Black Lives Matter and Policies on Israel

The Black Lives Matter movement has been growing over the past few years in the United States in response to the killing of Black people—mostly Black African-heritage men, but not only men—at the hands of law enforcement officers. Many of the people were unarmed when they were killed. A powerful movement is protesting these murders. It is fighting for a more just criminal justice system and an end to the racism and the degradation of Black lives that has fueled these murders. Many Jews, particularly young Jewish activists, have been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement. A number of Jewish organizations (Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, to name one) are working with Black Lives Matter.

This August, Black Lives Matter published a policy platform, most of which deals with U.S.-based issues related to racism and the criminal justice system. Much of it is excellent. However, in a section on international issues, it labels Israel an apartheid state that is engaged in the genocide of the Palestinian people and calls for the end of U.S. aid to Israel. Many Jewish activists have been upset and confused.

Here are a few thoughts:

  • The Black Lives Matter movement is critically important and deserves our support.

  • The issue of Israel and Palestine is once again diverting our attention. This is not new. We saw this at the United Nations Conference on Racism, in Durban, South Africa, in 2001. The issue has been used this past year at Gay liberation and women’s liberation conferences, to name a few, to keep activists divided and confused.

  • At a time when there should be massive support for Black Lives Matter, some Jewish organizations are decrying the whole movement. They are saying that Jewish groups should have nothing to do with Black Lives Matter, because of their policy on Israel. One Jewish group said it was in total agreement with the Black Lives Matter platform. Many are drawing lines in the sand, saying, “You are either for us or against us.” Some are supporting Black Lives Matter while staying in dialogue about the policies they disagree with.

  • We RCers have put out rational policies about anti-Jewish oppression and Israel in the past—and we can do that here as well.

  • How do we stay in close with friends and allies while speaking up about anti-Jewish oppression? Most people do not understand op-pressed/oppressor dynamics. They do not understand that singling out Israel in this way is anti-Jewish oppression, that it distracts us from our work, and that it will never be a winning strategy.

  • I recently spoke with two young Jewish activists from “If Not Now,” a new Middle East peace group. One of them said, “How do we find the muscle to not go away in grief and discouragement and also speak up?” They appreciated my reaching out and wanting to know how they were doing and how I could help.

  • We Co-Counselors have a key role to play. This is a critical moment for Jewish liberation and for all progressive movements. Because of internalized oppression, the pull for Jews is either to abandon legitimate Jewish concerns and not confront the anti- Jewish oppression in the anti-Israel statements (for fear of being labeled racist) or to do it in ways that are defensive, and often racist, and only increase our isolation as Jews.

  • It’s time to have sessions and discharge, discharge, discharge. This is a long-term struggle and will not necessarily move quickly. We need to slow down and discharge the early discouragement, so we don’t attach it to the present situation.

  • Relationship building is key. If you know people in Black Lives Matter or in Jewish organizations, call those folks. Offer to listen. Offer to exchange time thinking. If you know young activists in these movements, call and offer them time. We forget how much we can contribute by staying close to those on the front lines.

  • I think we all need to read the Black Lives Matter platform. We can download it, take it into sessions, and read it—the whole thing, not just the part about Israel.

  • The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to be used in our liberation movements to divide and conquer. We can learn how to speak about this. We can talk about how Israel is deeply good and at the same time is set up to oppress the Palestinian people.

  • Let’s have big sessions and then try to communicate sound policy. We will make mistakes. We will get scared. We will be afraid to speak up for ourselves as Jews. We will try to speak up for Jewish liberation, and it will slip into racism. We will act too defensive—or we will go silent, be afraid to speak up, about anti-Jewish oppression. But it’s important that we try. It’s okay to make mistakes. Trying matters. We need to discharge and practice, discharge some more, and practice some more. We need to learn how to stay deeply connected to folks while having strong disagreements.

  • This is a key moment for you who are our allies. Be informed about how Jews are getting separated from their natural allies. Discharge and find the courage to speak up about the racism and the anti-Jewish oppression. There should not be a contradiction between cheering on Black liberation and cheering on Jewish liberation, Israeli liberation, and Palestinian liberation.

I am happy to support any of you to find your voice and take action on these issues.

Cherie Brown
International Liberation Reference Person for Jews
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders of wide world change


Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00