Something’s the matter with Black Lives Matter

Demonstrators kneel in a moment of silence outside the Long Beach Police Department on Sunday, May 31, 2020,   (AP Photo/Ashley Landis via Jewish News)
Demonstrators kneel in a moment of silence outside the Long Beach Police Department on Sunday, May 31, 2020, (AP Photo/Ashley Landis via Jewish News)

Black Lives Matter (BLM) appeared first in the USA in 2013, following the Florida killing the previous year of teenager Trayvon Martin. BLM activists contended that Martin’s killing was an act of murder. The jury thought otherwise and acquitted his killer, George Zimmerman, whose plea of self-defence the jury accepted.

Zimmerman is of German and Peruvian origin, with some African ancestry. No matter. Martin’s killing was seen as an act of racial violence – the sort of incident BLM had been looking to further its goals, which I shall consider in a moment.

Here we should note that the killing of Trayvon Martin has been followed by the deaths of other black Americans at the hands of whites or near-whites, culminating in the slaying in Minneapolis last month of George Floyd.

BLM is best described as a loose alliance of movements rather than as a distinct organisation with a defined executive management structure. In the USA BLM has an online presence [] through which we learn of the existence of a “BLM Global Network Foundation,” established to support BLM’s “ongoing fight to end State-sanctioned violence, liberate Black people, and end white supremacy forever.”

On 1 August 2016 the American BLM movement published a “platform” – a series of nebulous half-baked ideas amounting to nothing less than a new world order, based on the redistribution of wealth and the privileging of black people through – for example – “an end to zero-tolerance school policies and arrests of students.”

But what caught my eye, further down the document (which appears now to have mysteriously disappeared from the website) was an entire section devoted to the State of Israel. American BLM damned the Jewish state for practising “systematic discrimination” and having maintained “a military occupation of Palestine for decades.”

Israel, it declared, is committing “genocide . . . against the Palestinian people.” Israel is here described as “an apartheid state” and we’re told that the sooner America stops funding this state the better it will be for black and brown people everywhere. More than that, American BLM (we’re further instructed) takes as its model the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that has as its goal the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.

As the “platform” put it, BLM seeks to “build invest/divestment campaigns that end US Aid to Israel’s military industrial complex.” This aid should instead be redirected towards building the American utopia that the movement seeks (or at least then sought) to construct.

It is in fact beyond any contention that BLM partisans in the USA routinely involve themselves in anti-Israel activities, for example accusing Israel of training American police and of, therefore, being responsible for the shootings of black Americans.

But what is the position in this country?

On 9 June this year BLM partisans joined a demonstration in Oxford called by the campaign “Rhodes Must Fall,” which is demanding the removal from Oriel College of its statue of Cecil Rhodes. But not all those who joined the demonstration were concerned primarily with the deeds and misdeeds of Cecil Rhodes. A group of them were much more concerned with the opportunity thus provided to publicly denounce the Jewish state, which one of their number proceeded to do with great gusto.

Two days later an extraordinary letter, signed by over 50 anti-Israel campaigners in Brighton, was sent to Labour and Green local councillors, expressing enthusiastic satisfaction at the support these worthies had apparently shown for BLM, but at the same time castigating them for having endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism. “In defending Israeli apartheid [the signatories wrote] the Labour and Green groups on the council make a mockery of their statement of solidarity with George Floyd, and of their claims to be anti-racist … When those who fought against apartheid in South Africa … declare that Israel is an apartheid state, who are you to argue?”

Of course, two swallows do not a summer make. You might agree with me that these instances of interaction between BLM cadres and antisemitic infiltrators, whilst upsetting, are hardly BLM’s fault. But the fact remains that I have searched the internet in vain for any evidence of BLM spokespersons repudiating such infiltration.

It is true that following the Oxford incident an Oriel College student representative expressed his disgust at what had happened. But from BLM there has been total silence. Scarcely less worrying is evidence that BLM events attract anti-Jewish elements, including Holocaust deniers, apparently without let or hindrance.

Jews who – no doubt from the sincerest of motives – demonstrate sympathy with the BLM project need to be sensitive to the quarters from which that project draws its strength. There are plenty of ways in which we can – and should – support the exposure and eradication of racism in British society. I cannot at the present time agree that supporting BLM is or should be one of them.

About the Author
Professor Geoffrey Alderman is an academic, author and journalist