The American network of demagogues known as Black Lives Matter normally aims its venom at those here who get in its way. But the group also acts globally. Operating on the old adage, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend,” this instant mob service is forging ties with a worldwide anti-Israel campaign, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS. Claiming the high moral ground, BDS is committed to the destruction of Israel in the name of “justice” for neighboring Palestinian Arabs. It views Israel much as Black Lives Matter views America: a white colonial occupation force oppressing “people of color.” The two groups are a match. Yet their political synergy is dangerously naïve.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) got off the ground during the summer of 2013 in the wake of a wholly justified Florida jury verdict not to convict a white neighborhood crime patrol volunteer, George Zimmerman, who had been viciously assaulted by a black teenager, Trayvon Martin. Convinced that this was a case of murder, these errant knight activists set about laying the infrastructure for a new brand of political radicalism exceeding even that of Old Guard mentors such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. The organization achieved national prominence the following year, leading on-site street demonstrations in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. A white police officer, Darren Wilson, had shot to death a large young black attacker, Michael Brown, also in self-defense. Despite enormous pressure from local and national blacks, and from the Eric Holder-led U.S. Justice Department, a St. Louis County grand jury in November 2014 decided not to indict Wilson. It was the right call. There was no convincing evidence that Officer Wilson had gratuitously shot Brown. And eyewitness accounts from local blacks were confused, contradictory and at times invented out of thin air, including Brown’s supposed last words, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” St. Louis-area blacks responded by setting fire to more than a dozen local businesses. Not only did Black Lives Matter organizers do nothing to discourage the riot, they did much to foment it.
BLM leaders, like their audiences, are young and unusually vitriolic. To fawning oracles such as Time magazine, that qualifies them as “idealistic.” The group has a fully decentralized structure. It has no formal headquarters. Its “offices” are social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Their street rallies at times resemble riots – and sometimes degenerate into riots (as in Ferguson). These people believe, contrary to common sense and experience, that white America, especially its police forces, is conducting a massive pogrom against innocent blacks. Each of the claims of murder they cite has collapsed, however, given introduction of the full range of facts. In conveying the notion that our nation is pervaded by systemic “racism,” Black Lives Matter uses fear, exaggeration, lies and distortions. Evidence of its handiwork can be found not only in Ferguson, but also in Baltimore and various college campuses. Yet their incitements, far from being tickets to self-marginalization, have won them political access in high places. Black Lives Matter’s most visible spokesperson, DeRay McKesson, is now a Democratic Party candidate for Baltimore mayor. McKesson and a BLM colleague, Brittany Packnett, this February were guests of President Obama at a White House meeting on race, crime and policing attended by more than a dozen black activists.
Social media and inflammatory rhetoric aside, a major reason for Black Lives Matter’s rapid emergence is its growing willingness to network with other groups on the far Left. BLM seeks alliances with people who, like them, view the world as an ongoing struggle between suffering, powerless people of color (good) and wealthy, powerful whites (bad). In this grossly simple-minded frame of reference, the United States is the primary enemy. Because the odds are stacked in favor of the current power structure, victory over racism requires coalition-building or, to employ a term now in vogue in Leftist circles, intersectionality. Coalition groups each have a specific focus, yet intersect at a common goal: overthrow of the American power structure. And that includes foreign nations allied with us. To strike a blow against a proxy of America is thus to strike a blow against America itself. And Israel is proxy Number One. In their view, forging ties with Middle East resistance (i.e., terrorist) movements is a way of fighting racism at home – and vice versa. True, Leftist opposition to the Jewish state has been a global phenomenon for nearly 50 years. But Black Lives Matter is bringing new aggression to the game. They also like to travel.
In January 2015, a group of black journalists, performers and political organizers traveled to Palestinian refugee camps. The 10-day fact-finding mission was organized by the Palestinian hosts and the Florida-based Dream Defenders, which describes itself as a “black-brown youth alliance for social justice.” The delegation included representatives from Black Lives Matter, Black Youth Project 100, Ferguson/Hands Up United and the Justice League NYC, plus assorted individuals. Ebony magazine provided a fawning account of these world travelers once they arrived home. The delegates proved eager to voice solidarity with their soul mates abroad. Ahmad Abuzaid, legal and policy director for Dream Defenders, saw the trip as a means of connecting radical movements here and abroad:
The goals were primarily to allow for the group members to experience and see first-hand the occupation, ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians, but also to build real relationships with those on the ground leading the fight for liberation. In the spirit of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael and many others, we thought the connections between the African-American leadership of the movement in the U.S. and those on the ground in Palestine needed to be re-established and fortified…As a Palestinian who has learned a great deal about struggle, movement, militancy and liberation from African-Americans in the U.S., I dreamt of the day where I could bring that power back to my people in Palestine. This trip is part of that process.
