Since day one, I have been a staunch supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement. It is with great sadness that I recently learned [somewhat late], of issues placed in their platform that has led me to the conclusion that, in good conscience, I can no longer fully endorse them.
Before addressing my issues of concern about the drastic mistake I believe they made incorporating issues into their agenda, which they apparently do not fully understand nor have they fully researched, I want to state that I firmly believe in the movement to reduce police violence against the black community, racial profiling, increased education, and the transparency necessary in our police and government agencies. There is no denying that we have had a long history of racial prejudice and discrimination. With the abolishment of slavery, the long and hard fight of the Civil Rights Movement, and the election of our first black president, we like to think that we have moved beyond the prejudice and discrimination of our past. We like to think and behave as though this was not part of our history and that it does not exist today. Unfortunately, to deny these facts is to deny reality. Perpetuating this myth only covers up the truth and causes the behaviors to be acted out in a more covert manner. The discrimination that has occurred and unfortunately continues each day is a disgrace. It is contrary to everything I have learned and value about our Country. Just as so many years ago there was a need to fight for the right to vote, equal treatment and equal rights, today the need to reduce discrimination and excessive violence against the African American community has prompted the need for such a movement today.
Sadly, the organizers of this movement made a decision to expand their platform beyond the original goals. They in turn, mistakenly, have turned their back and decided to discriminate against a community that has been a great support to their cause. Historically, the Jewish community has been active in the Civil Rights Movement. Cooperation between the two communities peaked after World War II. In the early twentieth century, 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. The leaders of the Jewish community stressed the similarities between the two communities rather than the differences. They focused on how both groups would benefit from a society that was 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, as well as, they made up approximately fifty percent of the civil rights lawyers in the south and half of the whites who went to Mississippi to challenge the Jim Crow laws in 1964.
When I ran my eyes across articles from the Jerusalem Post and the Washington Post, it made my stomach turn. The articles focused on the stance the “Black Lives Matter Movement” has taken on Israel. Unfortunately, a stance which has angered many Jewish groups. As a reform/conservative American Jew, I can firmly say that I agree with the “Movement’s” stance on education, criminal sentencing, policing, and many other issues, but when I learned of their beliefs about Israel I was horrified. How could they so 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 can they misinterpret the facts and state that Israel is “A state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades,” and why should this even be a part of their platform? With such belief about Israel, and the lack of understanding of the history of the nation 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 support of Israel.
As troubling as it was for me to read this from the article in Washington Post, it was even worse to read first hand, as a direct source from the Movement for Black Lives platform. It was a little over a week ago that I had heard about this from my grandfather who posted an article on Facebook. After reading that article, I looked for the direct source, but I had some difficulty locating it. That was when I started to be more quiet about my support. It was a few days later that I found the source, and read their platform for myself. It was after that when I decided I could not support a group that belittles and slanders the name of the only Jewish nation.
For those who are extremely active in this new movement, because I feel that incorporating this issue into your platform without being properly educated on the history of the relationship between Israel and Palestine, it is very immature and disappointing, especially because this is a cause that I would be so happy to support.
If those who wrote this platform decided to read, just a little bit, they would have learned that this is a long-standing conflict and issue, one that is not so easily parsed. Without belaboring history, I will only go back as far as 1917, when the British Foreign Secretary proposed the Balfour Declaration of 1917; addressed the link of 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 WWII, 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 officially Jewish state with a different internal regime for the city of Jerusalem, on November 29, 1947. The vote result was 33 to 13 in favor with ten abstentions. This plan of partition was accepted by most 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, to the Arab Nations, it was more important to deny the formation of Jewish State than to have an Arab State.
On May 14, 1948, Israel accepting the United Nations resolution of partition, declared its Independence, forming the state of Israel. The very next day, the combined forces of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan, with some troops from Iraq entered new newly formed land of Israel and began an attack on Israeli forces and settlements. The war went on for approximately ten months with periods of a cease-fire. As a result of the war and attack on Israel, the State of Israel retained the original land, from Resolution 181, as well as increased their land area by almost 50%. Egypt (Gaza Strip) and Jordan (remainder of the land) 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 of this conflict, 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 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.
In 1948, 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 one where blame cannot be placed wholly on the nation of Israel. How can blame be placed squarely upon a group of people constantly under the threat of annihilation, threat of attack, 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 it has all been tied to safety and terrorist attacks. All decisions were made in relation to attacks on private citizens and the need to keep the community safe. I find it somewhat hypocritical of many in our country to criticize these decisions when they support bans on whole religions (which I do not) when we have not experienced half the violence they did to Israel. If there were no violence or threat, these decisions would not have been made. Israel over the years has proven that they will only act in self-defense and not as the aggressor, but how can we realistically expect anyone, especially our ally, to live every day with such threat of terror and take no action to protect themselves? Especially, 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, divestment and sanction Israel and Israeli companies. The movements goal frames Israel as an apartheid state, discriminating and oppressing the Palestinians and wants these sanctions in place until Palestinians have their land. This, unfortunately, misconstrues history 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 antisemitic Arab protesters who chose not to create their own state because they would not, nor 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.
More than eleven organizers of the Black Lives Matter movement have signed the Black Solidarity with Palestine Statement (one of many statements that show Black support for Palestinians) which states, they support the Palestinians because “Israel’s widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US.” I find this statement offensive in so many ways. The lack of correlation and logic of the premise escapes me. To take this view negates the role that Jewish community has played in the Civil Rights Movement here in the United States, shows a lack of understanding of the history of Israel and the devastation, torture and genocide of the Jewish people over the years. To view the Palestinians people as the only victims when the Arab people were, in fact, the aggressors negates history and fact. To blame Israel, when it is the Arab countries that took the land from the Palestinians, exiled the Jews, and then would not take the Palestinian people into their land, including the lands they took after the war they started, is nothing more than blaming the victim. It is just that so many years have passed we have all forgotten how the situation and conflict began. Lastly, to blame Israel for protecting themselves from the constant attacks, threat of violence and devastation forced upon innocent people is unacceptable. We know we would not accept that for ourselves, why should we expect the people of Israel to live under such threat?
Of course, I do have strong opinions on this matter, but to bring it all back to where I started, I am not sure why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is included in the Black Lives Matters Platform. Why is this included in part of the original issues and a movement that could do so much good here in the United States? There is no doubt that this will be a better country free 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 with all that I have learned and their misguided platform, this is no longer a movement I can support. If their purpose is to end all discrimination and racism indeed, they cannot purport to do this, through the furtherance of discrimination and prejudice of others. I will always support the education of others, ending racism, discrimination, and inequality. I will support the increase of transparency in our government and the reduction of violence and racial profiling. Unfortunately, I as long a the Black Lives Matters Movement has included these mistaken and offensive issues in their platform, I sadly can no longer endorse such a movement.