Op-Ed

Why I have Recently Decided to Disavow the Black Lives Matters Movement

Image: Charisma News

We all know Trayvon Martin—July, 2013—seventeen years-young—my very own brother’s age—walking home from the corner store when George Zimmerman left his home and began following him. The dispatcher told him to remain indoors and let the police handle it. He didn’t listen. He shot and killed Trayvon only seventy yards from his home and after a trial was found not guilty, claiming “self-defense.”

In 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the tragic shooting of Trayvon Martin, #BlackLivesMatter began trending on Twitter. The official international activist movement was founded that same day.

In 2014 and beyond, there was a myriad of innocent, young, black citizens killed, frequently by police officers, resulting in media coverage, public outrage, and growing protests. The killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City, and Tamir Rice in Cleveland are but a few examples of the victims of the violence and culture of prejudice and profiling. With each death, the public outrage grew—as did the protests. We frequently saw visions of the protests in cities across America on the evening news, and still, the number of deaths grew as did the protests, often becoming more violent or militaristic in nature. The Black Lives Matter movement grew and gained national recognition. The movement became more active over time, regularly holding protests against police violence, killing of black people, and broader issues of racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system.

Since its inception, the movement has expanded their mission to include issues unrelated to their primary goals, such as the 2016 United States Presidential Election and the Israel-Palestine conflict, in which my troubles lie.

For as long as I can remember, I have been a steadfast supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, I have vivid memories of driving home from school with my mother, and asking, “Would be alright for me to wear a Black lives matter t-shirt or would it be weird?” After great deliberation and a much research, I came to the conclusion that it would, in fact, be alright for me to wear the shirt. Just as I reached this conclusion, I was dealt a devastating blow. Learning of the issues placed in the Black Lives Matter platform, leading me to the conclusion that, in good conscience, I could no longer fully endorse them.

Before delving into my issues of concern, I want to state, once again, that I firmly believe in the movement to reduce police violence against the Black community, reduce racial profiling, and promote the transparency necessary in our police and government agencies. With the abolishment of slavery, the long and hard fight of the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of our first African-American president, we like to think that we have moved beyond the prejudice and discrimination of our past. Sadly hate, prejudice, and fear of others different from ourselves are very much alive today. The need to reduce discrimination and excessive violence against the African American community today has prompted the need for the Black Lives Matter movement.

However, leaders of the movement made a decision to include in the platform, issues beyond its original goal, resulting in discrimination against those who have time-and-again been an ally and a great supporter of their cause, the Jewish community.

Historically, the American Jewish community has been active in the Civil Rights Movement. Cooperation between the two communities peaked after World War II. The Jewish community, through their newspapers and other media, started to draw parallels between the experience of African Americans in the South and the Jewish Exodus from Egypt. They focused on how both groups would benefit from a society free of religious, racial, and ethnic restrictions. The American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, and Anti-Defamation League all played significant roles in the movement against racial prejudice. They made substantial financial contributions to several organizations like the NAACP, made up approximately fifty percent of the civil rights lawyers in the south, and half of all the white protesters who went to Mississippi to challenge the Jim Crowe laws in 1964. In the landmark ruling of the infamous Brown v. Board of Education case, the Supreme Court accepted the research of two married, black sociologists named Kenneth Clark and Mamie Clark that found segregation gave black children the impression that they would aways be inadequate. The Clarks’ study had been commissioned by the American Jewish Committee.

Knowing this history, I was shocked and saddened when I came across articles from the Washington Post, reviewing the newly released platform, focusing on the anti-Israel stance the Black Lives Matter movement has adopted which has angered many Jewish groups. As a conservative Jew in America, agreeing with the Black Lives Matter movement’s stance on education, criminal sentencing, policing, and many other issues, I am horrified by their beliefs about Israel. How could they completely disregard the history of the country that has lived with constant threat and been under attack literally since the day it became a nation? How is it even possible to pass judgment on the State of Israel without a full evaluation of the facts and understanding of the history, just like understanding the prejudice and the challenges for the African-American community in America?

[Israel is] a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades.

Why should this even be a part of their platform?

With such beliefs about Israel, a lack of understanding of the history, and the constant threat, violence, and attacks launched upon Israel and its people, I can no longer, in good conscience, put my full support behind the Black Lives Matter Movement because of my firm and unwavering support of Israel.

I first heard about their stance on Israel from my grandfather when he posted an article on Facebook. After reading that article, I looked for the direct source, but I had some difficulty locating it. It was a few days later that I found it, and read their platform for myself. After that, I decided I could not support a group that belittles and slanders the name of the only Jewish nation.

Both sides of the argument at hand between Israel and Palestine are strongly influenced by religion. According to the Talmud, the body of civil and ceremonial Jewish law and legend, Eretz Yisrael was promised by God to the Children of Israel. In his 1896 manifesto, The Jewish State, Theodor Herzl who has commonly been referred to as the founder of the Zionist Movement, repeatedly referred to the Biblical Promised Land concept.

