On Aug. 1, the Black Lives Matter coalition (BLM) of groups and partners published a platform of objectives and demands ostensibly constructed to correct heavy-handed policing, educational negligence, and economic inadequacy in black communities.
That platform did no such thing.
Instead, organizers offered up a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas in the service of creating a new world order, one in which defunding police, releasing all political prisoners from jail, and redistributing of land are imperative.
Moreover, apparently believing that societal reforms in America’s inner cities are somehow related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, BLM included a section on Israel in its list of demands. With trite talking points, the group called for a divestment from the Jewish state as it is allegedly “complicit in the genocide against the Palestinian people.”
What this means is unpleasant to contemplate. An organization formed to confront systemic prejudice against black Americans—which predates the reestablishment of the state of Israel—is now intimating that such prejudice is caused by the Jewish state’s supposed genocidal tendencies (which, according to census reports, have led to a population increase among Palestinians).
Though I find no intrinsic value in “rebutting” crackpot conspiracy theories, it’s worth demonstrating how far removed BLM is from honoring the legacy of its ancestors by reminding readers just how pro-Zionist prominent leaders in the black community have been throughout history—and how Zionism helped shape black politics in America.
Edward Wilmot Blyden, founder of the 19th-century American Pan-African movement, famously wrote,“[I have] the deepest possible interest in the current history of the Jews—especially in that marvelous movement called Zionism.”
W.E.B. Dubois, founder of the NAACP, declared in 1919, “The African movement must mean to us what the Zionist movement must mean to the Jews, the centralization of race effort and the recognition of a racial front. … For any ebullition of effort and feeling that results in an amelioration of the lot of Africa tends to ameliorate the conditions of colored peoples throughout the world.”
Marcus Garvey, founder of the Back-to-Africa movement, stated in 1920: “When a Jew says, ‘We shall have Palestine,’ the same feeling comes to us when we say, ‘We shall have Africa.’ … Africa remains the heritage of black people, as Palestine is of the Jews.”
Even Malcolm X favorably declared, the year before he was assassinated, that, “Pan- Africanism will do for the people of African descent all over the world the same that Zionism has done for Jews all over the world.”
Not only has Zionism influenced black political movements throughout American history, Israel has long been used as a symbol of black liberation and freedom. By denigrating the memory of this legacy, BLM disrespects black American heritage and betrays the hard-won freedom it claims to stand for.
To make matters worse, BLM cites the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as a source and an inspiration for its own movement—that is, declaring itself to be akin to a movement whose co-founder Omar Barghouti has called for the dismantling of the Jewish state, and a “right to resist [Israel] by all means”—i.e., terrorism. This is an insult to the memory of black leaders and the tradition of our struggle: a struggle that has been rooted in recognition of the rights and dignity of all human beings as well as love for peoples everywhere.
“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him,” stated Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Empathy and compassion for the other—even while being unjustly treated—were not words in manifestos but ideas that informed and contributed to the success of the civil-rights movement. Black Americans did not stab innocent 13-year-old girls sleeping in their beds or run over white men with their cars; they were the victims of such heinous acts. Yet still, even after four little girls were brutally murdered in a church, the black community decided to love, and to practice and preach nonviolence.
Perhaps BLM’s ugliest display of hypocrisy is in its claim to stand with black Americans while promoting movements whose Gaza-based heroes actively engage in the African slave trade. In 2013, CNN Berlin correspondent Frederik Pleitgen detailed Hamas’ involvement in the African slave trade in a piece titled, “Human Trafficking in the Sinai: To Fight It We Need to Know It.” According to Pleitgen, “Some of the major traffickers, including Abu Ahmed and Abu Khaled, have declared in interviews reported in the media, to be part of Hamas.” Pleitgen also reported that arms caches owned by Hamas have been “bought with profits from the slave and human-organs trade” in the Sinai Peninsula, according to EveryOne Group, an Italian based nongovernmental organization working for the preservation of human rights.
Human-rights activist Calev Meyers provided further details. In a 2014 article in the Times of Israel, Mr. Meyers relayed how, according to Israeli court documents, Sudanese and Eritrean men and women were kidnapped near the Israeli border, and tortured by Bedouin tribesman. Being freed required that they pay ransom money to their kidnappers. Hamas officials were complicit in extorting funds from the victims.
“Israeli court records describe a complicated network built to smuggle the funds out of Israel and into the hands of the traffickers,” Meyers wrote. “Once the family members pay up, the ransom funds move to the hands of Hamas operatives in the West Bank towns of Jenin and Nablus. From there, the funds flow into the Gaza Strip to Abu Jamil, a Hamas operative who pockets a tax and smuggles the funds. Jamil helps move the funds through Hamas’ network of underground tunnels running under the border between Gaza and Sinai, with the tunnels reaching within a few kilometers of the very buildings in which the abductees are held.”
Hamas has played a serious role in the human bondage of black Africans, yet this seems to go unnoticed by BLM. In contrast to the institutionalized racism that characterizes Hamas’ government, and their miserable mistreatment of Africans, it’s worth highlighting and celebrating a people that take the notion that black lives matter seriously: Israelis. That’s why, as Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon explained recently in the pages of The Wall Street Journal: “The Israeli government has announced a multimillion-dollar plan to strengthen its economic ties with Africa,” and on his recent trip, “the heads of 70 Israeli companies joined the prime minister to help strengthen African relationships.” That’s why, as reported in The Tower magazine, Israelis “extended aid to Guinea during its fight against Ebola in 2014, donating $10 million to the international UN fund to combat the disease.” That’s why through its desalination efforts and cutting-edge drip-irrigation technology, Israelis are developing what author Rowan Jacobson calls “resilient well systems for African villages and biological digesters that can halve the water usage of most homes.”
The fact that Israel puts its money where its mouth is by cultivating social and economic innovation in Africa through direct foreign investment and people-to-people outreach in addition to state-to-state ties is one big reason why Benjamin Netanyahu was greeted so warmly by African heads of state and by ordinary people during his recent visit to the continent. Perhaps in its revised manifesto, BLM will take note.
Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.
Chloé Simone Valdary is the CEO and director of Theory of Enchantment, a coaching program that provides mentorship and social-emotional training to education, business, and non-profit companies around the world.