On October of 1967, Martin Luther King underscored that "when people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism!" This bold and unapologetic statement is something that you would not hear today from the membership of Black Lives Matter (BLM).
In today's age of technology, we see more rapid use of social media and soft power by pro-Palestinian groups hijacking the narrative of peace, justice and human rights, while in reality they yearn for Israel's destruction.
The term "social justice" is nothing new in today's world but may represent new ways of thinking among many who advocate for full equality in our society. Among many African Americans, the mere notion of social justice can be a constant reminder that institutionalized forms of racism still exist across all sectors of our society.
The reality of racism remains a constant force of evil that must be confronted by all Americans who subscribe to the basic principles that gave birth to America. Yet even among African Americans, there are divergent views about the concept of social justice and what it means in the larger context. This has particular relevance to many of the current events taking place in the Middle East and in the state of Israel.
To place this issue in some historical perspective, it should be noted that the murder of six million Jews was a causative factor in the creation of the state of Israel. Israel's basic right to exist represents a foundational principle of social justice.
Interestingly enough, there is growing trend is to regard Palestinians as "people of color" as they continue to superimpose BDS on racial and other protest movements, even as violence by BDS supporters, and their "intersectional" allies, undermines their broader appeal.
It is predominately on the political Left where the adaptation of the Palestinian cause as their own under the guise of "intersectionality," a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s to highlight the dual oppressions faced by black women—sexism and racism—and the feminist and anti-racism movements that failed to fully represent and advocate for them. Currently, it has become a slogan under which minority groups join to fight what critics see as unrelated battles, but what activists see as iterations of the same struggle for justice.
As it is clearly articulated by the 2015 Black Solidarity Statement with Palestine: "Palestinian liberation represents an inherent threat to Israeli settler colonialism and apartheid, an apparatus built and sustained on ethnic cleansing, land theft, and the denial of Palestinian humanity and sovereignty. While we acknowledge that the apartheid configuration in Israel/Palestine is unique from the United States (and South Africa), we continue to see connections between the situation of Palestinians and Black people.
"Israel's widespread use of detention and imprisonment against Palestinians evokes the mass incarceration of Black people in the US, including the political imprisonment of our own revolutionaries. Soldiers, police, and courts justify lethal force against us and our children who pose no imminent threat. And while the US and Israel would continue to oppress us without collaborating with each other, we have witnessed police and soldiers from the two countries train side-by-side."
The deliberate distortion of historical realities, fueled by those who oppose Israel's right to exist, tends to make the path to peace in the Middle East more challenging than it already is. Clearly, there are many difficult issues that need to be resolved between Israel and the Palestinians, starting with a functioning Palestinian Authority (PA) removed from Islamist influence- something that has yet to be seen.
For many African Americans, the notion of social justice is indeed a complex phenomenon, and Palestinians are viewed as people of color and Israelis are viewed as white Europeans. There are, however, large numbers of Jews of color, many of whom support the Jewish homeland and call for peace in the Middle East.
Groups like BLM have distorted the reality of the Middle East and have thereby pushed many African-Americans to make assumptions and conclusions based on falsehoods and misinformation. BLM statements are anti-Semitic not only because they are false and modern versions of tradition anti-Semitic blood libel, but also because BLM selectively chooses the Jewish state out of all the states in the world to demonize. The façade has fed into the worldview of intersectionality that has divided the world into a conspiracy of oppressors and an agony of oppressed: Victimizers and victims.
Finally, in a time where universalism trumps particularism, we see more individuals lacking any sense of history or collective memory, thereby generating a postmodernist form of social justice that seeks not equal treatment for all, but rather an equality of outcomes by erasing the same systems that developed the West at large.
Earl Bowen Jr., PhD, serves as an associate rabbi at Congregation Temple Beth El, incorporated in 1956, a predominantly African American Synagogue located in Philadelphia; Asaf Romirowsky, PhD, is the executive director of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) and a fellow at the Middle East Forum.