This statement was first drafted two weeks ago to address the nationwide crisis of anti-Black police violence and show solidarity with nationwide Black Lives Matter organizing. It has since been updated to address disturbing anti-Black and anti-Palestinian actions taken by members of the organized US Jewish community in response to the release of the Movement for Black Lives Platform.
The Jews of Color Caucus, organized in partnership with Jewish Voice for Peace, is in solidarity and co-resistance with the Movement for Black Lives, a feminist and intersectional struggle dedicated to fighting systematic violence against Black people in the United States. #BlackLivesMatter (BLM) works in concert with other longstanding intercommunal and transnational organizing to push for change across the country and around the world. We honor and celebrate the many modes of resistance BLM has taken recently, from street protests in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, to the #FreedomSquare encampment in Chicago, and WNBA players protests across the country. We also laude recent protests in France and the UK resisting police violence against Black people, while including the plight of refugees in their struggle.
Together, we mourn the televised police murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and Korryn Gaines, along with the 573 others slain by police this year. We also mourn those killed in police custody, like Sandra Bland, Elliot Williams, Natasha Mckenna and Freddie Gray. We call for those responsible for these killings to be held accountable. As a group that seeks to center disability justice in our organizing, we condemn the racialized ableist violence that is a major factor in many of these state-sponsored deaths. This was exemplified most recently in the shooting of Charles Kinsey, a Black caregiver wounded by North Miami police who claim they were trying to shoot Arnaldo Rios-Soto, Kinsey’s distressed autistic patient. Black people, regardless of ability, have reasonable fear of police in this country, and we reject attempts to trivialize this justified fear.
In this particularly painful moment we reach out to the Black Jewish members of our constituency, who in addition to the struggle of being Black in the United States, face white supremacy and erasure in the broader Jewish community. Extending BLM’s transnational focus on dismantling state-sanctioned anti-Black racism across the globe, we are also in solidarity with Ethiopian Jews protesting police violence and racial profiling in Israel, following the death of Joseph Salamsa and many others. We mourn them with you. Our hearts go out to the often forgotten victims of Israeli anti-Black violence: Sudanese and Eritrean refugees, Afro-Palestinians, and Black Hebrews. Your struggle must not be erased because your identities don’t grant you citizenship or fit into the common logics of Israeli nationalism. We extend this solidarity without placing conditions on personal beliefs or state affiliation, because racist state-violence is never justified.
The Movement for Black Lives Platform:
As a caucus we fully endorse the Movement for Black Lives Platform in its entirety without reservation. We do this first and foremost because it was created as “a response to the sustained and increasingly visible violence against Black communities in the U.S. and globally.” This fact must be foregrounded in all discussions of the Platform, which was created to protect Black Lives.
We are appalled at the actions of the white US institutional Jewish community in detracting and distracting from such a vital platform at a time when Black lives are on the line, simply because the organizers chose to align their struggle with the plight of Palestinians. US Black relationships to Palestine and Israel have never been monolithic, but there are deep historical ties between Black and Palestinian struggle that go back to the Black Power Era. Any attempt to co-opt Black struggle while demeaning these connections, is an act of anti-Black erasure.
We recognize that the backlash experienced by BLM activists is part of a white supremacist power structure that is trying to maintain the status quo. We call upon the Jewish community to defend BLM activists from this backlash, especially since many Jewish institutions themselves have contributed to it by making the sweeping claim that solidarity between Black struggle in the U.S. and Palestine is antisemitic.
Similarly, Jewish organizations fail Black people when they intentionally avoid critique of Israel in their solidarity with BLM. Israeli state violence has long targeted Black lives alongside Palestinians, and hiding under the pretense of focusing solely on “domestic issues” does not absolve US Jewish groups of complicity with and perpetuation of Israeli anti-Black racism and settler colonialism. We reject attacks on Palestinian organizers, who are condemned as anti-semitic for simply talking about their own dispossession and struggle. Such condemnation is inaccurate, racist, and amounts to a violent form of silencing. We reject similar attacks targeted at Jews of Color and other Jews organizing in solidarity with Palestinians.
Furthermore, we condemn the delegitimization of Black and Palestinian struggle, especially by white Ashkenazi Jews that attempt to assert sole claim to the limits and bounds of what constitutes “actual” genocide. As a heterogenous Jewish people who have endured multiple genocides, the historical retellings of which have often erased the narratives of Jews of Color, we embrace rather than shut down the multiple uses of the term “genocide” for what it can reveal about our current crises. The violence experienced by Palestinians and by Black people at the hands of the state is well-documented, and is arguably genocidal, as many activists have claimed. To respond with specific markers that are unmet in the current genocide against Black people and Palestinians is an act of violence and complicity in the systemic, state-sanctioned murder of Black people and Palestinians.
Recent statements by the Boston JCRC, Truah: the Rabbinic Council for Human Rights, and The Union for Reform Judaism condemning the BLM Platform also send the message that the lives of Black Jews (along with Black gentiles) directly affected by US police brutality are less important than protecting Israel from scrutiny. We reject this message and call on these groups to commit themselves to honor the leadership of Jews of Color, including those critical of Israel.
Police Exchange Programs Between the US and Israel
As a group that organizes for racial justice specifically in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for liberation, we resoundingly echo #ATLisReady’s demands that Atlanta police cease coordination with ICE, and that Georgia end’s its police exchange program with Israel. We roundly condemn Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s refusal to honor this demand, an act that legitimizes both US and Israeli racist police violence.
Police exchange programs with Israel are widespread in the United States, and can be tied to abusive tactics used against protesters in communities like St Louis, New York City, and Oakland. Atlanta’s Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program sends US police to Israel to learn violent and Islamophobic “counterterrorism” methods tested on Palestinians living under occupation, and brings Israeli police officers to Atlanta where they learn tactics of the US War on Drugs, which are later deployed against mostly Palestinian, Mizrahi, and Ethiopian communities.
Israeli police routinely kill Palestinians (and sometimes those racialized as such) accused of political violence, part of a culture of extrajudicial killings often accompanied by mob brutality. This was exemplified in the police killing of Fadi Aloun, and the combination police-shooting and lynching of Eritrean refugee Haftom Zarhum last year.
While US and Israeli methods of militarized policing developed in separate contexts, the extent to which they mutually inform and expand on each other should be cause for alarm to all those committed to racial justice. As those promoting militarized police violence against our communities form alliances, so must those organizing in resistance to them. As Jews of Color in solidarity with Palestinians, we feel doubly committed to ending race-based international state violence.
The US Prison Divestment movement and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeking to divest from Israeli Apartheid have long worked together on university campuses and in municipal governments, often targeting companies like G4S that profit from both struggles. As a caucus, we commit to supporting and building on this work that directly targets those profiting from police murder from the US to Palestine.
-We call on the US Jewish community to end its legitimization of anti-Black racism through its combined attacks on the Black Lives Matter Platform and U.S. Palestine solidarity. We call on the US Jewish groups that have engaged in this anti-Black violence to retract their racist and harmful statements.
-We call on the US Jewish community to end its legitimization of US and Israeli state-violence, police militarization, and violence through its role in promoting and organizing police exchange programs that directly contribute to violence against Black and Brown people in the US, Palestinians, and Jews of Color.
-We call on the US Jewish community to examine the ways it promotes an image of Jews as necessarily “white allies” to Black struggle, thereby erasing the strong presence and leadership of Black Jews.
-We call on the mainstream US-based Zionist movement to stop simultaneously promoting tactics that harm Jews of Color while erasing Jew of Color struggle. We call on you to cease the use of our bodies as a moral shield for Israeli occupation.