The “Movement for Black Lives,” a coalition of approximately 50 Black Lives Matter groups, recently issued a policy platform which raised issues such as mass incarceration, policing, and other issues of importance.

Yet in that platform were included deranged libelous accusations against one and only one foreign country – Israel. That section of the platform was not surprising to anyone who has been paying attention to our coverage of how anti-Israel activists methodically and deliberately set out years ago to stoke racial tension against Israel by falsely accusing Israel of being responsible for local police shootings of blacks in the U.S. That effort went into overdrive during the Ferguson riots after the Michael Brown shooting in the summer of 2014.

Since then, redirecting the U.S. Black Lives Matters movement to turn it as a weapon against Israel has been a top priority for anti-Israel activists, including those working under the banner of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

Bassem Masri Ferguson Resistance is in our blood

The platform language against Israel was a milestone in that effort, putting the Black Lives Matter movement in the position of accusing Israel of the Crimes Against Humanity of Genocide and Apartheid. But in order to do that, those terms had to be redefined in ways that are applied to no one else.

The Apartheid label is used against Israel even though it clearly doesn’t apply, as I have explained before:

Apartheid was a unique system of racial domination by a minority over a majority based on racial classification, above and beyond the types of discrimination that exist in every country. Much as the Holocaust was unique in that it systematized and industrialized genocide, so too Apartheid was unique which is why it is considered under international law to be a Crime Against Humanity.

The Rome Convention on the Crime of Apartheid is very specific that it requires systematized domination through acts which themselves are crimes, of one “racial group” over another. That is not what is happening in Israel. Israel is a majority ruled nation, not minority ruled. Israeli Jews are themselves mutli-racial, with approximately half being refugees from or the descendants of refugees from Arab lands. Israel also has gone to great effort to rescue non-white Jewish populations.

The divisions in Israel are religious or ethnic, not racial, which is common throughout the world. No one claims that majority Islamic domination in the Middle East and elsewhere is “Apartheid,” so why is that label applied to the only Jewish state? If religious domination constituted Apartheid, then every country which has adopted in whole or in part Islamic law would be an Apartheid state. But that’s not the way anyone uses the term, except as to Israel.

I could go on and on, but the short answer is that the term “Apartheid” has been so broadened by enemies of Israel that the terminology as applied to Israel has become a weapon divorced from legal and historical reality. That even John Kerry and some Israeli politicians use the term inaccurately is a testament to the success of the decades-long propaganda campaign against Israel.

Similarly, the crime of Genocide has been redefined in ways that only are applied to Israel.

Genocide as defined under international law is the deliberate destruction in whole or in part of a people through acts that also are crimes:

Article II: In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

That definition always has been applied to mass killings as part of attempts to exterminate a group. It has not been applied to the dozens if not hundreds of armed conflicts in which there are civilian casualties as a byproduct of armed conflict, because civilian casualties are inevitable in war. It also does not apply to cultural assimilation, which takes place across the globe. Genocide was defined as a term specifically based on the experience of the extermination of the Jewish people in the Holocaust.

Genocide obviously does not apply to the Israeli-Arab conflict, in which the non-Jewish populations both in Israel and the disputed territories have expanded exponentially since the creation of Israel. In fact, the so-called and disputed “demographic time bomb” of Arab population growth is one of the arguments invoked by anti-Israel activists and even Israelis as to why Israel cannot continue to control Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”).

Yet the Black Lives Matter movement has accused Israel of Genocide against Palestinians. In order to do so, they had to completely change the definition, as an interview with one of the two authors of that section of the platform exposed:

The co-author of the Black Lives Matter platform passage accusing Israel of “genocide” defended the term, saying Israel’s actions fit in its wider definition.

Ben Ndugga-Kabuye co-authored the statement along with Rachel Gilmer, the former board member of a Zionist youth group. Ndugga-Kabuye told JTA he understood why Jewish groups disagree with the statement, but was perplexed that it has received so much attention.

He compared it with the accusations of genocide that black activists have leveled at the United States and called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict one of many international conflicts U.S. black activists feel connected to….

Ndugga-Kabuye said state actions don’t need to rise to the level of the Holocaust or other historical genocides to deserve the term, which he said could connote unjust state killing of a disadvantaged group. He compared his usage of the word to We Charge Genocide, a group that opposes police violence in Chicago.

