Earlier this week, Black Lives Matter and 60 of its affiliates issued a fresh set of demands calling for criminal justice reform, reparations, and an end to the death penalty, among other things. Included in the new policy platform was a section criticizing Israel of for its mistreatment of the Palestinian people.
Jewish supporters of the anti-police brutality movement didn’t take too kindly to the jab, however.
According to Haaretz, the document described Israel as an “apartheid state” committing “genocide” against the Palestinian people. The movement’s accusations has many in the Jewish community up in arms and ready to pull their support from Black Lives Matter.
“While we agree with many of the policy recommendations, we are extremely dismayed at the decision to refer to the Israeli occupation as genocide,” read a statement from T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights.
The majority of the policy agenda, released by the Movement for Black Lives, has nothing to do with Israel. But a portion of the document discussing foreign policy criticized the unrelenting support and American military aid to Israel.
Israel is “a state that practices systematic discrimination and has maintained a military occupation of Palestine for decades,” the document reads. “The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”
Just last month, Pres. Obama approved one of the largest military aid packages the U.S. has ever given to another country. According to the Intercept, the U.S. already transfers about$3.1 billion in taxpayer money to Israel each year, but the new deal Obama signed “significantly raised” that amount. The funds are expected to last over a decade after the president leaves office, the news site states.
Now, the Movement for Black Lives, a sect of Black Lives Matter, is calling for the divestment, rather than investment, of U.S. funds into the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Born out of protest against police brutality, Black Lives Matter has grown into an international movement bringing attention to the mistreatment and violence committed against Black bodies. Jewish activists have aligned with the anti-police brutality movement, joining the fight to end state-sanctioned violence against African-Americans. T’ruah is actually one of the many Jewish organizations that has stood in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, Haaretz reports. However, the organization fiercely refutes the idea that Israel has committed any form of genocide against the Palestinians.
“[Israeli] military occupation does not rise to the level of genocide—a term defined as “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group.'” T’rah said in a statement. “While we agree that the occupation violates the human rights of Palestinians, and has caused too many deaths, the Israeli government is not carrying out a plan intended to wipe out the Palestinians.”
The group’s controversial comments about Israel now has Jews, specifically Black Jews, struggling to find the right response. Some are even reconsidering their stance within the movement due to the offensive “language of its new platform.”
“It broke my heart,” said Stacey Aviva Flint, a student at Chicago’s Spertus Institute who is African-American and Jewish. “I understand what Zionism was about when it first started. You had a group of people who were seeking self determination. And self determination was also something that African-Americans desperately needed and wanted.”
Flint said that in the beginning, she really supported the movement, as she saw African-Americans being targeted by law enforcement. Now, she’s not so sure.
“This dashed my hopes,” she said.
According to Haaretz, Jews of color have taken center stage in a series of Black Lives Matter-inspired protests in and around New York City, the most recent of which was organized by The Jews of Color Caucus. The group, which is a smaller body within Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, recently staged a demonstration of more than 100 people in Downtown Brooklyn, the news site reports.
Amid backlash from the conservative Jewish community, Palestinian anti-occupation activists have backed the Black Lives Matter movement and its statements. Anti-occupation group IfNotNow accused the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of being a part of the “establishment” that puts roadblocks to peace and human rights between Israelis and Palestinians, Mondoweiss reports.
“JCRC’s statement distancing itself from the Movement for Black Lives because that movement dares to criticize the Israeli occupation provides further evidence of how out of touch the leadership of the American Jewish establishment truly is,” wrote IfNotNow members Ally Little and Michelle Weiser in an opinion piece for the Forward. ““JCRC is obstructing racial justice work, erasing black Jews, and attempting to maintain a status quo of Jews who are progressive on all issues except for Palestine.”
Some Left-wing Jewish groups have also followed suit in showing support of the Movement for Black Lives’ agenda. According to the Forward, Jewish Voice for Peace said it “endorses the Movement for Black Lives’ platform in its entirety, without reservation.”