Masimba Musodza

The Hebrew Israelites: A Follow Up

A screenshot from one of the video responses to my blog.

About a month ago, I penned a blog in response to a group of Hebrew Israelites who were reported to have preached their inherently antisemitic beliefs in a public place in Stamford Hill, a predominantly Jewish area of London. I meant to follow this up with an examination of this particular stream of the Hebrew Israelite movement’s doctrines, to demonstrate why I think that they are intrinsically antisemitic in character. This examination is part of a co-ordinated effort from both sides of the Atlantic, led by Pastor Dumisani Temesgen Washington of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel- IBSI. I was going to explore the two most cited Biblical passages that appear to form the basis for the racist ideology of the Hebrew Israelites. That will have to wait for the next blog.

Reaction to the blog began as a trickle, and has now grown to a steady torrent from the Hebrew Israelites themselves. There are at least three Youtube videos that have been made about me in the last three weeks that I am aware of. There have also been several

Some of the responses made me realise that I was not clear enough in my blog about who I mean by Hebrew Israelites. I did touch on the history of the movement among Americans of African descent, with a notable leader being William Crowdy. Just as the Christian Millerite movement has dichotomised into such seemingly disparate sects as the Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the followers of the aforementioned Crowdy, Wentworth A. Matthew etc have branched out into a variety of groups. Some of these have embraced what is more widely accepted as Judaism, or are working towards this as they expunge the Christian aspects of their theology. Others remain Christian, while observing some Jewish practices.

Many readers in Israel automatically, and understandably, assumed I was writing about the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem.  Let me make it clear here that, as far as I know, there is no direct connection since their historic dichotomy between the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem (and their branches throughout the State of Israel) and the groups that I denounced as a threat and apologise for any distress that confusion might have caused. As a group, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem are largely unknown outside of Israel, having moved en masse to the State of Israel from 1969 onwards. Today, many of their community are citizens of Israel. On a visit to their Peace Village, President Shimon Peres told them, “You are loved in Israel.” Their successful collectivist enterprises have been described as Israel’s biggest kibbutz. In an interview, Ben Ammi Ben-Israel said, “We are not neutral when it comes to to the State of Israel…you know, I mean we are an integral part of Israel…you know, and we will do what is necessary to defend Israel.”

The African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem emerged as a group and migrated first to Liberia and then Israel before the rise of similarly-named hate groups in the United States. Beth Shalom B’Nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation, the original congregation that Ben Ammi Ben-Israel (May the Most High bless his memory), founder and spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem attended still exists in Chicago, Illinois and is in fact multiracial in membership. It would appear that inversely, the antisemitic Hebrew Israelites that I wrote about appear to be unknown in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world, hence the confusion.

The Hebrew Israelites that I wrote about in my blog have been largely active in the United States of America. There are hundreds if not thousands of their videos on Youtube, most of them filmed during their street-preaching sessions. They are quite distinguished with their outlandish costumes, that remind me of the video for 2 Pac’s California Love and older imagery from the Afrofuturism cultural movement (think George Clinton, Sun Ra and his Intergalactic Arkestra etc), and use of profanities. Homophobic slurs are favourites for men they do not like, while women are called names that imply that they are promiscuous. “Dirty” is also reserved for Hamites, i.e., Africans. They have their own language, which they claim is revival of ancient Hebrew. However, none of them appear to be able to string more than a few sentences in it yet. They are particularly hostile to Africans (or Hamites),  Jews (even if the Jews are Black, as in this exchange) and LGBT people. Even visiting the State of Israel creates opportunities to demonstrate their hate.

The proliferation of videos reflects the splintering of the movement into many “camps,” but there are also indications of attempts at creating a centralised group. One such group is led by a man who claims to be the Comforter that Jesus told His followers would be among them after His own departure. Mainstream Christianity has always held that the “Comforter” Jesus spoke of was the Holy Spirit. Another claims to be the reincarnation of King David. It is very hard to watch most of these videos without wondering if they are spoofs.

The Hebrew Israelites have begun to make their presence felt in the United Kingdom, reaching out to mostly the Caribbean communities (The Tribes of Benjamin, Simeon and Levi) in the major cities. In one video, the preacher seemed to interpret the outbreak of youth violence in Black communities as a sign that the Tribe of Benjamin (Jamaicans and most other Caribbeans) is to be divinely unleashed on Edomites, ie., White British. That the overwhelming majority of this violence is other Black youth is overlooked, as is everything else that overturns the ideology. There also appears to be divergence from the Black American Hebrew Israelite position on the identity of Black Africans; some of the British preachers hold that it is only southern and east African Blacks who are Hamites, west Africans are Semites. The xenophobic violence that flares up from time to time in South Africa is cited as proof of Hamitic (native Black South Africans) hatred of Semitic (Nigerians and Ghanaians) people even though most victims of xenophobic violence have been Zimbabweans, Angolans, Mozambiqueans, Malawians, and also Somalis and Ethiopians, and even fellow South Africans from minority groups. But hey, why let the facts interfere with a deranged post-apocalyptic vision?

OK, where do we go from here?  I am not interested in getting entangled in a social media exchange in which all the other side has to reiterate is its belief that I am being paid by the Jewish people, or I am gay or a Fulani tribesman. I still hold that the so-called IUIC, Church of Yahawashi etc are dangerous hate-groups. I hold that their fundamental teachings- that they are the physical descendants of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the people universally accepted as Jews are really an evil cabal and their enemies are essentially as racist an ideology as that of religious groups such as the Identity Movement (who teach that it is White people who are the real Israelites, and Jews are fake- do you see a pattern here?), and ought to be challenged with the same vigour that White and Asian antisemitic groups have been challenged. I am yet to see evidence that can persuade me otherwise.

About the Author
Masimba Musodza is a novelist, screenwriter, essayist, blogger and actor of some note, with work published all over the world and online. He was born and grew up in Zimbabwe, but has lived in the UK since 2002.
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