For many, Black Lives Matter is simply a movement to say that Americans who are Black deserve better.
Every major Jewish denomination has called for a serious look at inequities in America after the death of George Floyd while in police custody. The Reform movement issued a statement that repeatedly said “Black Lives Matter.”
But from a pro-Israel perspective, there’s a disturbing side to the Black Lives Matter movement, as a handful of faithful Chronicle readers have pointed out by way of phone calls and emails. It may be painful for some to acknowledge, but the Black Lives Matter movement does have some connections with anti-Israel sentiment.
And yet that statement deserves an immediate follow-up. The reality is that many Black Lives Matter supporters aren’t thinking about Israel. They’re thinking about their views on systemic racism and the appropriate use of police power in the United States.
Black Lives Matter is widely regarded as a decentralized movement. A national Black Lives Matter organization that has an anti-Israel history can have nothing to do with what happens in Milwaukee or Madison under the “Black Lives Matter” banner.
But for a Black Lives Matter reality check, below is a round-up of three anti-Israel connections. This is not a complete list:
The Movement for Black Lives
In 2016, the Movement for Black Lives issued a platform accusing Israel of genocide. The platform has since been removed from their website. The Movement for Black Lives, formed in 2014, identifies itself as a space for Black organizations across the country to discuss current political conditions.
The Movement for Black Lives is hosting a “Black National Convention” on Aug. 28, to “ratify a Black agenda” days after the Democratic National Convention and ahead of the November elections, according to a news release. It’s not clear how Israel will fit in, and the Movement for Black Lives did not respond to Chronicle requests for comment.
Some, but not all, Black Lives Matter connections with anti-Israel sentiment may have come with direction or encouragement from Palestinian activists. The apparent goal is to join a Palestinian anti-Israel message to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Here are two possible examples:
Black Lives Matter UK
Black Lives Matter UK tweeted an antisemitic trope on Jewish power to its 76,000 followers in June: “As Israel moves forward with the annexation of the West Bank, and mainstream British politics is gagged of the right to critique Zionism, and Israel’s settler colonial pursuits, we loudly and clearly stand beside our Palestinian comrades.”
Protesters in Washington, D.C.
Protesters at a demonstration in Washington, linking Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian cause chanted “Israel, we know you, you murder children, too,” according to reporting by Marcy Oster of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
The demonstration was billed as an event in support of the Day of Rage called by the Palestinian Authority and other groups to protest the possibility that Israel could annex part of the West Bank.
Antisemitism in the Black community
Finally, we’ve got to note that antisemitism has been popping up recently among noted people in the Black community. This is not specifically a Black Lives Matter issue and it’s not an Israel issue, but it’s a Black and Jewish issue, and it’s obviously disturbing. See Amy Waldman’s column, “On Nick Cannon — and why telling me I’m not Jewish is a problem,” for more on this.
One example of this recent antisemitism: The British rapper Wiley posted an antisemitic rant on Twitter on July 24. Among his comments were “I don’t care about Hitler, I care about black people” and “There are 2 sets of people who nobody has really wanted to challenge #Jewish & #KKK but being in business for 20 years you start to undestand [sic] why,” according to JTA.
Wiley’s manager, John Woolf, dropped him after the comments.
“I am a proud Jewish man and I am deeply shocked and saddened but what he has chosen to say,” Woolf said, according to the BBC. “I am speaking to key figures in my community in light of today’s tweets. This behavior and hateful speech is not acceptable to me.”