Muslims also claim rights to the same land in accordance with the Quran. Contrary to the Jewish claim that this land was promised only to the descendants of Abraham’s younger son Isaac, they argue that the Land of Canaan was promised to whom they consider the elder son, Ishmael, from whom Arabs claim descent. Additionally, Muslims also revere many sites holy for Biblical Israelites, such as the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Temple Mount. In the past 1,400 years, Muslims have erected Islamic landmarks on these ancient Israeli Jewish sites, such as the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. The site, where according to the Bible Abraham took his son Isaac, offering him as a sacrifice, as ordered by God.

Christian Zionists often support the State of Israel because of the ancestral right of the Jews to the Holy Land, as suggested, for instance, by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans in the Bible. Christian Zionism teaches that the return of Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Christ, also suggested from the Letter of Paul to the Romans, specifically chapter eleven, saying, “The Deliverer will come from Zion.”

The roots of the modern Arab–Israeli conflict lies in the rise of Zionism and the reactionary Arab nationalism that arose in response towards the end of the 19th century. Territory regarded by the Jewish people as their historical homeland is also regarded by the Pan-Arab movement as historically and presently belonging to the Palestinian Arabs. Before World War I, the Middle East, including Palestine (later Mandatory Palestine), had been under the control of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years. During the closing years of their empire, the Ottomans began to espouse their Turkish ethnic identity, asserting the primacy of Turks within the empire, leading to discrimination against the Arabs. The promise of liberation from the Ottomans led many Jews and Arabs to support the allied powers during World War I, leading to the emergence of widespread Arab nationalism. Both Arab nationalism and Zionism had their derivative beginning in Europe. The Zionist Congress was established in Switzerland in 1897, while the “Arab Club” was established in Paris in 1906.

In the late 19th century, European and Middle Eastern Jewish communities began to increasingly immigrate to Palestine and purchase land from the local Ottoman landlords. At that time, Jerusalem did not extend beyond the walled area and had a population of only a few tens of thousands. Collective farms, known as kibbutzim, were established, as was the first entirely Jewish city in modern times, Tel Aviv, when the Jews had been kicked out of Jaffa Port.

Eventually, the British Foreign Secretary proposed the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which addressed the link between the Jewish people to the land and the development of a homeland for the Jewish people in Mandate Palestine. After World War I, the British were given a Mandate for Palestine, and in 1937, the Peel Commission suggested partitioning British Mandate Palestine into two states, an Arab state and a Jewish state. This idea was rejected at that time as “unworkable” and is blamed for the renewal of the Arab Revolt. After World War II, in 1947, the British turned the issue over to the newly formed United Nations. The result was the passing of Resolution 181, the partition of British Mandate Palestine into two separate nations, an official Arab state and an official Jewish state with a different internal regime for the city of Jerusalem, on November 29, 1947. The vote result was thirty-three to thirteen with ten abstentions. This plan of partition passed but was rejected by the Arab nations. Despite the fact that there was a formation of two separate nations, with the Arab state slightly larger than the proposed Jewish state, the Arab Nations found it more important to deny the formation of Jewish State than to have a new Arab State.

On May 14, 1948, Israel, accepting the United Nations resolution of partition, declared its independence, forming the State of Israel. Within hours, the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, with some troops from Iraq, entered the newly formed nation and began an attack on Israeli forces and settlements with the declared intent to destroy the new country and, once again, kill or exile all Jews. The war went on for approximately ten months with periods of cease-fire. As a result of the attack on Israel, Israel retained the original land from Resolution 181 in addition to increasing their land area by almost 50%. Egypt, specifically the Gaza Strip, and Jordan, specifically the West Bank, took the rest of the Arab territories. On December 1, 1948, there was a Jericho Conference that called for the unification of Palestine and Transjordan as a step toward full Arab unity, but no Palestinian Arab state was ever formed. As a result, there was a dramatic change in the region. Approximately, 700,000 Palestinians fled from their homes in the area that became Israel, and are now called “Palestinian refugees,” because their Arab neighbors refused to take them in. Additionally, approximately 700,000 Jews were expelled from their countries of residence in the Middle East. They immigrated and became citizens of Israel. The people of Israel had no intention of attacking of removing anyone from their home. They were happy to exist as two separate nations, yet the Arab countries were the ones who could not live with this solution. The Palestinian people are the unfortunate victims of the war and conflict started by their ancestors and Arab neighbors, not Israel or being expelled from the land.

In 1948, an Egyptian activist told reporters, “We are fighting for an Arab Palestine. Whatever the outcome, the Arabs will stick to their offer of equal citizenship for Jews in Arab Palestine and let them be as Jewish as they’d like. In areas where they predominate, they will have complete autonomy,” but the Arab League later contradicted this statement by saying that some Jews would have to be expelled from a Palestinian Arab State. Haj Amin Al-Husseini, possibly the most influential leader that ever rose from British Mandate Palestine said in that same year that the Palestinians “would continue to fight until the Zionists were Annihilated.” The entire conflict is sad and horrific, but blame cannot be placed wholly on the State of Israel. How can blame be placed solely upon a group of people constantly under the threat of annihilation, and only act in self-defense?

