The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an anti-Israel activist group that positions itself as a defender of Muslim civil rights in the United States, called on Auburn University to cancel its upcoming “Birthright for College Basketball” tour of Israel, or at least to get away from Israeli “handlers” and meet “ordinary Palestinians” while they are in the region.
In a press conference two days before CAIR’s statement, Auburn Basketball Coach Bruce Pearl noted that the team will be meeting with Palestinians, and the coach of the Palestinian National Team.
Auburn’s men’s team will play three Israeli national teams over a 10-day period in early August, with games to be broadcast on the Southeastern Conference Network.
In a July 27 statement, CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper said “This propaganda junket is clearly designed to normalize Israeli apartheid and racial segregation, while ignoring Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.”
He said that if the trip is not cancelled, “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.”
To bolster his position, Hooper cited the recent widely-discredited Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch reports that have labeled Israel an apartheid state.
Auburn is scheduled to host a basketball clinic for Israeli and Palestinian children at the YMCA in Jerusalem, in an event coordinated by Tamir Goodman, “The Jewish Jordan.”
The team will also travel to Bethlehem and have lunch at the home of Paul Coughter, coach of the Palestinian National Team. A former Memphis State player, Coughter also coached Ezzahra to the 2022 regular season championship in the Tunisian League.
Pearl is a lifelong, passionate supporter of Israel, and envisions this trip turning into an annual event featuring top college basketball teams. Each university is permitted to do one overseas trip every four years.
He also hopes that it might develop into an Abraham Accords event in future years, with stops in the United Arab Emirates or Morocco, showing that normalization is the way to peace.
Conversely, CAIR routinely discourages and denounces any form of normalization with Israel.