In a recent column, Hen Mazzig takes some Jews to task for failing to support “Black Lives Matter.” Just because a few “fringe activists” have tried to inject the Palestinian issue into the justified cause of black people being disproportionately the targets of police violence, he thinks, is not a reason for us to become unsympathetic to it:
The black community in America needs and deserves our voice and support. We must not allow the few activists trying to turn this important cause into an anti-Israel campaign to succeed. The way to do this is simple. Our ancestors already did it. When he saw the injustice the black community faced, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marched alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He put his life on the line for the cause, and in turn, King became an unapologetic advocate against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Instead of worrying about minority groups turning against Jews, we should be asking how can we show we haven’t turned our backs on them.
Hen Mazzig doesn’t have to prove that he’s a Zionist who has dedicated himself to the Jewish people and the Jewish state. He is an effective voice, especially to young people. But I think he misses the mark here.
I feel compelled to say that BLM’s primary cause is just. I don’t know if proportionately more blacks are killed by law enforcement than whites, because there are persuasive statistical arguments made on both sides. But every black American that I’ve ever talked to about this – and they have been primarily well-educated, middle-class black people – can recount numerous anecdotes about harassment, humiliation, and fear at the hands of police officers.
I grew up in a lower middle-class white family which improved its status to middle-middle by the time I left. Only once in my life did I fear the police, and that was in 1970 when I participated in an antiwar demonstration, and the club-swinging Pittsburgh police tac squad charged the demonstrators. Much later, two of my own kids were stopped by police for “engaging in a speed contest” on a public street. The cop brought them home and was more worried that my wife would kill them than anything else. This is more or less the experience of most members of the white middle class. The black experience is different.
But these aren’t the days of Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel. These days visibly Jewish pedestrians in New York City are beaten for looking Jewish, primarily by blacks. And there aren’t just a few “fringe activists” that are responsible for adding the Palestinian issue to the mix of intersectional issues that all progressives are required to sign onto. Sure, the people who added accusations of Israeli apartheid and genocide to the BLM platform were anti-Israel activists, but who else would they pick to write that section of the document? The whole document was approved by the leadership. And for a long time, this view of Israel has been prevalent among the rank and file of the broader Left. It isn’t just BLM. Remember the “Occupy” movement?
The black Left is, if possible, even more extreme. Anti-Zionism became part of the Black Power movement of the late 1960s and 70s, as militants distinguished themselves from more moderate (and pro-Israel) leaders like King, seeing themselves as part of a worldwide revolutionary struggle against colonialism and imperialism. Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) was strongly anti-Zionist and considered Arab terrorism against what he called a “settler colony” justified. Huey Newton of the Black Panther Party met with Arafat in 1972, and wrote an essay “On the Middle East” in which he argued that Israel was an outpost of American imperialism that persecuted Palestinians. Angela Davis also met Arafat, has always taken the Palestinian side, and today supports BDS. Now we have Marc Lamont Hill and Cornel West, the “intellectual” voices of Israel-hatred. All this is added to the antisemitism that has been rife in the black community since the 60s, and which is fed by those like Louis Farrakhan, Al Sharpton, Jeremiah Wright, and others.
As was famously said about a different group, the black Left “imbibed Jew-hatred with their mothers’ milk.” It’s not accidental that accusations of Israeli apartheid and genocide were included in the BLM platform; it is essential.
So how are we to respond? Mazzig thinks that we must support BLM despite its anti-Israel position:
Attacking Black Lives Matter only fuels anti-Semitism, making it easier to paint Jews as racists willing to reject the modern civil rights movement just to defend Israel.
“Just to defend Israel?” Did he actually write that? I would argue that a Jew is obligated to defend our homeland, and that takes priority over concern for other peoples. Even if it were necessary to “reject the modern civil rights movement” to do it, it would be so. But of course nobody is rejecting it. An overwhelming majority of Jews strongly oppose anti-black racism.
What we are rejecting – what we must reject – is the hijacking of every social justice cause on behalf of some of the least just people on the planet, the misogynist, homophobic, antidemocratic, terrorist-paying, murder-inciting, child-soldier-abusing, corrupt leaders of the PLO and Hamas. You’d think social justice activists would have noticed.
Worrying that our antisemitic enemies might call us “racists” is a symptom of severe Oslo Syndrome. Nothing is more Sisyphean than to try to obtain the approval of those who hate us for being Jewish by modifying our behavior. Indeed, the more abject our apologies, the more we kneel in recognition of our guilt over white and/or Jewish privilege, the more we will be held in contempt. It’s not what we do, it’s who we are that they have a problem with.
What we are required to do as Jews is to stand unequivocally against those that libel the Jewish state. It doesn’t matter how good the rest of their cause is, they deserve zero support from us if part of their program is the destruction of our homeland and the death or dispersal of its Jewish population. That is precisely what supporting BDS and the “liberation movements” in “Palestine” means.
The sight of Jews abasing themselves before a movement that wishes to return them to the time that there was no Jewish state is embarrassing, but more importantly, demonstrates that there is no downside to joining the anti-Israel parade.
“If you want to change Black Lives Matter Israel agenda, you need to show up for them,” says Mazzig. He has it backwards. If they want our help, they need to stop supporting those who want to kill us. We understand that American blacks have a legitimate problem with racism. They want “allies.” But being an ally works both ways.