Invest/Divest

Why would Black Lives Matter alienate so many supporters in the Jewish community?

I have heard this question repeatedly since I became part of the Movement for Black Lives a year ago.

First, let me say clearly that Black Lives Matter is not accountable to me, the Jewish community or anyone but their own core members.  My commentary is not directed at BLM. I recognize that I am supporting the entire platform when I support the movement.

The reason for this post is to share my perspective with other members of the Jewish community who want to get involved as a BLM ally,  but feel threatened and singled out by BLM’s anti-Zionist stance.

The text in question is here: the US “diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government” which the platform refers to as a “genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.” The text also refers to a system of “apartheid” in Israel.

Activists and journalists alike have cited the inclusion of Israel in BLM’s platform as singling out Israel in an unfair way. Let’s be clear here: The US spends about $5 billion dollars on foreign aid to Israel and to incentivize Egypt to keep peace. That’s FAR more, like WAY FAR MORE than any other military aid we provide outside of Afghanistan.

So the American people do have a right to ensure that that funding is being used to uphold democratic values. As a matter of fact, we have an obligation to do so.  As an American Jew, it is my moral duty to speak out when I see the Israeli government, in my name, oppressing its citizens and others who live under its control. 

I understand that referring to the actions of the Israeli government as “genocide” seems harsh. And the truth is that the UN has been vague in its definition of genocide.  To people who don’t see or understand the reality of life for most Palestinians, it may be impossible for them to come to terms with the idea that Jews, and especially the Jewish state, can be BOTH victims AND oppressors. And most Jews justify the behavior they do see with a myriad of both relevant and completely irrelevant facts and assumptions.

I agree that Israel’s wall  and system of checkpoints institutes a system of Apartheid within the territory it controls. It separates families from the bounty of their land. It separates children and the elderly from schools and medical care. And it separates economic opportunity and hope.

Regardless of whether you think that Israel is inflicting genocide against the Palestinian people (and experts disagree about the role of numbers in defining a genocide),  anyone who cares about the sanctity of black life and values the contributions of the black community in the US should recognize that nothing we face in our own communities is as pressing as the collective oppression of people of color in our own home, the systematic rape of black communities and the continued assassination of black people by our prison industrial complex.

I can only share my truth.

My truth tells me that the argument about whether or not Israel is an Apartheid government inflicting genocide against the Palestinian people belongs within the Jewish and Palestinian communities.  That’s where I will be engaging in this conversation.

In the meantime, I will not be distracted from my focus and determination in fully supporting Black Lives Matter and in our collective struggle to defend black dignity and build black power and self-determination.