In an interview with The Electronic Intifada today, Zirin said that the point of the basketball players’ tour “is very explicit” – to fight the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. (Listen to the interview with Dave Zirin via the media player above.)
The tour was organized in part by Israeli NBA player Omri Casspi, who has started a foundation intended not to bolster youth programs in the US, as other athletes might do, but rather to fight BDS and promote Israel’s image.
Anti-Palestinian extremist and major Republican Party bankroller Sheldon Adelson flew the group out on his private jumbo jet.
Zirin’s letter raises questions about players’ alliances with Adelson and Israel’s regime that many characterize as apartheid, while support grows inside the organization for the Black Lives Matter movement, which intersects with Palestine solidarity activism in the US.
“This epidemic of killings [by US police] has been aggravated by the influence of Israeli police practices on US policing,” writes Zirin. “Since 9/11, police chiefs and high-ranking officers from across the US — from Ferguson to New York City — have traveled to Israel for training in the arts of suppression.”
The tour “is a series of set pieces aimed at buttressing the aims of Sheldon Adelson and the foundation of Omri Casspi — and I think NBA players can do a whole lot better than the tour that they’re on,” Zirin told The Electronic Intifada.
Casspi “whipped up hatred,” Zirin noted, against fellow NBA star Dwight Howard last year during Israel’s 51-day attack against Gaza, after Howard tweeted “Free Palestine.” (Howard deleted the tweet soon after.)
Zirin said that it was “disturbing” that NBA Cares, the charity wing of the highly profitable NBA, which has done work with children living in poverty around the world, is organizing “high-end [basketball] clinics” in Israel during the tour. “Why is NBA Cares, why is the NBA working so closely with Sheldon Adelson and Omri Casspi’s foundation?” he asked.
The propaganda tour, he said, “exposes so dramatically the double standard that exists when it comes to how Palestinians are treated and seen.”
“When speaking about anti-racist struggle, the desires, the aspirations, the liberation of Palestinians is shunted aside.”