The Links Between Black Lives Matter and BDS
July 20, 2020
In a recent article Dan Diker, a Senior Research Fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, investigated the links between the Black Lives Matter Movement and the BDS Movement. Diker outlined how these movements align and what the implications of the connection are for both Israel and Diaspora Jewry.
Recent protests for racial justice, inspired by the unjust killing of George Floyd, have occasionally promoted a false sense of intersectionality: claiming that Israel is no less of an oppressor than the police officers that killed George Floyd.
As Diker notes, the cooperation and genuine partnership between the Jewish and African-American communities runs deep. Throughout the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, African-Americans and Jews stood shoulder-to-shoulder demanding racial equality. That same partnership flourished in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd when Jewish groups across the religious spectrum stood in solidarity with the cause of racial justice. The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) stated that “Black Lives Matter is a Jewish Value.” The Orthodox Jewish Union (OU) called racism a “real and present danger that must be met head-on.”
The JCPA analysis posits that the long-established connection between Jews and African-Americans makes recent events even more troubling. BLM leaders, like Patrisse Cullors, have baselessly accused Israel of being complicit in the Floyd killing. Cullors referred to Palestine as “the new South Africa”. The overall theme of the anti-Semitism found in aspects of the BLM Movement also relates to a collective blame of all Jews for any action of Israel, and a collective blame of Israel for any action anywhere. Melina Abdullah, the Co-Founder of BLM Los Angeles, espouses similar anti-Semitic rhetoric. She blamed CNN for “Standing with a Zionist Israel that murders and terrorizes the Palestinian people.”
In his research, Diker pinpoints July 1st, 2020 as the day when the linkage between BLM and BDS became glaringly obvious. July 1st, known as the “Day of Rage”, brought about a number of protests across the country against potential application of Israeli sovereignty in parts of the West Bank. At these protests, the intermingling of both movements was on display. Mixed in with chants about justice for George Floyd were calls to end the existence of Israel. A protest leader in Brooklyn, named Nerdeen Kiswani, chanted, “We don’t wanna go just back to our homes in Gaza and the West Bank. We want all of it!”
As the JCPA article details, the connection between BDS and BLM has been expressed in more overt forms as well. A petition from Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) attempts to draw an equivalence between the officer who killed George Floyd and Israel’s conduct towards Palestinians. The petition reads, “the knee-to-neck choke-hold that [Derek] Chauvin used to murder George Floyd has been used and perfected to torture Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces through 72 years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession.”
BDS supporters even falsely posted a picture on Twitter that claimed to show an Israeli police officer kneeling on the neck of a Palestinian. Twitter users soon discovered that the badge worn by the pictured officer was that of the national police in Chile.
Dan Diker’s analysis for JCPA raises a few concerns going forward for Jews in America and around the world. The continuing connection between BLM and BDS puts Jews who believe in fighting for racial equality in a challenging conundrum. This linkage also puts African-Americans who strongly oppose anti-Semitism in a difficult spot. Diker hopes that the leaders of the BLM Movement will look back at the remarkable history of Black-Jewish cooperation and use that to guide them going forward, rather than embracing BDS.
We encourage you to read JCPA’s timely article for the full analysis.