian filmmaker John Greyson has released this short video supporting the Palestinian call on actor Morgan Freeman and Canadian broadcaster and musician Jian Ghomeshi to cancel their participation in a 6 May event hosted by the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University.

The fundraiser, a “Celebration of Excellence” at the Toronto Center for the Arts, honoring Freeman, appears to be another effort by an Israeli institution to use high-profile celebrities to attract audiences while deflecting criticism of Israel’s human rights record.

Freeman is a symbolic catch given that he played Nelson Mandela in the movie Invictus.

In November, legendary musician Stevie Wonder made headlines by pulling out of a Los Angeles fundraiser for “Friends of the IDF,” a group that raises money for the Israeli army.

PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, issued an appeal to Freeman explaining why supporting an event for Hebrew University is no better than one raising funds for the Israeli army of occupation. The statement calls on Freeman to refuse an award “tarnished with apartheid and colonialism.” Here’s an excerpt:

The intention of the award is to honor your work in ‘combating racism and promoting knowledge and education worldwide.’ Given that Israel practices forms of racism through its system of colonialism, occupation and apartheid, and violates the rights of Palestinians to education and life, it is cynical, and nothing short of a dishonor to your lifelong achievements to be accepting an award from a group that is in deep support of an Israeli University complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of human rights and international law.

The Hebrew University is specifically implicated in serious violations in a number of ways. The University illegally acquired a significant portion of the land on which its Mount Scopus campus and dormitories are built. On 1 September 1968, about one year after Israel’s military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, the Israeli authorities confiscated 3345 dunums of Palestinian land. Part of this land was then used to build the Mount Scopus campus of Hebrew University.

It’s also disappointing to see Jian Ghomeshi, who hosts the excellent CBC arts and culture program Q, hosting the event and appearing in this video promoting it. Ghomeshi is smart enough to know better. He’s also smart enough to understand that he can’t just ignore the Palestinian appeal and claim he’s being apolitical. By participating in this event he’s already taken a political stance, and a really bad one at that. Ignoring the appeal from Palestinians living under an Israeli occupation in which Hebrew University is complicit will only confirm Ghomeshi’s stance.

Update, 29 April: Jian Ghomeshi listen to your own words on Idle No More!

It would be particularly unfortunate should Ghomeshi be unwilling to heed the call of Palestinians given his high-profile support for the Canadian First Nations’ Idle No More movement. In a radio essay last year, Ghomeshi urged Canadians to listen to the demands of Canada’s indigenous people who for so many years have seen their land rights, often enshrined in treaties, trampled and violated.

Ghomeshi said:

Idle No More is a way of reframing the debate, especially of young people taking initiative and taking action and making their voices heard, to affect change in our country, to get the notice of those in power, to send them a message… It is the way we should want our democracy.

This is exactly what the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is too – a way of reframing the debate and taking back the struggle for human rights from the stultifying language of a failed and deceptive “peace process” that has only seen more Palestinian land and rights taken away while Israel enjoys total support and impunity from governments like Canada’s.

“We deride the apathy that can exist in this country. Well this is a movement of young people and First Nations saying clearly that they will be Idle No More,” Ghomeshi added. “We might want to give them the attention they deserve…”

Ghomeshi also highlighted the six-week hunger strike last year of Chief Theresa Spence of the Attawapiskat First Nation, which she ended in January when Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper agreed to meet her.

In his essay, Ghomeshi had publicly told Harper, “Dear Prime Minister, this is a meeting you should really attend.”

Now Palestinians are saying to Ghomeshi – and Morgan Freeman – that the 6 May fundraiser for Israel is one meeting you should really not attend.

Update, 28 April: Jian Ghomeshi responds

Shortly after I first tweeted this post, Jian Ghomeshi responded on Twitter:

This prompted several thoughtful replies to him:




jian ghomeshi: "i was simply asked to honour mr freeman's education work."

So he is not honouring his other work like, as mentioned in the invitation, his involvement with "Artists for a New South Africa", or "combating racism"? Actually, can Jian point to just one education achievement he honours that had *not* to do with beating racism? But jian is just ignoring all this.


So it is organised by Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU). Can the CFHU or even Hebrew University itself point out how much it contributed to *getting racism out of education*? After all, that is what Freeman is honored for. Jian?


