The decision by the Black Lives Matter coalition (BLM) in the USA to link the issue of American police brutality with what it calls the “genocide” of the Palestinians by “apartheid” Israel is disappointing but not surprising. It follows a long line of antisemitism in radical black American thought.
The BLM has issued a 40,000-word manifesto of its beliefs entitled “A Vision for Black Lives”. Only a small part of it has anything to do with Israel but what it does say on the subject fits into the wider group-think of the hard left which obsesses about Israel and, by association, Jews.
The main accusation, which is bigoted and slanderous, is easily dealt with. If Israel is carrying out genocide, it’s not doing it very well. The Palestinian population is growing rapidly. Any rational discussion BLM may have wanted about occupation, oppression or human rights is totally undermined by the wild claim of “genocide”.
It is doubtful BLM wants a rational discussion. It has picked out one particular dispute, spuriously linked it to what happens on the streets of the US, failed even to mention Palestinian violence, and come out in support for the BDS movement, which it regards as an inspiration.
This obsessive behaviour has saddened many US Jews.
It is a far cry from the early 1960s when the civil rights movement, led by Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, was a broad coalition to which many American Jews flocked. It is estimated that up to half of the white volunteers who supported the “Mississippi Summer” voter-registration project of 1964 were Jews. Two, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, were murdered along with local activist James Chaney.
However, after the victories of the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965), many black activists turned to far more radical groups, some of whom preached black power, separatism and revolution. “Anti-Zionist” declarations soon followed along with bursts of open antisemitism.
Lowlights along the way were Malcolm X – “Jews are Nazis”; Senator Jesse Jackson – “Hymietown”; and Louis Farrakhan – “Judaism, a gutter religion”. Being anti-Israel and even hating Jews became mainstream in the extremes of the movement.
BLM’s leaders have not plumbed those depths but they do buy into the world-view according to which, at some point, “Israel” is linked to events most people regard as unconnected.
The language they use is routine hard-left rhetoric tinged with race and gender politics. For example: “Until we are able to overturn US imperialism, capitalism and white supremacy, our brothers and sisters around the world will continue to live in chains.” The three founding members are lesbians and the manifesto pays particular attention to the difficulties faced by “queer, gender nonconforming, and trans people”.
It describes America as “an empire that uses war to expand territory and power”, its military presence in Africa used to “expand Western colonial control”. In the context of an argument about cutting the military budget to fund black community projects, it says: “The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinians.”
What is missing from both the manifesto and the organisation is an acknowledgment of complexity.
There is nothing about the role that Hamas plays in profiting from the human trafficking of mostly black Africans through the Sinai.
Also missing is the fact that the only country in Africa and the Middle East with progressive laws on protecting the LGBT community is Israel.
Nor, in the passing, but ignorant, slurs about genocide and apartheid is there any context of Israel’s relationship with Africa. Unnoticed is Israel’s donation of $10 million to the UN fund to fight Ebola, the growing use of Israeli technology to bring clean water to African villages, nor the embracing of Israel by many African countries as a valued strategic business partner.
One of the shooting incidents which led to BLM’s formation was in Ferguson. In rallies soon afterwards, banners appeared saying: “From Palestine to Ferguson”. The Israel-haters were quick to jump on that bandwagon – and the bandwagon seemed to make room for them.
By diluting its core message about the militarisation of US policing, particularly in black communities, and writing a manifesto in the language of fringe politics, BLM risks losing support from the left, right, and centre, and from black and white – not to mention US Jews. They don’t seem to care.
(Adapted from an article first published in the UK’s JC)