Steven Pargett, communications director for Dream Defenders, saw black neighborhoods as analogous to Palestinian refugee camps:
Our refugee camps are lower-income communities and project buildings all around the country that many would not be living in had we not been taken into slavery generations ago. Rather than having the Israeli Defense occupations of police officers who often prove to have little disregard for our lives, being that they are not from these communities.
Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors, the BLM delegate, weighed in with this sentiment:
This (i.e., Israel) is an apartheid state. We can’t deny that, and if we do deny it, we are part of the Zionist violence. There are two different systems here in occupied Palestine. Two completely different systems. Folks are unable to go to parts of their own country. Folks are barred from their own country.
Another delegate, community organizer Cherrell Brown, sees “parallels” between the U.S. and Israel, apparently all of them bad:
So many parallels exist between how the U.S. polices, incarcerates and perpetuates violence on the black community and how the Zionist state that exists in Israel perpetuates the same on Palestinians…This is not to say there aren’t vast differences and nuances that need to always be named, but our oppressors are literally collaborating together, learning from one another – and as oppressed people, we have to do the same.
St. Louis-based rapper Tef Poe saw possibilities for hip-hop recordings serving as a unifying revolutionary force. He posted to Facebook: “A refugee camp with a bunch of people fighting for their lives and using hip-hop to lift their spirits and spark the minds of children and break down gender barriers between young girls and boys. I spent a day with these ppl…Most amazing day of my life.”
The trip actually was part of an exchange program. Two months earlier, in November 2014, ten West Bank Palestinian college students had visited Ferguson and St. Louis. The activists frequently met with street protestors in their misguided campaign to persuade a grand jury to indict Officer Darren Wilson. A month later, upon their return home, the Palestinians hosted a series of events at their university to build support for black radicalism in the U.S. During that time, Dream Defenders passed a resolution in support of the Palestinian-run Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. Clearly, this is a two-way street.
Aside from their caustic and ludicrous rhetoric, these radical ideologues, whether here or there, have a history problem. Israel came into being during 1947-48 as a matter of Jewish survival. It had nothing to with “stealing” Arab land. By that time, Great Britain had controlled Israel, or as it was known then, Palestine, for three decades. The British had acquired the territory during World War I from the collapsed Turkish Ottoman regime. British Foreign Minister Arthur Balfour declared in a November 2, 1917 letter to British Jewish leader Walter Rothschild that His Majesty’s Government viewed with favor the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. While this “Balfour Declaration” was in no way a promise of formal national status, it did open the door to that possibility. Less than five years later, the British government did an about-face. It issued a Mandate reducing the land area of Palestine promised to the Jews under the Balfour Declaration by about 80 percent. The newly-created Arab territory would be known as Trans-Jordan, or what we today call Jordan. For all intents and purposes, “Palestinians” are Jordanians under another name. The League of Nations formally approved the British Mandate in July 1922. The grant of land did not stop Arab attacks on Jewish settlers.
The impetus for the creation of the State of Israel would be World War II and the full revelations of mass extermination of European Jews coordinated by Germany’s Nazi regime. For the record, leading Arabs had more than a little to do with the atrocities. In November 1941, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler met with the Muslim spiritual leader of Palestine, Haj Amin al-Husseini, “the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem,” in Berlin. The Grand Mufti personally assured Der Fuehrer that Arabs were Germany’s allies, as each had common enemies in the English, the Jews and the Communists. He vowed to do everything in his power to block Jewish escape from Europe into Palestine. He would make good on his word, too. In a variety of ways, the Grand Mufti facilitated roundups and executions of Jews in European and Arab nations. He recruited Waffen-SS units, provided military aid and disseminated radio propaganda. On March 1, 1944, during a broadcast on Radio Berlin, the Grand Mufti declared: “Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.” He even attempted to persuade the Germans, unsuccessfully, to bomb Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. That’s right: Adolf Hitler, if for strategic reasons, was a “moderate” compared to the Grand Mufti.