I'm blown away! I had heard about the campaign asking Morgan Freeman to pull out of this but I cannot believe Jian is involved as well. I love those two and hope they take the time to understand what they're really getting themselves into and hopefully decide to pull out. Morgan and Jian are two very inspiring and intelligent public figures - this is really painful. I cannot even begin to comprehend the contradictions that would arise from their involvement should they not heed the BDS call.

John Greyson has been amazing with those BDS videos - loved the one he made for Elton John, and I love this new one! Cheers to him!


I am surprised to hear that you are showing tacit support of Israeli policies by hosting this event. I lived in the West Bank for five months and can confirm the abuses of the Army toward Palestinians. I am sure you are too well informed not to be aware. Why are you doing this?


Perhaps there is more sense in asking Mr. freeman to refuse the "honor". Mr. Ghomeshi seems to be stuck on one reply here. I suppose M. F. has less to risk by stepping out.


I call for everyone to boycott this event on May 6th and send a clear and unequivocal message to brand Israel that its cover up, its propaganda, its manipulation of good people to its evil & barbaric cause can not be tolerated. Israel for the past 65 years has established & maintained with the help of the American presidents & the senate, along with their proxies, a systematic & systemic genocide against the Palestinians, Christians & other minority groups. Israel also supported, aided & abetted the apartheid regime in South Africa, as well as rolling out its military training to other totalitarian regimes. Not only has Israel breached International Law and the fundamental Human Rights Act, it has also violated legal treaties that are aimed at the protection of children. Israel says it is at war with Palestine yet the only missiles being fired by Palestinians are a few stones. Israel makes a big deal out of this but these so called rocket attacks, even though there are no rockets, come after months of antagonism by Israeli soldiers against the civilian population. The same soldiers are deliberately breaking ceasefires themselves because Israel doesn't want peace, nor a two state solution. All it wants is to build its misguided Zionist empire which is already consuming America. Many Jews themselves recognise Israel as a rogue 'state' and its actions do not represent nor relate to the true teachings of the Jewish faith. Israel's actions have crippled the Palestinian economy, destroyed the environment, undermined the social infrastructure required for a civilised and democratic state, and by continually stealing land and property from Palestinians illegally, they are adding to the growing refugee crisis. Already utility & water supplies are desperate & since these are controlled by Israel this collective punishment is again in breach of International Law. How can anyone support such a regime & accept a reward from those who profit from human suffering & pain?


I've long thought that publicizing Israel's institutionalized racism against African immigrants would increase support for the Palestinian cause among African-American celebrities and activists; it's disappointing that campaigns I've seen to influence Freeman haven't mentioned that aspect of the issue to highlight the hypocrisy of his supporting an Israeli institution.


... liberals lacking backbones: Shirley Douglas, the Kielburgers, and of course Gomeshi and Freeman. I wish I could say I expected more, but all I can say is that I hoped for better.


Can anyone explain to me why the confiscation of Palestinian land is worse than the confiscation of anyone else's land?


What is the real story in this??

It is amazing how israelis apartheit institutions mask their ugly intentions, humiliating human dignity and depriving indigenous people of their universal human rights.

They are insulting and offencing the human reason. This has to be made clear more an more for the people.

Many thanks for this symbolic but essential initiative to prevent them from succeeding in bad deeds!


Looking to hollywood elitists and liberal celebrities to go against the grain in anything happening in the middle east is not what intelligent members of a free society should expect. Because many of the commenters and readers here DO in fact have such an expectation for an actor who's silver screen roles they admire and for a radio host who has a full understanding of the implications of his stance yet fails to justify it to his fans makes me far more confused than the question of why these two are on board. One must relize that both political parties in both North American countries have a streamlined ambition and associated strategic opinion of the middle eastern policy, the thought that someone with a high profile would publically attack or go against that plan in naive and unsensible, downright irresponsible of us to assume just because they are very liberal celebrities. I am more disappointed by our collective naivity in our ridiculous expectation of celebrities to try and tackle such a volatile and politically one-sided affair as israeli aparthied than I am in a millionaire hollywood icon and a nationally beloved radio personality for not rocking the boat on which they continue to sail. Food for thought, people are not always as wounderful as they seem.