Black Lives Matter protest.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. must be spinning in his grave. A generation after a coalition of blacks and Jews was the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement in America, blacks have formed a new movement for empowerment that not only excludes Jews, but denies them the right to national liberation. This disgraceful prejudice was shoved in Israel’s face this past week by a delegation of the protest movement Black Lives Matter, which came to single out Israel with false accusations of genocide and to deny Israel’s right to exist.
BLM was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for shooting unarmed black teen Trayvon Martin. It has grown to some 30 chapters devoted mainly to ending police brutality in the deaths of other unarmed black teenagers. Last week BLM released its first platform, titled “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice.” It is a hodgepodge of calls for reparations for slavery and investment in black education and economic equality, among other issues, but focuses on the plight of the Palestinians “living under an imperialistic regime,” in the words of spokeswoman Shanelle Mathews.
“None of us is free until all of us are free,” BLM leader Ash-Lee Henderson told The Jerusalem Post
, describing the purpose of the group’s visit to east Jerusalem and the West Bank as aimed at showing solidarity with “our Palestinian comrades here and in the US.”
If this is the state of black liberation in the US today, it is a direct contradiction to the legacy of King, as he stated at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly in 1968: “The response of some of the so-called young militants does not represent the position of the vast majority of Negroes. There are some who are color-consumed and they see a kind of mystique in blackness or in being colored, and anything non-colored is condemned. We do not follow that course ... Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”
In case someone missed the point, he is also attributed with having said, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”
The link between the anti-Zionist BDS Movement and BLM is evident in the posters seen at both their rallies, “From Ferguson to Palestine,” expressing a false equivalence between police brutality in America with the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. This is because, BLM activists say, the streets of “occupied Palestine” remind them of those of Ferguson, Missouri, where police fatally shot unarmed black teen Michael Brown in 2014.
Dr. Robert Friedmann, director of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange told JNS.org: “I can tell you that I’m a second-generation Holocaust survivor. Forty members of my family were murdered in the Holocaust. I don’t want somebody who has a sense of being abused telling me what being abused is all about.”
In a statement Wednesday, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights endorsed the BLM platform’s demands concerning economic justice, mass incarceration and law enforcement, but criticized its section on Israel. “Israel’s government is not carrying out a plan intended to wipe out the Palestinians,” it said, pointing out that “One can vigorously oppose occupation without resorting to terms such as ‘genocide,’ and without ignoring the human rights violations of terrorist groups such as Hamas.”
Rabbi Ari Hart, the founder of Uri L’Tzedek, an Orthodox organization for social justice, commented on The Forward.com: “I was dismayed and disheartened to see the most prominent voice for racial justice in the US adopt a hateful, un-nuanced, biased and totally unrelated position on Israel, calling Israel a perpetrator of ‘genocide’ and an ‘apartheid state.’ It is neither.
“Do the organizers of the Movement for Black Lives know that today, in Mauritania, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan, there are an estimated more than 1 million black bodies actually enslaved — as in chains, whips and forced labor?” Falsely accusing Israel of being a genocidal apartheid state perpetuates anti-Semitic incitement and ultimately endangers Israeli lives – which also matter.