An article in The Times is titled “Why Black Lives Matter is backing the Palestinian cause“, but it doesn’t even come close to delivering on that promise. Instead, the article, by their Washington correspondent Allistair Dawber (former Jerusalem correspondent at the Independent) merely promotes Black Lives Matter talking points, whilst failing to critically scrutinise the group or carefully examine their record on Jews and Israel.
The piece begins thusly:
Among the many Palestinian flags and hand-drawn placards being flown at a recent anti-Israel demonstration in New York one stood out. It read: “We can’t breathe since 1948”.
In addition to being “emotive”, the sign, with its reference to 1948, as opposed to 1967, clearly indicates that, for such protesters, their problem with Israel doesn’t center around the occupation, but with its very existence.
As CAMERA noted in their backgrounder on the group (as opposed to the general cause), BLM has a record of public statements and affiliations which suggest their problem is with the continues existence of Israel, not merely their polices. In addition to the fact that they support BDS, a 2016 policy platform by the Movement for Black Lives, an umbrella group that includes all the smaller groups affiliated with BLM, included the charge that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.
Further, a 2015 video recently surfaced showing the BLM co-founder, who’s an outspoken BDS supporter, explicitly calling for the end of the Jewish state.
The Times article continues:
The group’s adoption of the Palestinian cause, a largely unpopular and marginal issue in a country that is strident in its support of Israel, resulted in more and larger demonstrations against the state than ever before in the US.
The use of the word “strident” (a pejorative to refer to something loud, harsh or obnoxious) to characterise US support for Israel by the writer is telling here, because it’s consistent with narrative he’s peddling throughout the piece, whereby BLM’s putative injection of energy to the anti-Israel movement is framed as intrinsically beneficial. Remarkably, though, the writer fails to acknowledge that the eruption of anti-Israel sentiment across the US was accompanied by an unprecedented outbreak of antisemitism – violence and hate targeting Jews perpetrated almost entirely by pro-Palestinian demonstrators.
The article continues, mentioning the “vocal group of left-wing Democratic members”, some of whom, we’re told “cut their teeth in the BLM” where “there was open support for the Palestinian cause”.
It then uncritically cites a Tweet by Cori Bush, a congresswoman from Missouri, which accused Israel of carrying out an “outright massacre in Palestine”. Of course, Israel’s war against with Hamas – an internationally proscribed terror group committed to the mass murder of Jews – was nothing of the sort. In fact, even the United Nations acknowledged that the majority of those killed in Gaza were terrorists.
The lie of the “massacre” narrative was revealed by UNRWA’s Gaza chief, who said the Israeli operation was “precise”, and noted that the IDF, with a few exceptions, didn’t hit civilian targets. Though he was later pressured by pro-Palestinian groups to apologise for his remarks, he didn’t retract his original assessment.
The Times piece also quoted the congresswoman accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing – a counter-factual, ahistorical and completely propagandistic invective that, once again, the journalist failed to challenge.
The journalist then notes how Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib bravely confronted President Biden over his support for Israel, yet fails to inform readers of Tlaib’s views, such as her rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
The article finally cites one dissenting voice, Mark Mellman, president of Democratic Majority for Israel, who’s quoted in a Washington Post article stating that “Most people recognise that there’s a totally different dynamic at work between a terrorist organisation shooting 3,500 missiles into your country on the one hand, and the racial dynamics that take place in American cities”.
However, that quote, introduced in the 16th paragraph of the article, doesn’t nearly do justice to the case for why BLM’s vilification of Israel is so pernicious. When the aforementioned Rashida Tlaib told supporters “What they are doing to the Palestinian people is what they continue to do to our Black brothers and sisters here”, she was simply echoing, as Matti Friedman wrote, the BLM narrative which jumbles a conflict between Jews and Muslims 6,000 miles east of Washington, D.C with American ideas about race.
The story of the Jewish minority in Europe and in the Islamic world, which is the story of Israel, has nothing to do with race in America. My grandmother’s parents and siblings were shot outside their village in Poland by people the same color as them. If you stand on a street in the modern state of Israel and look at passersby, you often can’t tell who’s Jewish and who’s Arab. Many Israelis are from Arab countries, and for the 6 million Jews living in the heart of the Arab world (300 million people) and in the broader Islamic world (1.5 billion people), the question of who’s the minority is obviously a tricky one. Most Black people here are Jews with roots in Ethiopia.
Friedman continued on the moral pattern at play when the two issues are conflated.
For these Americans, distant Jews have become an embodiment of the American evil, racial oppression. People have always projected fantasies onto other places and groups, but this particular type of projection, in which Jews are displayed as the prime symbol of whatever’s wrong, has a long history.
BLM’s conflation of US racial dynamics with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn’t merely a historically uninformed political analogy, and it ins’t just a narrative that falsely imputes intrinsic racism to an entire country. As we’ve seen in recent weeks with the dramatic surge in antisemitic attacks by pro-Palestinian activists in cities such as NYC, Los Angeles and London, casting Israel and its supporters as an organic threat to peace, justice and racial progress threatens the safety of Jews across the globe.
Any organisation or movement whose actions and ideas have the impact of demonising Jews by suggesting that their values – indeed, their very identity – are on the ‘wrong side of history’ necessarily forfeits the mantle of ‘anti-racism’.