Movement for Black Lives backs leaders hit with anti-Semitism smears

The Movement for Black Lives comes out in support of Black progressive leaders such as Ilhan Omar, Angela Davis, and Marc Lamont Hill, who have been targeted for speaking out in favor of Palestinian rights.

U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. (Leopaltik1242/CC BY-SA 4.0)
U.S. Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. (Leopaltik1242/CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a coalition of more than 50 organizations representing black Americans, this week came out strongly in support of Black progressive leaders who have spoken out in favor of Palestinian rights and defending them against charges of anti-Semitism they have faced as a result.

Charges of anti-Semitism against progressive black Americans, the movement said in a statement, have been “leveled to silence criticism of the Israeli government, to regulate behavior and to try and mute independent Black political voices that are connected to communities across the country and abroad.”

The last few years have seen an increasing number of prominent Black Americans openly criticizing the policies of the Israeli government. In recent months, that criticism has exacted a price, with American pro-Israel groups accusing figures such as Angela Davis, Michelle Alexander, Marc Lamont Hill, and recently Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, of anti-Semitism.

For Davis, her support for BDS led to a prestigious civil rights award being rescinded following pressure by pro-Israel groups (the decision was later annulled, following backlash). For Hill, espousing freedom and equality for Israelis and Palestinians alike meant losing his job as a CNN commentator. For Omar, it meant facing the wrath of one of the most powerful lobbies in the United States.

“We categorically reject the erroneous assumption that all criticism of the Israeli government is anti-Semitic,” continued the statement. “This strategy, that has included things like firings and public character assassinations of leaders, is intended to undermine, censor and silence Black leadership, while ignoring our movement’s history of internationalism, particularly our consistent condemnation of all forms of anti-Semitism.”

The attacks, which M4BL likened to the McCarthyist witch-hunts of the 1950s, are part of the right’s attempts to distort the “history of anti-Jewish violence and oppression, then use this misrepresentation as a tool to promote a right-wing nationalist agenda — at home and abroad,”it said.

“[The] long-standing aversion to Black leaders expressing views on foreign policy persists today because of anti-Black racism and a fear of solidarity across movements in this country and abroad,” the statement continued.

Black Lives Matter activists organize a die-in action outside Memorial Church in Harvard University on December 7, 2014 in Cambridge, Mass. (Tess Scheflan/
Black Lives Matter activists organize a die-in action outside Memorial Church in Harvard University on December 7, 2014 in Cambridge, Mass. (Tess Scheflan/

This is not the first time M4BL has spoken out on issues relating to Palestinian human rights. In 2016, the movement published a comprehensive platform that addresses the systemic racism and violence faced by Black communities.

The platform also demanded the U.S. government cut foreign aid to Israel, among other human rights abusers, and redirect it toward “domestic infrastructure and social programs to meet the needs of Black people and working-class communities within the U.S.”

The movement was heavily criticized at the time for claiming that the United States government, through its funding of the Israeli military and arms industry, “is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”