If one looks closely at the history and the decisions that have been made concerning security, borders, and access in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, they will see that the actions taken by Israel have all been tied to safety and are in response to terrorist attacks. How can they realistically expect anyone, especially our ally, to live every single day with such threat of terror and take no action to protect themselves? How can they expect Israel to not defend themselves when, under less risk of attack, we are willing to take greater steps right here in our country?

The recent rise in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) puts pressure to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel and Israeli companies. The movement’s goal frames Israel as an “apartheid state,” discriminating and oppressing the Palestinians, and wants these sanctions in place until Israel no longer exists. This, unfortunately, misconstrues history and makes the Palestinians look like victims of the Israelis, when really, they are the victims of the unfortunate conflict started so many years ago by the Arab nations because they would not accept the creation of a Jewish state. They, in reality, are anti-Semitic Arab protesters who chose not to create their own state because they would not—could not—accept the United Nation’s resolution due to the inclusion of the creation of a Jewish state. If they had accepted the resolution in 1947, today, there would be two nations, an Arab state and a Jewish state, and hopefully, there would be more peace in that region of the world.

Today, more than eleven organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement have signed the Black Solidarity with Palestine Statement—one of many statements from the African American community confirming their support that for the Palestinians—which states they support the Palestinians because, I quote, “Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US.” I find this statement not only incorrect and misguided but offensive in so many ways. The utter lack of correlation and logic of this premise escapes me. Taking this view is turning a blind eye to the long-standing terrorism perpetrated against the citizens of Israel, the constant attacks against civilians, specifically children, restaurants, buses, and ambulances. The constant rebuffing of peace offerings makes clear the only acceptable resolution is the destruction of the State of Israel in the eyes of the Arab nations, leaving the government no other option but to act to protect its citizens. It negates the role the Jewish community has played in the Civil Rights Movement in the United States, shows a lack of respect and understanding of the history of Israel, and the devastation, torture, and genocide of the Jewish people over the years. To view the Palestinian people solely as victims when the Arab nations were, in fact, the aggressors negates history and fact. To blame Israel is simply ignorant. The Arab nations exiled the Jews from their countries and then would not accept the Palestinian people into their land.

This is all just a sad consequence of the fact that so many years have passed and most people have forgotten how the whole situation and conflict began. I will admit—right here, right now—that Israel is not perfect. As I said earlier, I do not care for the Likkud, the controlling party in Israel and political affiliation of the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. Personally, I believe some of the policies implemented by Netanyahu are hurting Israel. For instance, the party’s proliferation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, an area where the Jews who have agreed are Palestinian territory—thereby violating an agreement made between Palestine and Israel—is helping movements such as BDS or BLM paint a picture of Israel making them as the aggressors in this conflict.

No nation is perfect. Look at America’s history! Slavery was legal and integrated into our culture. Even after it was abolished we have a long history of segregation, discrimination, and inequality—a fight that continues today. The American government placed Japanese in internment camps across the United States after the bombing at Pearl Harbor, and then, there was the St. Louis, a ship carrying 935 Jews escaping the Nazis and heading towards Cuba which was, controlled by the United States at the time, and how only 26 of the 935 passengers were allowed to disembark. Many of the passengers had already filed for visas and made arrangements, granting permission to stay in Cuba until they received their United States visas. When US-based Jewish organizations tried to negotiate with the Cuban government to let the rest of the passengers in, the United States, felt it was a “specific and internal matter of Cuba,” and didn’t feel any need to intercede on the refugees’ behalf, sending them back to Europe facing a certain death. Months before the incident with the St. Louis, the 76th United States congress rejected legislation that, would have allowed 20,000 Jewish German children to come to the United States to seek refuge. How can Americans hold Israel to a higher standard than themselves?

To this very day, African Americans, Muslims, Jews, Latinos, and countless other ethnicities, races, religions, and nationalities are targeted in America, however, these same Americans fight Israel’s right to exist.

To blame Israel for protecting itself from the constant attacks seems hypocritical, even worse it is unacceptable. The BLM knows it would not accept it for itself, and therefore, why should they expect Israel to live under such conditions?

To bring it all back to where I started, I still question why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is included in the Black Lives Matters movement’s platform, especially when this is a movement based on issues that need attention and with the right impact could do tremendous good here in the United States—to free a country from racism, prejudice, and racial profiling. I support the ending of all of these things and will do all that is in my power to help end prejudice and racism, to educate and bring equality for all, but if their purpose is to end all discrimination and racism, this cannot be achieved through the furtherance of discrimination and prejudice of others.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said in response to one student’s question, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking antisemitism.” As long as the Black Lives Matters Movement has included these misguided and offensive issues in their platform, I sadly can no longer endorse such a movement.

[A New Journey: The Free and Open Exchange of Ideas]

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