Black Lives Matter Movement Takes its Eye Off the Ball, Launches Misguided Attack on Israel

Even as the racial tensions buffeting the nation persist, the relatively new Black Lives Matter movement (BLM) has lost it focus. Its attention has been diverted thousands of miles away with the adoption of a platform that falsely accuses Israel of genocide and apartheid.

Instead of intensifying its efforts to build a real movement for change, including outreach to Americans of every color, ethnicity and background who share the vision of a more just society, BLM has directed its anger at the Jewish state of Israel.

Given the close familiarity of the Jewish people with genocide, it is not only wrong, but deeply offensive, to throw around loosely the charge of a crime against humanity. It also is startling to hear that accusation given the genocide being committed next door in Syria, the massacres of entire minority communities taking place in many parts of the region, the ethnic cleansing of Christians, which is a virtual fait accompli in much of the Middle East, the rape and sexual enslavement of women, and more.

If the charge of genocide had any credibility, it’s not likely Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would have been invited, let alone warmly received, by seven African heads of state last month. Contrast that with the visit to Sudan a few days later by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who embraced and strategized with President Omar al Bashir, the notorious war criminal wanted by the International Court of Justice for genocide and crimes against humanity.

In choosing to interject BLM into the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in this manner, tensions have been exacerbated, making it harder for advocates who continue to believe in the inescapable need for face-to-face negotiations to achieve two states for two peoples living side-by-side.

Even within the U.S., BLM is engaging in short-sighted tactics at the expense of addressing the many traumas inflicted on black communities. Recent efforts to get the city of Atlanta to stop cooperating with Israel on innovative police training suggests that antipathy for Israel overrides a common sense need to find better solutions to real problems.

Israel is far from perfect, and millions of its citizens take advantage of their democratic rights to protest its shortcomings. The nation is a loud and combustible mix of ethnicities, including well over a million and a half Arab citizens. Palestinians are members of the Knesset, sit on the Supreme Court and, given a choice, have absolutely no interest in living anywhere else in the region.

As minorities that have faced intolerance and oppression, the African American and Jewish communities on many occasions have joined forces in the same trenches to fight, and even die, for the principles of freedom and justice both cherish. The fact that after all the progress of the civil rights struggle, parents of young black men still fear for their children every time they leave home is an outrage no American should tolerate.

BLM can play a vital role in helping our nation overcome its painful history. But to succeed, it must work in concert with others who also are strongly committed to ending senseless violence that has plagued us for generations.

Israel no less than the United States is a diverse, multi-ethnic, multi-racial, multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-religious mix of citizens from every continent, not least Arab Israelis who constitute 20 percent of the population. Indeed, BLM might reconsider its perspective and find that Israel is not part of the problem, but part of a solution that can be realized only through a genuinely peaceful and inclusive vision.

In the interest of truth and accuracy, BLM should rescind the platform plank that denigrates and impugns Israel as an outlaw state.  We have come too far together to allow this calumny, especially with so much work still ahead of us.

About the Author
Jack Rosen is President of the American Jewish Congress and Chairman of the American Council for World Jewry. Twitter @JackRosenNYC.