The murder of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer on 25 May set off massive protests that spread around the world and awakened sympathies of people of all ethnicities, including world Jewry.
The protests endorsed the simple messages that black lives matter, that the blood of minorities is not cheap and the injustices they face, past and present, must be addressed much more vigorously.
But Black Lives Matter (BLM), the self-styled activist group that organises protests and purports to represent these protesters, effectively insists the demonstrators endorse a series of far-flung political demands that many would not even be aware of, let alone agree with. These political objectives are only found on the website of BLM’s sister organisation, the Movement for Black Lives (‘M4BL’), an umbrella group founded by BLM’s organisers in December 2014.
BLM’s message to its newfound supporters appears clear: it’s their way or the highway. In a recent Washington Post story on BLM, M4BL strategist Thenjiwe McHarris said it is ‘meaningless and harmful’ when people join marches and post ‘Black Lives Matter’ but do not advocate for substantive changes in policy.
M4BL’s website explicitly spells out these policy changes. Of special concern to world Jewry, M4BL calls for cutting off all US military support for Israel, which it terms an ‘apartheid’ state that is perpetrating ‘genocide… against the Palestinian people’. ‘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 Palestinian people,’ the brief reads, without offering evidence for this outrageous and unsupportable claim.
M4BL further alleges that US military aid to Israel ‘diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs’ (that’s not how Federal budgets work). It also makes spurious claims such as ‘Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as four years old without due process’. (They don’t. According to the laws under which the IDF operates, Palestinians under 12 are not criminally responsible and therefore can be detained and returned to their families, but not arrested.) Last month, BLM announced the disbursement of $6.5 million to funding its chapters, including its official organisation in the UK, which on 28 June unleashed a tirade of 11 straight tweets railing against Israel’s right to exist.
‘Mainstream British politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism, and Israel’s settler colonial pursuits,’ the group tweeted. ‘We loudly and clearly stand beside our Palestinian comrades. FREE PALESTINE’.
Others called for ‘targeted sanctions in line with international law against Israel’s colonial, apartheid regime’; endorsed Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel; said Anti-Zionism can’t be antisemitic because, uh, lots of Jews are anti-Zionist, and dusted off a quote by ageing radical Angela Davis supporting the Palestinian struggle.
If they’re already turning back to the Sixties, they should remember another quote, by Dr Martin Luther King:
‘What is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is antisemitism.’
Of course, you don’t have to be Jewish to be uncomfortable with the some of the motivations guiding the BLM leadership. In a 2015 interview with the internet-based Real News Network, Patrisse Cullors, co-founder and chairwoman of the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation – the organisation’s official name for business purposes – proudly described herself and BLM co-founder Alicia Garza as ‘trained Marxists’.
Yet according to BLM activists, M4BL’s hard left policy platform is the litmus test for whether you are part of the problem or the solution. When informed that several major Jewish organisations would continue to support the black community but withhold direct support for the BLM movement, Rachel Gilmer, one of the drafters of the brief, told Haaretz in 2016, ‘I don’t think it’s a loss’ to the BLM movement. ‘It’s just made it clear that they weren’t real allies.’
To date, most BLM leaders have shown little concern about who their allies are or for the actions of chapters and activists, provided they support the platform and attend protests or flood social media. As such, BLM has been troublingly silent about antisemitic posts in social media by their supporters, or antisemitic incidents during recent protests organised in their name.
For example, in Los Angeles on 30 May, BLM demonstrators spray-painted anti-Israel slogans on synagogues and looted and torched several Jewish-owned businesses. On 13 June in Paris, anti-racism protesters gathering in solidarity with BLM chanted ‘dirty Jews’ and waved signs with inflammatory slogans such as ‘Israel, laboratory of police violence’.
Black Lives Matter has also kept mum over outrageous, fabricated allegations circulating under its hashtag, claiming police brutality in the US was somehow a product of military-style training US police officers had received in Israel, including allegations that Israeli forces taught Minneapolis police the knee-to-neck choking technique that killed George Floyd. Such claims could not be further from the reality. US police have visited Israel to study how to prevent and respond to terror attacks, crisis de-escalation, intelligence-gathering and sharing, and sensitivity training and community relations.
BLM would like you to believe that they, and the M4BL are the only addresses for supporting black people, and that their policies are representative of the majority of black people. This was certainly not true before BLM was founded in 2013, and it’s not true today.
Positive change achieved by the American civil rights movement has occurred in the past despite the activity of the radicals, Marxists, militants and anti-Zionists, not because of them.
Those who would uncritically pander to them now in the name of the interests of black people risk sacrificing the opportunity to better the lives of black people today on the altar of political intersectionality. And that would be the real tragedy.
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Ahron Shapiro is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council.
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