After the war, pressure to elevate Jewish Palestine to statehood became enormous. The full range of Nazi atrocities had come to light. European migration to Palestine was accelerating. And pro-independence Jewish guerrilla groups such as the Irgun and the Stern Gang, not averse themselves to using terror, made continued British rule untenable. As it was, the British were exhausted from war. In 1946, they yielded sovereignty over Trans-Jordan to a domestic monarchy. The loss of India (including the area now known as Pakistan) was just around the corner. In January 1947, the British handed over the Palestine issue to the fledgling United Nations. Several months later the UN came out with a compromise partition plan. Areas of Palestine with a Jewish majority would constitute a new Jewish state; areas with an Arab majority would constitute a new Arab state. The UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947 approved the proposal by a 33-13 margin, with 10 abstentions. Arab member nations voted as a bloc to oppose it. The Arabs, in other words, voted against the very “two-state” solution they so avidly claim today is crucial to achieving lasting peace! On May 14, 1948, the date of formal British withdrawal, the new republic of Israel raised the flag on its soil for the first time. Ecstasy would be short-lived. The very next day, May 15, armies from five Arab nations – Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria – invaded Israel in hopes of snuffing it out. They failed. Thanks to its iron will and foreign diplomatic recognition (most crucially from U.S. President Harry Truman, against the advice of several top advisers), Israel prevailed by the end of the year.
Israel’s victory for independence would be an opening round, not a conclusion. And a major reason was the emergence of the Palestinian refugee problem. According to UN figures, more than 650,000 Arab residents of the Palestine Mandate fled to various Arab countries during 1947-48, about 280,000 of them to the West Bank of Jordan and another 190,000 to the Gaza Strip along the Mediterranean Sea between Israel and Egypt. There were a number of reasons for the flight. But arguably foremost among them were highly inflammatory Arab radio broadcasts claiming such migration was the only way to avert Israeli massacres. At the same time, less publicized, more than 550,000 Jews were forced to flee Arab countries where they had lived for many generations. The key difference between the two situations was this: Israel took in Jewish refugees, while Arab countries, for the most part, did not take in Arab refugees. The Arabs saw negotiations of any kind toward a permanent settlement as anathema. It was akin to surrender. Permanent resettlement of refugees would mean the loss of a political bargaining chip. Cairo Radio put it this way during a 1957 broadcast: “The refugees are the cornerstone in the Arab struggle against Israel. The refugees are the armaments of the Arabs and Arab nationalism.”
The UN brokered a ceasefire in 1949 that left Israel in control of Arab-majority areas of the new Jewish state, but left Jordan in control of the West Bank. The standoff has gotten more intractable ever since. Demography explains a large part of the problem. Population increased exponentially in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel had annexed as defensive measures, along with the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights, in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War. Magnifying the tension was the emergence of Palestinian nationalism. An Arab umbrella group, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), led the way. The PLO had drawn up a charter in 1964, Article 19 of which declared the establishment of Israel as “null and void from the very beginning.” Following the defeat of Egypt, Jordan and Syria at the hands of Israel in the Six-Day War, the PLO, led by its mercurial chairman, Yassir Arafat, went full into paramilitary mode, launching lethal terrorist attacks against unarmed civilians. Guerrillas especially targeted European and Israeli airports and commercial flights. A few decades later, the situation grew even more volatile, as Muslim residents of these territories grew increasingly receptive to campaigns to “purify” a compromised Islam and to wage holy war (jihad) against non-Muslims.
The Israel government has controlled the West Bank for nearly 50 years, but its stewardship has been very reluctant. It doesn’t get any cheap thrills from holding on. The occupation has nothing to do with “ethnic cleansing” or “apartheid”; founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, in 1934, well before Israel came into existence, stated his opposition to any emulation by Israel of South African apartheid. The occupation is about defense, not offense. The government built security walls (and then only along portions of the perimeter most susceptible to terrorist infiltration) and established manned border checkpoints for one reason: to protect Israeli civilians from further machine-gun and bomb attacks by Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah and other Arab terrorist organizations and their supporters. We in the West might ask: Why doesn’t Israel try to negotiate with the Palestinians? The fact is that Israel has tried to negotiate – repeatedly. Since 1937, a decade prior to Israeli independence, Arab leaders have rejected reasonable settlement proposals by the British and then Israeli governments on more than 30 occasions, either leaving the bargaining table or never arriving in the first place.
As for the one diplomatic “success,” negotiated in secret in Oslo in 1993, it was a set of promises that PLO leader Yassir Arafat had no intention of keeping. Indeed, on the very day Arafat signed the Declaration of Principles on the White House front lawn along with U.S. President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, September 13, 1993, he made the following statement on Jordan TV:
Since we cannot defeat in Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.
