Jewish groups come out against Black Lives Matter platform on Israel

A number of progressive Jewish organizations are criticizing the newly released platform of the Black Lives Matter movement for its harsh positions on Israel.

The platform, published Aug. 1 by a coalition of more than 50 organizations called the Movement for Black Lives, calls on the U.S. to end military aid to Israel and accuses Israel of practicing genocide.

“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,” reads the “Invest/Divest” section, one of six platform demands. “Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people.”

In an Aug. 4 statement, the Reform movement expressed its displeasure with the platform. “While we commend many aspects of the recently released Movement for Black Lives platform that effectively target structural racism, as deeply committed Zionists we condemn in the strongest possible terms the platform’s language on Israel and the Palestinian Territories,” it reads.

“As a Movement, we have consistently expressed our ongoing commitment to Israel’s safety and security, our profound concern for the suffering of the Palestinian people and our support for a two-state solution that would bring about peace and justice for both peoples.” The Reform statement went on to call the platform’s description of Israeli “genocide” and “apartheid” both “offensive and odious.”

“Anti-Israel rhetoric like that found in the Movement for Black Lives policy platform is especially troubling because it falsely suggests American Jews – both of color and white – must choose between their commitment to combatting racism in the United States and their Zionism,” the statement charged.

The JCRC of Boston said it was “deeply dismayed” by the platform’s “biased and false narrative about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict,” particularly its conflation of racial injustice in this country with the Palestinian experience, which “oversimplifies complex matters and advances false equivalencies that diminish the unique nature of each.”

Declaring its dissociation from the platform, the JCRC statement continued, “We reject participation in any coalition that seeks to isolate and demonize Israel singularly amongst the nations of the world.”

In a similar statement, T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights endorsed many of the platform’s demands concerning economic justice, mass incarceration and law enforcement, as well as its condemnation of Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but said that it was “extremely dismayed at the decision to refer to the Israeli occupation as genocide.”

“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,” T’ruah’s statement reads. “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 also criticized the platform for not mentioning Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, including rocket attacks from Hamas, the militant group that governs Gaza. The statement added that T’ruah does not support BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.

Although the Movement for Black Lives platform does not explicitly endorse BDS, it does call on activists to “build invest/divestment campaigns that ends US Aid to Israel’s military industrial complex and any government with human rights violations.” The platform includes a link to the BDS movement website.

On Twitter, AJC Global wrote: “Sad to see some Black Lives Matter activists hijacking an important social justice platform to smear Israel. Intersectionality gone amok.”

Also on Twitter, Rabbi Menachem Creditor of Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkeley, the founder and co-chair of Rabbis Against Gun Violence, commended JCRC Boston and T’ruah for their statements.

“As a rabbi who has supported #BlackLivesMatter, this is deeply disturbing,” Creditor tweeted.

Formed in response to growing outrage over the criminal justice system’s treatment of African Americans – particularly police violence against them – the Movement for Black Lives describes itself on its website as “a collective of more than 50 organizations representing thousands of Black people from across the country.”