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Constructive Jewish Response to ‘Black Lives Matter’ on Israel

By TTN Blog

Scholars and activists of The Third Narrative email list have recently discovered that the leadership speaking in the name of “The Movement for Black Lives” has issued a Platform that includes an embrace of BDS and a one-sided pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli perspective.   While legitimately expressing concern for the fate of Palestinians living under occupation, it unreasonably accuses Israel of “genocide” and communicates nothing about Israel’s needs for security and peace.  This section, a very small part of their entire document, reads as follows:

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. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Everyday, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.

A number of us have noted the commendable way that T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights-North America) has respectfully but clearly responded to express what we feel as progressive Jews who support Israel’s legitimate needs and aspirations, as well as those of our African-American fellow citizens.  This is most of that statement:

Earlier this week, a coalition of more than 60 organizations associated with the Black Lives Matter Movement released a platform entitled A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom, and Justice.  The core demands embrace goals that we share concerning economic justice, mass incarceration and law enforcement, climate change, education, and the ongoing legacy of slavery. We applaud the leaders of Black Lives Matter for insisting that the United States meet its human rights obligations, and for concretizing these into specific policy recommendations.  . . .

While we agree with many of the policy recommendations, we are extremely dismayed at the decision to refer to the Israeli occupation as genocide. We are committed to ending the occupation, which leads to daily human rights violations against Palestinians, and also compromises the safety of Israelis. Our work aims to build a just and secure future for both Israelis and Palestinians, both of whom deserve the same human rights protections as all people.

However, the 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.” 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. There is no basis for comparing this situation to the genocides of the 20thcentury, such as those in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Rwanda, or Armenia, or the Nazi Holocaust in Europe, each of which constituted a calculated plan to destroy specific groups, and each of which killed hundreds of thousands to millions of people. The Black Lives Matter platform also does not address the use of violence by some Palestinians, including the rocket attacks against civilians that Human Rights Watch has classified as a war crime. One can vigorously oppose occupation without resorting to terms such as “genocide,” and without ignoring the human rights violations of terrorist groups such as Hamas.

T’ruah does not support or participate in the BDS movement. As supporters of a two-state solution that will guarantee the freedom and security of both Israelis and Palestinians, we are troubled by the BDS movement’s rejection of Israel’s right to exist, as well as by the movement’s toleration of antisemitism among some of its adherents. At the same time, we are deeply concerned, like Black Lives Matter, with the rise of anti-BDS legislation that infringes on the right of free speech.   . . .

P.S.  Lawrence Bush, the editor of Jewish Currents magazine and website, has written a very intelligent and sensitive analysis of this platform and a number of Jewish organizational responses, including that of T’ruah.  To read it, click here.

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