Ignore What Black Lives Matter Says About Israel

Like so much else in the movement’s platform, its inflammatory statements on Israel aren't about African Americans, but about the radical left.

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A man holds up a sign saying "black lives matter" during a protest of shootings by police, at the White House in Washington. July 8, 2016.
A man holds up a sign saying "black lives matter" during a protest of shootings by police, at the White House in Washington.Credit: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

The brouhaha about Black Lives Matter’s platform and what it says about Israel, says a lot more about Jews than it says about American blacks, or about relations between the two communities.

The platform, issued almost three weeks ago, does devote a disproportionate about of attention to Israel, and what it does say, is objectionable to most Jews and Israelis. Israel is committing “genocide” against Palestinians, it’s an “apartheid” regime and bulldozes Palestinian homes to make way for settlements.

The $3 billion in U.S. aid Israel gets annually gets as much word count in the platform as all other defense spending. Egypt gets almost as much money, but as far Black Lives Matter is concerned, Egypt’s only sin is being an “ally” of Israel.

But Israel is just a minor – albeit prominently minor – part of a platform that addresses a whole range of issues far beyond its remit. It delves deeply into climate change on the flimsy pretext that blacks are among the “most affected” by its consequences. It condemns the War on Terror and valiantly struggles to make it into black issue by exaggerating U.S. military activity in Africa, even though the war is being fought primarily in the Middle East, and has nothing to do with police misbehavior towards American blacks.

It calls for universal healthcare, free education through college (and oddly enough, good cafeteria food) and reparations as compensation for the suffering of American slaves – all things way for the political agenda for mainstream America, which can barely even stomach Obamacare.

What it doesn’t mention

The Black Lives Matter platform is a document of the American left that ignores the needs, interest and concerns of the people in whose name it purports to be speaking.

It is hostile to Israel not because the Israel-Palestine dispute has any bearing on the lives of African Americans or because African Americans as a group dislike Israel, or identify with the Palestinians. It is hostile to Israel because it Israel is a top agenda item for the American left.

The left’s predominance is evident in the vocabulary the platform employs, terms like “colonialism,” ”the American empire”  and “patriarchy,” which go down well in college sociology departments and among community activists, but hardly speak to the broad, much less black, American population.  

Thus, like Donald Trump’s pronouncements on undocumented Mexican immigrants, Hillary Clinton and his business acumen, the Black Lives Matter platform doesn’t deal in facts but in articulating a worldview, highly defined and ideologically driven in this case. Facts are messy things that have to be hammered into shape to fit in with the theory.

Let’s take a real issue that might have concerned Black Lives Matter vis a vis Israel, namely Israel’s treatment of African refugees.

But it doesn’t merit attention is because it doesn’t get a lot of international media attention and isn’t on the left’s agenda, which is busy enough with Israel’s other crimes.

Let’s say Black Lives Matter had addressed the issue in a real and forthright way, without ideological blinders. It could have justifiably pointed out how Israel has blocked its borders, herded refugees into camps, and abused and mistreated them.

African asylum seekers at Holot detention center in the Negev. Credit: Eli Hershkovitz

But if the movement was going to seriously address the issue, it would have to asking why Africans are fleeing Africa to begin with, how they are treated along the way by their fellow Africans and by Egypt, how other Africans on the way to Europe are abused by Arab countries and how they are herded into camps and abused by their European hosts.

But that’s much too complicated, no good for slogans and doesn’t fit the template of white oppression and the blameless suffering of blacks. Better just to point out Israel’s sins

The reality is that American blacks aren’t hostile to Israel or identify with Palestinians. A 2013 Pew survey found that about 44% of black Protestants, for instance, strongly sympathized with Israel, which was 20 points lower than for all American but a rate far higher than the 12% who sympathize with Palestinians.

One commentator on the poll said blacks’ pro-Israel feeling are linked to their Christian beliefs  – the same poll found that 51% of black Protestants believe Israel was given to the Jewish people by God – but you won’t find a word about Christian values in the Black Lives Matter platform, because it’s of no interest to its framers.

Ignore the Black Lives Matter platform. It has no resonance with African Americans and will have a shelf life of a few months before everyone forgets it.