The co-opting of Black Lives Matter could be its downfall
Agree with it or not, Black Lives Matter is a genuinely fresh voice — something new in American politics. Too bad it shows signs of getting absorbed into the radical blob, like so many voices before it.
It happened with MoveOn.org. Born to fight Bill Clinton’s impeachment for perjury, it’s become another conventional agitator for lefty causes. Same with Occupy Wall Street and its pasty-white encampments of pseudo-anarchist trust-funders.
And now Black Lives Matter is lending — and, thus, surrendering — its well-earned credibility to the anti-Israel left. And the death of a Jewish civil-rights activist at Palestinian hands this week shows just how perverse a twist this is.
This turn is sad, since Black Lives Matter has so much to offer. It has drawn much-needed attention to the need for more accountability in police interaction with minorities — which is why the rest of the mainstream left wants to co-opt it. And now it looks like they’re succeeding.
Opposition to Israel and support for even the most radical Palestinian factions has become something of a left-wing litmus test. And given Black Lives Matter’s moral authority, the pro-Palestinian groups surely see co-opting it as their greatest coup yet.
The anti-Israel left has been courting Black Lives Matter for some time. In January, the Dream Defenders — whose mission statement says “our liberation necessitates the destruction of the political and economic systems of Capitalism and Imperialism as well as Patriarchy” — organized a trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories for activists involved in Black Lives Matter, the African-American community in Ferguson, Mo., and others.
You can guess what lessons they took away from the trip. “This is an apartheid state,” Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors told Ebony magazine. “We can’t deny that, and if we do deny it we are a part of the Zionist violence.”
Speaking of violence, this month activists dedicated to “black-Palestinian solidarity” produced a video that alternated images of black artists and victims of police violence with images of Palestinians. Lauryn Hill, Danny Glover, Cornel West, Angela Davis, Alice Walker and others appear; the narration repeatedly comes back to the video’s title: “When I see them, I see us.”
The effort to link the African-American struggle with Palestinian “resistance” isn’t new. But the absurdity of the conflation was thrown into sharp relief this week when Richard Lakin, an American-born victim of a Palestinian terror attack two weeks ago, died from his wounds.
Lakin, you see, was a civil-rights activist in the United States before moving to Israel, where he became an advocate for Israeli-Arab coexistence. His death in a Palestinian terror attack was darkly ironic, then, but also illuminating, for two reasons.
First, Lakin’s history of marching for blacks’ rights — including alongside Martin Luther King — is unremarkable for Jewish Americans, who identified with African-Americans and worked devotedly for the civil-rights cause. And yet, the pro-Palestinian left — and, apparently, Black Lives Matter and allied black activists calling to “free Palestine” — are siding here with the purveyors of the hatred that caused Lakin’s death.
In fact, in the “black-Palestinian solidarity” video, Rasmea Odeh makes an appearance. Who’s she? Well, she’s a former Palestinian terrorist convicted in 1969 for her involvement in an attack that killed two Hebrew University students.
Are Black Lives Matter activists telling us that when they look at unrepentant terrorists they see themselves? Ridiculous, and insulting to all those who’ve rallied to their side.
Second, the current spate of violence in Israel was touched off by the blood libel circulated that the Israeli government was changing the status quo at the Temple Mount, a site sacred to Jews and Muslims.
Muslims are allowed to pray at the site; Jews aren’t. The false rumors that Jews would pray at their own religion’s holiest site were enough to cause what some have dubbed a third intifada, in which Palestinians in Israel are shooting and stabbing Jews at random.
That is, the call to arms came at the mere suggestion that Jews would exercise the same rights as non-Jews in their own national capital. It’s violence in defense of a kind of apartheid.
Black activists signing on to the Palestinian “struggle” represented by the likes of Rasmea Odeh are standing not with the oppressed, but with those who will defend an inequality based on “otherness,” who kill in the name of denying civil rights.
That’s a far cry from the days when Jews and African-Americans marched in solidarity. And it risks making a farce of the very important work Black Lives Matter should be doing instead.