African Americans and American Jews have been allies in this country for decades. Chloe Valdary’s given an excellent summary of some of that history, and more, here. Jeffrey Salkin has also given some historical highlights here.
Ever since anti-Israel activists began attempting to coopt the Black Lives Matter movement two years ago, however, the relationship between the two communities could more accurately be described as “it’s complicated.” But with the promulgation earlier this week of the BLM platform, which calls Israel an apartheid state and claims it is committing genocide, the break-up seems official.
The statement has been pretty well denounced by the Jewish community, including many liberal groups. At least two JCRC chapters have explicitly dissociated themselves from BLM. Several progressive rabbis have spoken out against it.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, The Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, The Association of Reform Zionists of America, the American Conference of Cantors, Men of Reform Judaism, Women of Reform Judaism, and the North American Federation of Temple Youth — basically the entire Reform Movement — all issued a joint statement in which they wrote, “The Movement for Black Lives platform’s claim that U.S. support for Israel makes it ‘complicit in the genocide committed against the Palestinian people’ and labeling of Israel as ‘an apartheid state’ are offensive and odious.”
AJC issued a statement saying that the platform “evinces contempt and bigotry toward Jews,” and tweeted,
— AJC (@AJCGlobal) August 4, 2016
The ADL wrote,
Whatever one’s position on the relationship between Israel, its Palestinian citizens [sic], and the residents in the West Bank and Gaza, it’s repellent and completely inaccurate to label Israel’s policy as “genocide.” And the Platform completely ignores incitement and violence perpetrated against Israelis by some Palestinians, including terror inside the country and rocket attacks lobbed from Gaza…. [I]t’s the irresponsible and completely over-the-top references to the Jewish state — as well as later gross mischaracterizations of Israel as “an apartheid state,” and calls for support of the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel) that alienate us and bear little resemblance to reality.
Even T’ruah, a group that has not been Israel-friendly, took issue with the claim Israel is committing genocide as well as with the failure to condemn violence committed by Palestinians.
The anti-Israel activists who coopted the BLM movement to insert such libels into the platform obviously had no concern for whether they alienated Jewish allies. But the other groups and individuals involved in the platform, who allowed it to happen, also seem not to care. In response to the Jewish community’s statements, moreover, rather than questioning whether they may have erred, at least one of the groups involved in drafting the statement has doubled down. In essence, the BLM platform states that it does not want Jews in its movement.
Of course, there’s always one idiot.
— IfNotNow (@IfNotNowOrg) August 5, 2016
Oh wait, make that two.
— Rebecca Vilkomerson (@RVilkomerson) August 5, 2016
The “Jewish Voice for Peace” statement says that “JVP endorses the Movement for Black Lives platform in its entirety, without reservation.”
While I agree with the condemnations, in one respect they are unfair to BLM — JVP has been making similar accusations against Israel for years without facing condemnation from the Jewish community. JVP’s website defends calling Israel an apartheid nation. In 2014, members of JVP and its Rabbinical Council told the members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) that Israel was an apartheid state. And now, by embracing the BLM platform “without reservation,” they embrace the labeling of Israeli policy as “genocide” as well.
As I’ve argued before, Jewish community leaders must call out these Jewish antisemites. If they do not, they can’t feign surprise when non-Jews believe the same lies.