The group’s praise for Hamas’s ‘resistance’ comes as no surprise to those paying attention.
By Jason L. Riley
(OCTOBER 31, 2023 / WSJ) During the previous round of major violence between Israel and Hamas, in May 2021, BLM made its position clear. “Black Lives Matter stands in solidarity with Palestinians,” it tweeted. “We are a movement committed to ending settler colonialism in all forms and will continue to advocate for Palestinian liberation.”
After Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israeli civilians, the same activists were just as unambiguous about which side they were taking and why. While the body count was still being tallied, BLM groups in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington issued statements supporting Hamas’s tactics. “Their resistance must not be condemned but understood as a desperate act of self-defense,” BLM Grassroots in Los Angeles wrote on Instagram. “As a radical black organization,” the post continued, it sees “clear parallels between black and Palestinian people.” BLM Chicago tweeted an image of a Hamas paraglider with a Palestinian flag attached to his parachute and the caption “I stand with Palestine.”
Anyone surprised by this response either hasn’t been paying attention or refuses to take the activists at their word. Organizations such as BLM have done nothing to hide or sugarcoat their animosity toward Israel. In 2016, four years before Floyd was killed by police, BLM released an official platform that referred to Israel as an “apartheid state” and declared that America is “complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”
What’s shocking isn’t the rhetoric of BLM leaders in the aftermath of Oct. 7 but that so many people who ought to have known better got played. In 2020, an open letter that endorsed the BLM movement appeared as a full-page ad in the New York Times. It was signed by more than 600 Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, which exists to fight anti-Semitism. If accusing Israel of genocide isn’t defamation of Jewish people, I don’t know what is. Yet Jonathan Greenblatt, the executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, is a prominent defender of BLM.
“There are those who are attempting to smear this movement as inherently anti-Semitic,” Mr. Greenblatt wrote in a September 2020 Medium post. “It is not.” He added that while “some individuals and organizations associated with the Black Lives Matter movement have engaged in antisemitic rhetoric,” it “would be foolish to cede the conversation to the most intemperate voices.”
Mr. Greenblatt and other BLM supporters ignore the reality that black nationalism has long been associated with animosity toward Israel and Jews. The “buy black” campaign of the 1920s, headed by the black nationalist Marcus Garvey, targeted Jewish-owned businesses that Garvey accused of exploiting blacks. Mainstream civil-rights leaders such as Martin Luther King and the NAACP’s Roy Wilkins denounced black anti-Semitism and were vocal supporters of the Jewish State. But Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam were advocates of racial separatism who insisted that Jews brought the Holocaust on themselves and urged blacks to sympathize “completely” with the Arab cause.
In the 1960s, leaders in the Black Power movement denounced King as an Uncle Tom and rejected his goal of assimilation. After becoming head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the mid-1960s, Stokely Carmichael steered the civil-rights group in a more radical direction. This included forcing SNCC’s white workers and volunteers, almost all of whom were Jewish, to resign. When Israel was attacked by several Arab nations in 1967, Carmichael declared that “the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist,” and SNCC published a newsletter that described Israel as an “illegal state.”
In the 1980s, Louis Farrakhan would become America’s most infamous black separatist and anti-Semite, picking up where Malcolm X left off. In the 1990s, Khalid Abdul Muhammad of the New Black Panther Party would continue the Jew-baiting legacy of Carmichael and his 1960s brethren. “I call them bloodsuckers,” Muhammad said in a 1993 address at Kean College of New Jersey. “It’s that old no-good Jew, that old imposter Jew, that old hooked-nose, bagel-eating, lox-eating Johnny-come-lately. . . . I don’t care who sits in the White House. The Jews control that seat.”
The anti-Semitism of the BLM movement isn’t a quirk. The social media posts and manifestos aren’t coming from a few “intemperate voices” who can safely be ignored to advance some greater good. For BLM activists, the greater good is scapegoating Jews, destroying Israel and exploiting racial division. They are using an old but effective playbook to rally others to their cause. And they are counting on the ignorance, complacency and guilt of white liberals to lend the movement credibility and power.
This op-ed was originally published in the Wall Street Journal and can be viewed here.