BDS Usurps Black Lives Matter

#BlackLivesMatter.  I agree.  Black lives do matter. The United States Civil War ended a little over 150 years ago. Then came Reconstruction, and then came Jim Crow. Some believe Jim Crow ended in 1964, but on many levels, it hasn’t really ended. Black people were brought to the US against their will as slaves. They then gained their freedom from slavery via the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, but were still not considered equal human beings to the white man. Not until the late 1960s were any programs put into place to counteract the dehumanization that had taken place against Black people in the US.

This wasn’t that long ago and as a result, Black people still have not been able to attain equal footing in the USA. Sure, there are some success stories, but poverty is still an overwhelming issue among the Black population in the US and the institutional racism that this country was built on has still not effectively or completely been dismantled. This is what the Black Lives Matter movement is about.

What does that have to do with the Palestinians?  I’m glad you asked. Nothing. It has absolutely nothing to do with the Palestinians; however, the Anti-Israel movement has once again usurped someone else’s cause. Black for Palestine, a group related to Black Lives Matter (BLM), has issued a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people. On its face, there is nothing wrong with this single act and I agree that the Palestinian people have a right to self-determination, which is why I support a two-state solution. The problem arises because this support of solidarity goes far deeper than just believing Palestinians have a right to self-determination. We can see this by the numerous inaccuracies that have been referenced in this statement by Black for Palestine.

I refer to the Pro-Palestinian movement as the Anti-Israel movement because that’s essentially what it is. The supporters of this movement are only vocal when they believe Israel or Jews are the oppressors of the Palestinian people. The people who claim to support the Palestinians have rarely, if ever, uttered a word against Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, the individual Palestinian leaders, the Syrian government, the Jordanian government, the Lebanese government, ISIS, or anyone else who currently or in the past has marginalized or destroyed the lives of Palestinians.

The Anti-Israel movement has engaged in this usurpation of others’ causes or movements in the past with great success. The Anti-Israel movement strategically usurped the peace movement. They funded and created peace groups around the world, or propped up existing peace movements, so eventually the word peace would become synonymous with being against Israel. My own state’s peace group, Carolina Peace Now, has a de facto leader by the name of David Matos. For several years, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation was listed as David’s employer on his Facebook page.

Contrary to popular belief, this push for support by Black Lives Matter for the Palestinian people has nothing to do with making Palestinian lives better, though the members of Black Lives Matter who are new to this, which is most, probably believe it does. If that were the case, I would fully support it.  Its sole purpose is an attempt by the Anti-Israel propaganda machine to portray Jews as white, European oppressors of people of color. This is the narrative that is being sold to Black Lives Matter — hook, line and sinker — never mind that a majority of the Jews in Israel come from the Horn of Africa or the Middle East and never mind that the Palestinian territories do not have Black Africans living there as free or equal citizens, yet Israel does.

The problems that the Palestinians have because of religious extremism, greedy and ineffective leadership, and lack of resources due to declaring war on the State of Israel are not discussed. Lies like a civilian massacre at Deir Yassin and Mohammed al Dura dying at the hands of Israelis, both proven to be falsehoods an in effort to demonize the Jews, are characterized as facts when presented by the Anti-Israel movement to potential supporters. Of course people will be angered when they hear these fairy tale atrocities and few seem to be eager enough to be factually knowledgeable to verify what they’re being told.

Israel is far from perfect, but based on my many conversations with critics of the State of Israel, it is nothing even close to how it’s portrayed by the haters. In examining this, one has to ask him or herself why so much attention is placed on Israel when there are so many other countries doing far more horrible things — and the unfortunate answer is that it boils down to Jew-hatred. I encounter people all the time who have no personal stake in this conflict but are obsessed with this tiny country that is, in many ways, far more liberal and democratic than the US.

We just saw this with Matisyahu, an American Jewish musical artist, who was told by the organizers of the Spanish reggae festival Sunsplash Rototom that he must issue a statement on video that is supportive of the Palestinian plight. Matisyahu is apolitical, is not Israeli, and is not in the business of issuing political statements on this or any topic, so when he declined to do so, the festival rescinded his invitation and canceled his performance. To my knowledge, other artists were not demanded to provide the same statement. This substantiates the fact that Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has nothing to do with Israel and everything to do with Jews. There is no apartheid in Israel, yet the success of the BDS movement relies on this fallacy for its support and most people just accept this fallacy at face value.

What is happening with Black Lives Matter is highly important to transforming America into the country it needs to become where everyone is truly equal. Jews, especially, need to be paying attention. The demonization of Jews and Israel that has been an issue within the Black community for some time is about to be turned up a notch. Black Lives Matter is a powerful and necessary movement in the US in response to how Black people are treated by our systems, power structures, and by non-Blacks. We, as Jews, need to actively show our support to our Black neighbors and fellow citizens and get involved with our local Black Lives Matter groups. We need to do this for them, as it is the noblest of causes to stand against oppression, and we need to do this for us, for the sake of Tikkun Olam and to be present to dispel the myths that they are going to be circulating as a result of the latest Anti-Israel movement’s commandeering of another group’s cause.

It will be difficult to endure at times because we will be subjected to hearing Anti-Israel voices among the members of Black Lives Matter, but it’s important that we continue our long legacy of fighting for Black civil rights in America despite this and be gracious in our attempts to combat the misinformation.

The Black Lives Matter movement doesn’t seem to have an awareness of how their cause is being used as a stepping-stone by another group that has nothing to do with their mission or goals. What will occur is that the message of Black Lives Matter will get muddled and take a back seat to the Palestinian issue in many instances. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a highly complex and completely different issue than the struggle for Black self-determination. Twisting the two into a single issue does a great disservice to every Black person in America who has or is still fighting for his or her basic humanity.

About the Author
Debbie Hall is a writer and activist living in the diaspora.
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