As someone of multiracial heritage---which includes both Jewish and African-American---two men I look up to are Theodor Herzl and Marcus Garvey. Both men realized that the racism against Jews and Black people was too entrenched in Western society for either group to remain in place with full equality and safety. For Herzl, this culminated in Zionism---a Jewish nationalism that would see us having the right to self-determination in a homeland of our own.

For Garvey, this spawned the Back to Africa Movement. Both faced enormous challenges. In the early days of Zionism, Cyprus and portions of Africa were offered for the Jews—who rejected it in favor of Palestine, the land of our origin. However, the hostility towards Jewish pioneers displayed by the Turks, Arabs, and British, as well as drought and malarial swamps, resulted in many Jews leaving Palestine or dying. In western Africa, disease and hostile tribes often wiped out entire communities of repatriated freed slaves, sending survivors to different countries on the Grain Coast. Because of the difficulties of repatriation for freed Black slaves, the Back-to-Africa movement eventually died out and most free Black people decided to remain and fight for equal rights in the New World.



Herzl’s movement proved more effective, in part because of the tragedy of the Holocaust and then the refugee crisis of Jews from Arab countries, leaving hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees with nowhere to go but Mandatory Palestine.


Over time, some have argued, the need for Zionism—and more so, the Back-to-Africa movement—has dissipated. The United States has had its first Black president, and there are Black teachers, police officers, government officials, musicians, and actors. Things have only improved for the African diaspora, such arguments claim. Similarly, there are those who argue that the era of mass aliyah to the Jewish state ended with the absorption of Ethiopian and Soviet Jewry. Such theorists claim that Israel has become expensive and violent, and Jews are better off in the West.

They have spoken too soon. With the election of Donald Trump as US President in 2016, the far-right has been emboldened with its violence and hateful rhetoric. Hate crimes have increased against African-Americans and Jewish people alike. And yet, whether domestically or internationally, few seem to care. A Jewish Iranian women seeking safety from a death sentence has been refused asylum in Holland. In the United Kingdom, once considered one of the safest European countries for Jews, anti-Semitism is growing.

French anti-Semitism has spurred many Jews into making aliyah as the French authorities look the other way. College campuses have increasingly become hostile towards Jews under the guise of “anti-Zionism,” with little to no members of the administrations caring or showing sincere attempts to change this.  In the Black community, police shootings against unarmed Black men--even on their own properties--has continued unabated. 

President Trump’s desire to execute drug dealers in Duterte-esque fashion is a thinly-veiled call to kill more people of color. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is still not solved, nor are the crises in education in inner city neighborhoods that overwhelmingly affect Black & brown children. Our plight in this country is ignored, belittled, even engineered, by the government and many of its citizens.

As painful as it is to admit, integration has failed. During the era of segregation, Black communities were largely self-reliant, and owned our own businesses, bought from our own people, went to our own doctors, and so on. While integration brought more opportunities and equality for African-Americans in many ways, it also crushed Black autonomy and left us vulnerable to the government’s actions—or lack thereof—that keep us on the lowest end of the totem pole.

The biggest arguments against aliyah or Black emigration are always that we’ve contributed to much to our host countries, or that we should stay and fight for the equality we deserve. And yet, after decades or even centuries of doing so, to little or no avail, perhaps it’s time to realize that Herzl and Garvey were right: Jews and Blacks will never truly be accepted as equals in Western society. The US government will make small advances and gestures for Black rights at times of heavy protest or to protect its international image. However, the end of slavery and Jim Crow only brought about the era of mass incarceration.

And while there are increasing protests against mass incarceration, the government is likely planning its next stage of oppression—a new Jim Crow—for when the era of mass incarceration does come to a close. Similarly for Jews in Europe (and, increasingly, other Western countries), politicians will make the usual trips to Israel to pay their respects at Yad Vashem, and declare that Europe would be a failure without Jews. Much as US politicians do with Black people here, European leaders will point to the numerous achievements and influences Jews have had on European culture. And yet, they will refuse to label the genocidal Hezbollah in its entirety a terror organization. Germany, the country responsible for the Holocaust, somehow links Hezbollah to a peace deal with the Palestinians. 

They will continue to appease hardline Islamists and far-left “activists” who participate in anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism to win their votes, and instead direct their opposition to anti-Semitism at the far-right alone. They will continue to vote for biased UN resolutions that deny Jewish history in the West Bank/Judea & Samaria and in Jerusalem, and instead call for the mass expulsion of all Jews from our historic heartland.

While staying to fight for equality and to remain in our homes—where life is, in many ways, easier than alternatives—is a noble cause, it may also be a doomed one. Is it worth putting our trust in or efforts towards those who hate or distrust us? Is it worth staying in lands where our safety and lives aren’t valued---indeed, where the quality of life continues to decline? Is it worth living our lives at the mercy of those who have oppressed us? Does it make sense to live with paranoia, and always wonder when we will have to fight or protest next? I instead envision a life of more autonomy, where we govern and rule over ourselves.

The future of the Jewish people is not in the West, where we are constantly excluded from conversations about social justice or racism. The future of our people is where our past is—in Israel. For Black people, the question of “going home” is more complex. For many reasons, it is much more difficult to “return to Africa” than it is for Jews to make aliyah. And yet, it hasn’t stopped many of African descent from immigrating to African countries.

That may be the answer for some. For others, the answer may be moving to Canada or western Europe, where there are more opportunities for equality and dignity than in the United States. It is important to remember that no place is perfect and that bigotry exists everywhere. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Black people remaining in America, and Jews remaining in the West more generally, is just one example of this. At a time of rising racism and hatred, it is time that we, the oppressed, take matters into our own hands for a better and more productive future.
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