ZOA president demands that Jewish leaders in America denounce BLM’s “anti-Israel and anti-Jew positions.”
By Amelie Botbol
(OCTOBER 22, 2023 / JNS) The Chicago chapter of Black Lives Matter (BLM) posted an image of a paraglider in mid-flight with a Palestinian flag on Oct. 10. The tweet was perceived by many as a glorification of terrorism and a celebration of Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, which left 1,400 people dead, at least 4,100 wounded and more than 200 held hostage in the Gaza Strip.
Israel’s first Ethiopian-born beauty queen, Yityish Aynaw, expressed her indignation and disappointment with the organization in a viral Instagram video.
“It was an obvious allusion to Hamas terrorists who reached the south [of Israel] with parachutes,” said Aynaw. “With this post, they told the world they were backing Hamas over us. I was in shock. How could an organization that supposedly fights for human rights openly support terrorism the way they did? Shame on you, BLM.”
In the video, Aynaw, her hands crossed over her chest, uses the phrase “I can’t breathe,” a reference to the last words uttered by Eric Garner in 2014 after being put on a chokehold by a New York City police officer, which became a BLM rallying cry. The organization has since gained tremendous traction, going from just a hashtag to a largely decentralized international movement with over 40 chapters, a net worth of $42 million and nearly 4 million followers on the main BLM global network Instagram account.
“The hate that we are experiencing has nothing to do with supporting Palestinians. We are hated essentially for being what we are: Jews”, said Aynaw. “If Martin Luther King was alive, he would be ashamed of what organizations such as BLM have become: Jew-haters and terrorism supporters.”
“Israel’s right to exist as a state is incontestable,” King wrote in a 1967 letter to Adolph Held, then president of the Jewish Labor Committee, months after the conclusion of the 1967 Six-Day War.
This isn’t the first time that BLM, a black-centered political movement that originated in the African-American community and campaigns against police brutality, has come under fire for its perceived antisemitic and anti-Israel views. In 2016, BLM publicly endorsed the BDS movement, which regards the State of Israel as a genocidal enterprise.
In a statement posted on BLM’s website, the organization described Israel as an apartheid state engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. In the same statement, BLM calls on U.S. President Biden to defund Israel’s military. It also demands that the Biden administration impose sanctions on Israel until the Jewish state abandons its “apartheid practices and settler colonial project.”
The organization has since experienced a falling out with the Biden administration after an inconclusive 2021 meeting and the administration’s failure to comply with BLM’s request to defund the police.
Aynaw was not the only one to slam BLM for the paraglider post. Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich reposted the image with the caption: “Black Lives Matter Chicago just posted this, celebrating the paragliders who massacred the Israeli concert-goers,” adding: “Shocking antisemitism and cruelty. Martin Luther King is rolling over in his grave.”
Amid the backlash, BLM Chicago deleted the controversial post and tweeted a sarcastic apology to its X followers.
Afterwards, the organization reasserted its support for the cause with posts featuring protesters ordering the U.S. government not to use tax dollars for the killing of Palestinian babies.
‘Antisemitic, anti-white and even anti-America’
Shalomyah Bowers, a representative for the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, was quoted by TMZ as saying the organization is not affiliated with the Chicago chapter. However, BLMGN did not condemn the post.
The Anti-Defamation League has yet to distance itself from the BLM movement, turning a deaf ear to claims that it supports terrorist groups.
“The glorification and justification of violence against civilians is not something I’ve seen in this movement in the 25 years I’ve been looking at it,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, according to Time magazine.
ADL spokesperson Hila Zeligman and U.S. office spokesperson Todd Gutnick did not reply to JNS’s request for comment.
“Black lives matter everywhere: in Israel, in Europe, in the United States,” said Aynaw. “Black Jews were assassinated in Israel, and BLM supported this. BLM should educate themselves about the Middle East and the conflict before they come out in support of a genocidal organization,” she added.
Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, told JNS: “Two and a half years ago, after reading BLM’s charter, in which they refer to Israel as a genocidal apartheid state, I warned that BLM was openly anti-Israel, antisemitic, anti-white and even anti-America.”
Prominent Jewish leaders like Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, the CEO of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, have failed to condemn the organization for fear of being ostracized, said Klein.
In her video, Aynaw reminds BLM that Israel is the last standing democracy in the Middle East and should be commended, not singled out or isolated, for its actions against Hamas.
“Israel is the only one who currently stands between Hamas and the West. We need international support to win this fight and organizations like BLM should not stand in our way,” she said.
This article was originally published in JNS and can be viewed here.