There wasn’t much equivocating there. The following years, and with accelerating speed (the “Second Intifada”), Palestinian radicals conducted a wave of “suicide bombings” in Israeli public spaces. By the close of 2008, more than 800 unsuspecting Jewish civilians had been killed; more than 9,000 others had been injured. Examples of Arab handiwork: On March 4, 2001, in the Mediterranean coastal town of Netanya, a Hamas terrorist named Ahmed Alyan detonated a bomb strapped to clothing, killing three Jewish civilians and wounding 60 others. On January 17, 2002, an al-Aqsa brigade terrorist, Abdul Salaam Sadek Hassouneh, murdered six people and wounded 33 others at a Bat Mitzvah ceremony in the Israeli community of Hadera. And on September 9, 2003, a Palestinian suicide bomber set off an explosion at the Café Hillel in Jerusalem, killing seven people and injuring more than 50 others. It is cold comfort that the murderers also died. Meanwhile, Hamas guerrillas during this time began to launch rocket attacks from Gaza upon Israel, at times on a daily basis. An exasperated Israeli government withdrew from Gaza during the summer of 2005, evicting nearly 9,000 Jewish settlers in the process. Terror outfit Hamas, elected in a plurality by residents the following January to govern the 141-square-mile strip of land, rewarded Israel’s gesture with thousands more rockets.
The Israeli government has recognized its obligation to protect its people. As such, it has strengthened its security perimeter along the West Bank. The desire was to protect innocent Jews, not to “oppress” Arabs. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah – if that is the right word – to murder as many of a nation’s civilians as possible and then denounce the “injustice” of that nation taking dramatic precautions to prevent further murders. And while Israelis have killed Palestinians during home searches for terror suspects and weapons caches, keep in mind that terrorists routinely have embedded themselves in neighborhoods giving them safe havens. In the course of arresting suspects, Israeli forces have been fired upon. They have lost their own soldiers in the process of killing terrorists (purposively) as well as bystanders (accidentially). The manufacture of martyrs is a key element in the Palestinian bid for world sympathy for their cause. The Palestinian radicals have brought this situation upon themselves. The term “self-fulfilling prophecy” rarely would be more apt than here. Palestinian leaders and their dupes in the West, such as Black Lives Matter, seem to have a problem connecting cause and effect.
Black Lives Matter and its allies routinely affect concern for the condition of West Bank residents, but they are not humanitarians. They exhibit no interest in providing help for these people, whether for the sake of education, health care, water purification or business formation. They have no interest in pressuring the semi-autonomous official arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinian Authority, to expand rights for its people. Their sole, and avowed, goal is delegitimizing and dismantling the Jewish state. Toward that end, the radicals are locking arms with the kinds of people who share that goal – and have the guns and bombs to realize it. It is conceivable that BLM and its domestic allies will recruit young True Believers to journey abroad and fight alongside the Palestinians. Some Americans, in a pique of misplaced idealism, may go. Some may wind up dead.
It’s happened before. Over a dozen years ago, a Palestinian-controlled group, International Solidarity Movement (ISM), recruited American volunteers from college campuses. One of them, a 23-year-old student from Washington State named Rachel Corrie, having experienced a political awakening courtesy of ISM, traveled to the Gaza Strip in January 2003 to support Palestinian Al-Aqsa brigades in their intifada against Israel. Two months later, she was killed in the town of Rafah, adjacent to the Egyptian border, an area well-known for its network of underground tunnels through which terrorist sympathizers had smuggled weapons and bombs from Egypt into Gaza. Ms. Corrie had stood in front of an Israeli Defense Forces Caterpillar bulldozer-mine sweeper when she was crushed to death; the driver was unable to see her through the very narrow window slits. The Left, however, made her into an international martyr and continues to this day to accuse the Israeli government of murder. It was nothing of the kind. She gambled, wrongly, that the driver would be able to see her and stop. An Israeli court, after examining extensive evidence, exonerated the driver. Reprehensible as Ms. Corrie was (she lent tangible support to the terrorists), her death would not have happened had ISM not served as a finishing school for her budding revolutionary consciousness. More recently, a sizable number of U.S. citizens and aliens have gone abroad to join or train with the lethal terrorist group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). ISIS is focused for now on crushing the regimes of specific Arab countries, but it is fair to say that they’ll eventually get around to Israel.
