On the 14th day of nationwide protests against police brutality and a demonstratively racist criminal justice system, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), otherwise known as the cornerstone of the “Israeli Lobby,” finally released a statement about the killing of George Floyd.
“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Black community in its ongoing struggle for the same rights and respect to which all Americans are entitled. The scourge of racism and respect to which all Americans are entitled,” said AIPAC.
If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the sound of senior AIPAC employees choking on their words, for this is a statement the pro-Israel lobby group did not want to make – mostly because it views the Black Lives Matter movement as a threat to its racist Zionist agenda, or specifically its effort to whitewash and deny Israel’s brutal subjugation and abuse of the Palestinian people.
When Black Lives Matter protesters took to the streets across the country in 2016 to protest against the police killings of unarmed black men in Minnesota and Louisiana, anti-colonial movements, including Palestinian liberation groups, were incorporated into what had by then become a global solidarity movement.
Israel’s ire was invoked when Black Lives Matter endorsed the BDS movement, describing Israel as an “apartheid state.”
Israel’s ire was invoked when Black Lives Matter endorsed the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement, describing Israel as an “apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people.” It is because of these realities on the ground that AIPAC spends $10 million USD every year in political donations to members of the US Congress to prevent BDS from becoming mainstream or political orthodoxy of either political party.
It’s not only AIPAC’s support and whitewashing of Israel’s system of segregation and apartheid that makes its public support of Black Lives Matter hollow and hypocritical, however, but also the way in which it says nothing of how Israel goes to great and deliberate lengths to marginalize and stigmatize black Ethiopian Jews.
In fact, Israel has enacted laws that either deny the migration of the Ethiopian Jews, or classify them as second-class citizens. It even excludes them from its “Law of Return” because under strict interpretation of religious law, Israel does not consider Ethiopian Jews to be Jewish, and thus forces them to overcome deliberately constructed hurdles and barriers built into the immigration process.
Israel does not consider Ethiopian Jews to be Jewish, and forces them to overcome deliberately constructed hurdles built into the immigration process.
“It is only the Ethiopian Jewish community, not the Americans, not the Russians, not Europeans. If this isn’t discrimination, what do you call it?” asks Avraham Neguise, chair of the Knesset’s Absorption and Diaspora Committee. “You cannot find any other communities where the parent is here and children are there, and children are here and parents are there, and are forced to be separated.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has long smeared African asylum seekers as “infiltrators” and a “concrete threat to the Jewish and democratic character of the country.” His view is shared by pretty much all corners of Israeli civil and political society, with politicians and pundits on both sides of the spectrum promising to save Israel from the “African menace.” Indeed, in 2018, former Internal Affairs Minister Eli Ysiahi warned that Ethiopian Jews threaten the “Zionist dream.”
Others are even more frank in their attitudes towards black migrants. “The migration from Africa…is about to sentence us to death, and every person that aids foreigners who enter the country is chopping off the tree-branch that we are sitting on and is threatening the lives of every single one of us,” said Ilhan Tsion, a lobbyist for the right wing political group Fence for Life.
Ethiopians who successfully arrived in the country have been met with unimaginable racism and discrimination.
As it stands today, roughly 7,000 Ethiopian Jews remain in their home country, awaiting approval to migrate to Israel. As to those who successfully arrived in the country during the two migration waves, they have been met with unimaginable racism and discrimination at the hands of both the public and private sectors.
Ethiopian women have been subjected to forced contraceptive programs, which by design has caused a plummeting birth rate within the community. Their blood donations have been secretly destroyed by the government out of racist fears Africans are “disease carriers,” while brutal policing policies have unfairly targeted their neighborhoods.
“It is terribly confusing, this combination of being both black and Jewish,” writes Efrat Yerday, an Israeli citizen of Ethiopian background. “It is confusing because racism based on skin color does not differentiate between citizens and non-citizens, between Muslims and Jews, and if Israel is instinctively against blacks then there is no reason it will not be against me too.”
These are the policies of racism and discrimination that AIPAC tacitly supports and vigorously defends against those critical of Israel’s domestic policies. Therefore, when AIPAC describes George Floyd’s death as a “shattering reminder of the injustice and inequities that Black Americans still endure” in the United States, and that the “scourge of racism, intolerance and inequality must end,” you can be sure those words are hollow, hypocritical, and forced.
As is the case of white supremacy in America, Israel views Black Lives Matter as an existential threat. The rest is just public relations.
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