“We’re talking about a structure of violent deaths that are state sanctioned, that are without accountability, and that are ongoing,” he told JTA. “We can say this is what’s happening in Palestine and not equate it with what’s happening in South America. It doesn’t say it’s the same number of people being killed or the [same] manner of people being killed.”

This “wider definition” is applied to not other country in the Black Lives Matter platform, certainly not to Muslim nations.

BDS destroys everything it touches, and the definitions of Apartheid and Genocide are two of its victims.

But there is another victim in this saga – the Black Lives Matter movement itself and the issues of importance. Because the accusations of Apartheid and Genocide were so outrageous, most of the news about the platform has focused on issues related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. That’s great for BDS, but horrible for Black Lives Matter movement, as demonstrated in an article at The Atlantic, Why Do Black Activists Care About Palestine?

Last Thursday, the Movement for Black Lives got together for an emergency conference call. One week after the drafting committee released its political platform—a long document that covers everything from U.S. policing to education reform to mass incarceration—the activists felt they needed another “deep internal discussion,” as they called it, on one small section toward the end: their statement on Israel and Palestine.

Of all the positions included in the platform, this is the one that has generated the most backlash. The conflict is largely one of language: Jewish groups have been most upset about its use of the words “genocide” and “apartheid” to describe Israel’s actions against the Palestinians, describing the terms as “offensive and odious.” Some progressive, social-justice-oriented organizations have condemned the statements in part; others have condemned the movement in full. Church groups have repudiated it. Jews of color have struggled with it. In the wake of what should have been a powerful moment, black activists have found themselves at odds with the one group that may have been most ready to support them as allies….

It’s not clear what the Movement for Black Lives will do about the backlash against this part of its platform, if anything. An informal spokesperson for the drafting committee, Zakiya Scott, declined interviews, saying, “Folks have been getting a lot of criticism for the divest / invest piece of the platform. Before we say anything as a group, it has to be agreed upon by the members of the leadership team and the endorsing organizations.”

On every side, the clash over language and history in the Movement for Black Lives platform is a story of loss. Relationships have been damaged, and political momentum lost. And the hope of liberation, cherished by black and Jewish Americans alike, has been cut with resentment.

The article goes on to describe that the misuse and abuse of the claims of Apartheid and Genocide are at the heart of the anger:

The word “genocide” was coined to describe the Holocaust. Six million Jews were systematically eliminated from the earth on the basis of blood and faith. Subsequently, a nation was formed where those who survived could go—including those fleeing the homes they tried to return to, only to be met with rejection and renewed violence. The dream of the state of Israel—of freedom, radical equality, and survival—antedated the Holocaust, but in its wake, it assumed new urgency.

Yet, that was not the genocide the Movement for Black Lives elected to highlight. “The U.S. 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 activists wrote in the platform. They go on to call Israel an “apartheid state,” condemning Israeli settlements and the “apartheid wall”—presumably the security barrier that roughly follows the country’s border with the West Bank.

These two words—“genocide” and “apartheid”—have been the focus of the outcry in Jewish communities. “We were stunned and outraged by the erroneous and egregious claims of genocide and apartheid,” the Rabbinical Assembly of the Conservative movement said. T’ruah, a progressive organization that describes itself as “the rabbinic call for justice,” said it was “extremely dismayed” by the use of “genocide.” The Union for Reform Judaism went a step further: “We reject wholeheartedly the notion that effective anti-racism work can only be done by denouncing and excoriating Israel,” it said.

Those of us who cover the BDS movement understand that these words were used for a malicious purpose.

Already, there has been backlash against the Israel policy statement within the black community, Coalition of Missouri black church leaders rejects #BlackLivesMatter anti-Israel platform.

The Ecumenical Leadership Council of Missouri, representing hundreds of predominantly African-American churches throughout the state, rejects without hesitation any notion or assertion that Israel operates as an apartheid country. We embrace our Jewish brethren in America and respect Israel as a Jewish state.

I expect this to continue as members of the black community wake up to how their issues have been colonized by anti-Israel activists, many of whom don’t give a damn about black lives except to the extent they can be used against Israel.

Creating resentment between blacks and the overwhelming majority of Jews who support Israel is a core goal of the BDS movement in the U.S., so don’t think for a second that this conflict is anything but a good outcome for anti-Israel activists.

But for those people who truly care about black lives, the hijacking of the movement for use against Israel in time will be viewed as a policy and political disaster, if it isn’t already.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.