Muslim rights group calls on Auburn basketball to cancel team trip to Israel
A Muslim rights group has called on Auburn University to cancel its scheduled men’s basketball trip to Israel.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, sent out a public statement on Thursday that called on Auburn to cancel its upcoming trip to Israel, “or failing that, to at least meet with Palestinians ordinary and learn about Israel’s system of apartheid without the presence of Israeli handlers.”
The 10-day “Birthright for College Basketball” tour is set to begin this weekend. Players from Auburn University’s basketball team will visit historical sites in Israel and play three exhibition games against Israeli teams. The team is also expected to meet with the Palestinian National Team’s coach Paul Coghter.
“We want, if at all possible, that to be normal — a Jewish basketball coach from Auburn taking his team over to Israel, having lunch with the Palestinian national basketball coach,” said Auburn basketball Head Coach Bruce Pearl, on a media call on Monday.
“I don’t know how it’s gonna work out, but I hope it’s just wonderful, and normal, and something that people can look at and go ‘Okay, this is possible.'”
CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper called the trip a “junket” and said it should be canceled.
“This propaganda junket is clearly designed to normalize Israeli apartheid and racial segregation, while ignoring Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law,” Hooper said. “If this trip is not canceled, we urge members of the Auburn basketball team to meet with ordinary Palestinians without the presence of Israeli handlers so they can learn the realities of Israeli occupation and apartheid.”
Auburn, which won the Southeastern Conference championship last season, will play Israel’s Under-20 National Team on Aug. 2 in Jerusalem, Israel’s All-Star Select Team in Tel Aviv on Aug. 7 and Israel’s National Team on Aug. 8 in Tel Aviv. The team will also host a basketball clinic for Israeli and Palestinian children.
The basketball team is scheduled to visit many of Israel’s historical and tourist sites, such as the Western Wall and the Dead Sea and the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum.
On Friday, Pearl addressed the criticism at a team practice.
“This is a sports trip,” Pearl said. “This is not a political trip. We’re not going to let a political action group define what we’re doing.”
See also: Bruce Pearl speaks on trip to Israel