African American leaders reject anti-Israel pro-BDS stance of Movement for Black Lives

African American leaders who represent over 9 million people have rejected the anti-Israel stance of the Movement for Black Lives, which supports the BDS Movement while accusing Israel of being an apartheid state and committing genocide against the Palestinian people.
Photo Credit: Channel 2 News

A group of African American leaders who represent over 9 million people have rejected the anti-Israel stance of the Movement for Black Lives, an offshoot of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Movement for Black Lives is a separate organization that is associated with the Black Lives Matter Movement has taken a stance in favor of the BDS Movement while proclaiming: “The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and it is complicit in the genocide taking place against Palestinian people. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the book that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people.”

Both the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews as well as the group of African American leaders criticized the Movement for Black Lives in a joint statement: “It was a vitriolic attack against Israel laced in misinformation and anti-Semitism as well as an agenda that is not embraced by the wider African American community. The misinformation and anti-Semitism is so misleading that it makes an experienced leader question the entire Movement for Black Lives policy demands document and thus the intentions of the organization.”

They added that Israel remains a key US ally in the Middle East and that real genocides took place during the Holocaust, in Rwanda and now in Syria: “Israel has sought peace via a two-state solution with the Palestinians and there are complex reasons why peace has not been realized. We wholly refute the claim that Israel is an apartheid state as Israeli Arabs are full citizens with leadership roles including being Knesset members and judges while Israeli security measures are aimed at fighting terrorism. We may not agree with everything that Israel has done but let us be honest about the motives. This is not about race. This is about security, a government’s most basic and fundamental responsibility to its people.”

“We see the danger of passing along hysterical mistruths and soundbites as we watch the current US elections,” the African American leaders added. “At worst, it can breed hatred and bigotry, which we of all people should not condone against anyone-black, brown, or white. The Jewish community has been an ally of black America most significantly during the Civil Rights Movement and even today. Together, these two communities have been the conscious leading the fight for civil and human rights for decades. Jews have been our reliable friends, just as Israel has been.”

Reverend Dee Dee Coleman, who sits on the African American Advisory Council for the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, told JerusalemOnline that the Movement for Black Lives anti-Israel rhetoric is unacceptable: “It must be corrected and hopefully, their leadership is open to have a discussion on this issue.  The influence of the BDS Movement originates from the college campuses and that is where its greatest momentum is coming from.  This is true in the African American community as well.  The strength and success of  the Black Lives Matter movement, which is dealing with critical issues that are affecting the African American community, particularly young black men, has created a platform for other organizations to latch onto their success and take them off course.  The Black Lives Matter leadership needs to be careful not to try to be all things to all people but instead to remain focused and vigilant on the important issues that they were founded upon.  We support much of the platform of BLM and the MBL. However, we strongly disagree with their attack on Israel especially when their information is not correct.”

The African American Advisory Council of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews added: “Like most Americans, many African Americans see Israel as a nation constantly at war or in conflict - but from our numerous travels to Israel, meetings with members of the Knesset, the prime minister and ordinary people, this is not at all an accurate picture of what is happening on the ground.  The sound bites of accusations of apartheid and genocide to attract media attention do not reflect the truth, much like the media's frequent portrayal of the African American community itself.  It is unfortunate that entertainment trumps intelligent discourse these days.”

According to Reverend Dr. Edward L. Branch, a senior level pastor at the Third New Hope Baptist Church, a huge part of the problem is that the Movement for Black Lives has ignored the complexity of the issue and has instead chosen to view everything via race relations in the United States: “Unfortunately, there is a battle going on over the use of the Civil Rights legacy as it applies to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  As Americans, we see the issues from the paradigm of race and we try to fit it into our own experience.  The issues are much more complex than just race.  And those of us who were a part of the Civil Rights Movement and the struggle against apartheid need to share our experience and knowledge with our young leaders.  Israel is not an apartheid state and the Civil Rights movement was based upon non-violent civil disobedience not condoning acts of terror against innocent civilians no matter your color.”

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews told JerusalemOnline: “The Movement for Black Lives statement against Israel can be damaging as are all lies. It creates an unnecessary tension between two longstanding allies. It is heartwarming to see African American leaders who have been working with us standing up to correct the MBL's misinformation and reaching out to friends in the Jewish community to say that these statements are not reflective of their beliefs. If you leave a vacuum, the media will fill it with controversy.  True leadership demands that you take a stand.  Ethical leadership demands that you stand by what is true.”

Kristina King, the International Fellowship for Christians and Jews director for African American outreach, stressed that even though anti-Israel voices are resonating with some African American leaders, there are many Jewish organizations reaching out to the African American community and there are nevertheless lasting ties between both communities: “We have hosted dialogue sessions in more than a dozen cities across the nation to facilitate the discussion of this important alliance particularly during the Civil Rights Era, our Judeo- Christian heritage, the Jewish roots of Christianity, and modern Israel.  We have several joint projects with African American leaders and Rabbi Eckstein in the works.  There is a rich heritage of struggle and resiliency from the Jewish and African American community to share with the world.”  

“From childhood, I was taught both at church and at home to pray for and to be a blessing to Israel,” Reverend Coleman proclaimed.  “This is not uncommon in the black community. The story of the Jewish people is preached every Sunday. In many communities, African-American pastors and Jewish rabbis often foster dialogue and fellowship around our common quest for social justice and human rights. We celebrate the Passover celebration with joint Seders between African American and Jewish congregations alongside musical programs and pulpit exchange.  There is a lot of good news to report on; it is just often overlooked."

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