How Can Black Lives Matter Support Antisemitism Yet Claim to Promote Justice?
In its new platform, Black Lives Matter (BLM) has, despite the total lack of relevance to its own agenda or interests, thrown whatever heft it has behind the antisemitic movement to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) Israel. In doing so, it is inarguably contributing to the campaign to “other” the world’s only Jewish state and, with it, the Jews themselves.
Using the justification that US military aid to Israel “diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs,” the platform launches into a ridiculous, one-sided assault on Israel. It accuses Israel of committing “genocide” against the Palestinians (a word rendered utterly meaningless when used to describe a situation in the which the alleged target population increases each year). It labels Israel “an apartheid state,” accuses Israel of arresting four-year-olds “without due process,” and of bulldozing Palestinian homes “to make way for illegal Israeli settlements.” It supports the aims and activities of the BDS movement. It has all the sobriety and nuance one might expect from a play written and performed by the pre-K kids at Hamas summer camp.
These are not, as the Anti-Defamation League’s Jonathan Greenblatt inexplicably phrased it, things about which “we strongly disagree.” We can “strongly disagree” about appropriate marginal tax rates. But we don’t merely “disagree” with rabidly anti-Jewish lies told in furtherance of a movement that exists to single out Jews for discrimination and hatred. We condemn them and reject those who propagate them. “Disagreement” suggests there is a point at which we could reach agreement. How does one meet halfway on “Israel is committing genocide?”
No, these are disqualifying falsehoods that should send any sympathizer of good conscience fleeing for the exits. Even if you agree with some or all other aims of BLM, isn’t lying about and supporting the isolation and demonization of another group of people precisely the opposite of what a movement for equality and justice should be about?
To its credit, the organized Jewish community has thus far risen to the challenge of calling the BDS movement what it is; unadulterated, classical Jew-hatred. Even if BDS didn’t rely on a vile mixture of lies, distortions, and stereotyping (which it does), its singular focus on this conflict – ignoring other, far more violent and globally significant ones – reveals its actual motives. Its use of classical antisemitic tactics such as economic, cultural, and academic collective abuse signals its true target. And its use of classically antisemitic tropes, symbols, and images to depict Israel or Israelis is evidence of a core hatred that, you would think, a movement claiming the mantle of equality and justice would want to avoid.
But BLM presents a unique challenge to a significant subset of the Jewish community that is overwhelmingly leftist, fixated on platitudinous conceptualizations of “social justice,” and in love with the idea of its own virtue (as “virtue” is defined by contemporary leftist politics). It is these people who are least likely to walk away and, as one rabbi already did in the English-language version of Israel’s most anti-Israel newspaper, most likely to give us a clause full of “but” after paying lip-service to the anti-Jewish sections of the platform.
Forget the demands made by BLM and whether or not you agree with many or most of them. They have openly embraced a movement, BDS, the explicit goal of which to is to make a pariah – an “other” – of a minority population comprising no more than .2% of the world. They have trafficked in blatant falsehoods about the national project of those people and done so in ways that, in the long run, complicate international efforts to name and remedy actual genocides. Why would anyone of good will want to be in coalition with such people? What can they possibly claim to stand for that would make it okay to Jew bash?
If BLM wants to be taken seriously – and I hope it does – it should stop doing to Jews what it accuses the United States of doing to our African American neighbors; slandering, ostracizing, debilitating, and bringing violence upon them. Until then, regardless of what else they do, it is they and any who ally with them who should be held at arm’s length.
Jonathan Greenberg is an ordained reform rabbi and the senior vice president of the Haym Salomon Center. An expert in Middle East policy and former staffer at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, you can follow him @JGreenbergSez. This article was originally published by The Washington Times.