Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar won’t visit Israel, in a slam-dunk for BDS

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, legendary basketball player who, during his 20-year career as an NBA all-star made more points, blocked more shots, and won more MVP awards than any other player in history until his retirement in 1989, has declined to appear in Israel due to “concerns arising from Nakba day violence.”

According to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, Abdul-Jabbar was slated to show his new documentary film about racial segregation in basketball, On the Shoulders of Giants, to an Israeli audience in a visit promoted by the Israeli foreign ministry and the Israeli consulate of New York. He was also due to compete for the “Spirit of Freedom Award” at the Jerusalem Film Festival.

The US Campaign reported today:

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 Nakba 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.

Since Abdul-Jabbar confirmed his decision not to visit Israel, more than 100 Palestinian civil society groups and boycott solidarity organizations have signed a thank-you letter, urging him “to hold fast to his decision and not to let his good name lend an air of legitimacy to Israeli human rights violations.”

The US Campaign says that signatories to the thank-you letter 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. They also point out that US film stars 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.”


This blog post has been slightly edited to clarify that Abdul-Jabbar had never confirmed his visit to Israel in the first place. 







Thanks and appreciation for this move and the support you are giving to the Palestinian cause.


I believe this is a very significant victory for BDS. Kareem was a man who did various fundraisers for different Jewish groups, he also was seen at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, & he has spoken up for many Jewish organizations. The reason this stands out is because of Kareem's past associations, there can be no accusations that he is "Anti-Semitic." Any decision he made, in my opinion, was one FOR human rights, and in this sense he knows that Freedom for Palestine and the BDS movement is not a movement based on religious rights or race, it is an issue of universal human rights. Thanks Kareem.
As an added fact, his film 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, this reading is on youtube.


Unfortunately Israelis don't care about what someone did in the past. So, unfortunately, yes of course, Israel and its lovers will scream anti-semitic! Nazi lover! Another Holocaust!


Hey Nora.
Didja ever check out Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's book (and on CD) on the Harlem Renaissance? Terrific book!

On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar


He is an important figure in the US, extremely well respected within the sports world; graduated from UCLA with a degree in History and has written well received books, as the comments above indicated. This is an important victory for the BDS Campaign.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).