But warfare against Israel and its allies has been economic as well. That’s the whole point of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Coordinated by a group called the Palestinian BDS National Committee, it formally launched on July 9, 2005, with the help of more than 170 pro-Palestinian NGOs. The effort built upon various UN resolutions over the years and a particularly noxious UN-sponsored global gathering in September 2001 in Durban, South Africa of some 8,000 “anti-racist” representatives; the event, in fact, was held only days before the al-Qaeda attacks on the U.S. that September 11. The selection of Durban as the conference site was deliberate. The intent was to declare that Israel, supposedly no different from apartheid-era South Africa, deserves world condemnation. The subsequent BDS campaign, touting the need for “nonviolent punitive measures” against Israel, seeks to economically starve Israel until it comes around on human rights. It seeks a withdrawal of all dealings by nations around the world with Israel-based companies. It also seeks to convince non-Israeli companies to avoid Israel. And it calls upon nations around the world to ban Israeli companies from establishing offices or plants within their own boundaries. Eventually, BDS organizers hope, the Israeli government will comply with “the precepts of international law.” The Israeli government knows fully well that “compliance” would be national suicide.
Winning widespread sympathy requires a well-honed “soft” propaganda machine. BDS activists heavily target business, labor, philanthropy, clergy and academia to avoid or withdraw from relations with Israel in present form. Various organizations and individuals have signed declarations of one type or another in support of the boycott. Unfortunately, BDS has claimed its share of successes. Only last week, in fact, the British-based private security provider, G4S, announced plans to sell its Israeli operation over the next 12 to 24 months. And during 2014, various businesses, churches and other institutions worldwide declared they would boycott SodaStream, an Israeli-based soft drink company, for operating a production facility in the West Bank. Fearing public disapproval, the company announced that it would close the plant and relocate operations at a plant in the Israeli Negev region (which it subsequently did). The move bought no good will with accusers. BDS organizers vowed to continue boycotting the company. The campaign against SodaStream, perhaps best known for its sexy Super Bowl ads featuring actress Scarlett Johansson, is unhinged. SodaStream doesn’t oppress Palestinians; it hires them. Also in BDS gun sights over the years have been Caterpillar, Max Brenner, the British-based Marks & Spencer and the French-based Veolia.
With more victories such as these, the damage to Israel can be quite substantial. Last June, the Rand Corporation, using a model based on previous boycotts of other countries, estimated that the BDS campaign against Israel, if maintained for 10 years, would cost the Israeli economy up to $47 billion. The Rand report did, however, temper its conclusion, noting that “evidence on the effectiveness of sanctions is mixed, making an assessment of the potential economic effects of the BDS movement problematic.”
Israel is used to boycotts. They have been in effect, in one form or another, for decades. Indeed, they predate Israeli independence. The initial wave of Arab boycotts of Jewish-owned businesses began concurrently with bloody anti-Jewish Arab riots in British Palestine in 1929. Rioters back then proclaimed: “O Arab! Remember that the Jew is your strongest enemy of your ancestors since olden times.” And during the 1930s the Nazi regime in Germany organized boycotts against Jewish businesses (Deutsche! Wehrt Euch! Kauft nicht bei Juden! – “Germans! Defend yourselves! Do not buy from Jews!”). BDS organizers may not be blatant anti-Semites, but their advocacy, if fully realized, would render Israel incapable of defending itself. The campaign is the direct result of a recognition that terrorism doesn’t work as well as it used to, a fact that might have something to do with that “apartheid” wall.
A successful boycott, ironically, would hit Palestinians harder than it would the Israelis. The more than 100,000 Palestinian West Bank employees of Israeli companies (like SodaStream) make far higher wages than working for homegrown employers. Even Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas admits that the boycott, if successful, would be an economic disaster for his people. But that prospect apparently doesn’t bother BDS supporters, preferring to sit on their high moral dudgeon. Their goal, from the very start, has been to eliminate Israel from the face of the map. As one Muslim activist in the U.S., As’ad AbuKhalil, a political scientist at California State University, Stanislaus, puts it, the aim of the BDS campaign should be to bring down the state of Israel because “Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.” That’s pretty much the way Black Lives Matter sees things, too.
The West Bank is one of the most dangerous places on earth. Israel hangs onto it out of security concerns, not as part of any imperial power grab. Black Lives Matter, a pack of loud, crude ignoramuses who lack any grasp of Middle East history, culture and politics, is helping to make this area into an even more dangerous powder keg. Its “parallels” between blacks here and Arabs there are absurd. By coaxing Palestine leadership into violent resistance, if not overtly then by implication, BLM activists may get people killed. Even if they don’t rationalize this outcome as unfortunate collateral damage in a larger global struggle to liberate people of color, they must be rejected anyway along with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. These two entities are acting in concert to obliterate one of America’s most reliable trading partners and allies. Out of the many reasons to oppose Black Lives Matter, its partnership with BDS is surely one of the better ones.