HOUSTON — Controversy is swelling over a policy platform published by a coalition of Black Lives Matter activists that includes calls for the United States to economically divest from Israel.
“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 Movement for Black Lives noted in its policy platform. Published last week, the document was co-signed by over 50 black civil rights organizations.
Among other demands, the coalition is calling for the U.S. to redirect investments in policing, prisons, and the military-industrial complex — including the over $3.1 billion offered in foreign aid to Israel annually — into services that benefit black people and other oppressed Americans, such as health care, education, and treatment for mental illness.
The authors single out U.S. aid to Israel for special criticism. Noting that the U.S. requires Israel to spend 75 percent of all military aid on U.S.-made arms, that aid money — which comes largely from American taxpayers — makes its way to arms corporations. And those same corporations engage in lobbying campaigns that call for more foreign military aid. The policy platform explains:
“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.”
Mainstream Jewish organizations are reacting with dismay. The Jewish Community Relations Council issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the platform and distancing itself from the movement. It reads, in part:
“We are deeply dismayed by elements of this platform, specifically the co-opting and manipulation of a movement addressing concerns about racial disparities in criminal justice in the United States in order to advance a biased and false narrative about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.”
Jewish Voice for Peace, an NGO dedicated to advancing the cause of Palestinian liberation, pushed back, declaring that the organization “endorses the Movement for Black Lives platform in its entirety, without reservation.” JVP wrote:
“We are deeply disappointed by the response from a number of Jewish organizations to the platform, particularly the ‘Invest-Divest’ section that endorses the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and makes a clear call for Black/Palestinian solidarity. These Jewish organizations are rejecting a thorough and inspiring transformational set of policy ideas developed by a broad coalition of Black leaders simply because these Black leaders have explicitly linked the experiences and struggles of Palestinians with their own.”
— JVP Boston (@JVPBoston) August 7, 2016
Activists began forging connections between the two civil rights struggles almost from the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement, Areeb Ullah, a journalist for Middle East Eye, reported on Friday. He wrote:
“Palestinian activists famously used social media to give Black Lives Matter activists tips on how to deal the inhalation of tear-gas, after the police violently cracked down on protests in 2014 that erupted in Ferguson, Missouri following the death by the police of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.”
Civil rights activists have made trips to Palestine in recent years to deepen ties between groups, while Palestinian liberation activists have in turn made visits to the U.S.
Shatha Hammad, a Palestinian who was part of a delegation to Ferguson, Missouri, told Ullah that the two movements can learn from and strengthen one another.
“We learned so much from the BLM movement when they came to Palestine and I know they learned from us too,” she said. “I truly believe that the more movements that come together to support each other, the closer freedom will be for us all.”
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