Black lives matter. It is a simple truth. This week I found myself having to explain what ought to be self-evident to fellow Jews who say the movement promotes BDS (the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement) and is anti-Israel, and therefore they cannot support it. This week I also saw an event supporting Black lives in which Zionists were specifically told not to come. This makes the task of helping Jews understand why they must help confront and root out racism that much more difficult.
To them, I say the following:
There are two sites that I am aware of that support the Black Lives Matter movement. But neither the movement nor the hashtag is owned by a site. It is bigger than that.
The first site, Black Lives Matter, does not intertwine any anti-Israel content into its platforms. See for yourself. It does list 16 chapters (none in Georgia yet!). Some people have also mistakenly noted that because the donation page mentions ActBlue, they are going to the Democratic Party. Wrong. Donations pass through ActBlue’s platform and go to the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.
There is also a second site, called Movement for Black Lives. Its donation page notes that it is made up of over 150 organizations, including Black Lives Matter; it too uses ActBlue, but those donations go to the Movement for Black Lives. This site is the one which used to specify under Invest-Divest that they support BDS and see the US complicit in the genocide of Palestinians. There are many issues with how Israel treats both Palestinians under the PA and those within Israel, but none of it is genocide and so supporters of Israel felt that a difficult pill to swallow. When it was on the website’s page, I felt that had this language not been included, Jews would’ve been more vocal in their support of the movement and it bothered me that this issue was being unnecessarily embedded into a very worthy cause. Since then, the Movement for Black Lives has moved the anti-Israel content off the website’s platform page and relegated it to a pdf document on cutting military spending linked at the bottom of the page.
When Movement for Black Lives featured the anti-Israel content on its site’s platform, it was difficult for many to overlook. Because M4BL has moved it off the page and because the issue of Black lives being so harmed by this country is so overwhelmingly in need of support and because as a coalition site its platform cannot possibly reflect all of its member organizations’ platforms (and because perhaps there are other sites for the cause) and because no one owns the hashtag or the movement, I certainly cannot abide by people using M4BL’s inclusion of BDS as a reason not to support BLM. (I also would wager to guess that most who use that as a reason to withhold support heard something from someone somewhere and never bothered to check the site either then or now.)
When I now see fellow Jews using this as an excuse not support BLM, it hurts because 1. it is not the obstacle they thought given the reasons spelled above; and 2. I fear they may be using this as an excuse to hide behind, in order to perpetuate their own racism. And that thought is awful.
I shared these comments this week in a number of places.
Then, over the weekend I saw on Twitter that MPower Change and Believers Bail Out were promoting a Muslims for Abolition Juneteenth rally and day of action. Believers Bail Out provides bail money to Muslims who are incarcerated. On its site, MPower says it works towards “social, spiritual, racial, and economic justice for all people [while also aiming] to build political power online and offline for Muslims.” Its executive director is Linda Sarsour. The site also claims that “Everyone has a place in this movement.”
But not everyone can come to their Juneteenth rally. “Open to all, minus cops & Zionists.”
As I wrote back in 2018, Linda Sarsour’s anti-Zionism is anti-Semitic, no matter how much she wants to believe otherwise. What her organization did this week by specifically excluding those who support Israel’s right to exist needs to be called out by everyone, especially by those who refuse to support Israel. Because this is wrong. Just wrong. (For more on why anti-Zionism is antisemitic, please read fellow Times of Israel blogger’s Justin Feldman’s 8 Reasons why anti-Zionism is always anti-Semitism.)
I am a Zionist. I support Israel as a homeland for the Jews and reject BDS. I, like many other Zionists, disapprove of Israel annexing land and of many things that Israeli governments have done. I also believe that a two-state solution that gives Palestinians autonomy must happen, and that it must be negotiated bilaterally. None of this is contradictory to being a Zionist.
As I explained in another blog addressing the stalemate, one can be pro-Israel without being anti-Palestinian. I am. I consider myself pro-Israel, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace. I am not alone.
On the flip side, one can be pro-Palestinian without being anti-Israel. But Linda Sarsour isn’t one of those people. In equating the two, Linda Sarsour demonstrated that it is hate that motivates her. Not unity. In my opinion, that’s not the kind of person who should be driving any movement. And what her organization’s message about the Juneteenth rally is doing is divisive and exclusionary, pure and simple.
So, where do Jews fit in to the Black Lives Matter movement?
Black lives matter and all Jews should give their support to this vital cause which is larger than any single website.
Black lives matter and no Jews should be shut out from showing their support.