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Black and Jewish communities stand together against hate

The only way to create meaningful change to come together and bridge the divide with those who appear different.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the civil-rights march in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the civil-rights march in Washington, D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963. Credit: National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.
Joshua Washington
Joshua Washington

You don’t have to look far to see hate and division tearing apart our communities. But it’s our own fault. We otherize people who appear different from ourselves. People who look differently, speak differently, vote differently—these people are our enemies, and so is anyone who might dare to suggest that we try to see past these differences. The problem with this tribal logic is that no one has ever accomplished meaningful change alone.

Racial tensions in this country are as high as they have ever been in the modern era. The only way we can create meaningful change is by coming together with those who appear different from us and recognizing what we have in common. Bridging this divide is exactly what the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel (IBSI) is focused on.

IBSI is dedicated to strengthening the relationship between Israel and the Jewish people and people of African descent through education and advocacy. We condemn divisive rhetoric claiming “Zionism is racism,” defend Israel’s right to live in peace with its Arab neighbors and seek to help cultivate a mutually beneficial Israel-Africa alliance. The Jewish people have long been an indispensable ally in our fight for civil justice. We must stop playing identity politics with our lives.

During the 1960s, the Jewish community came out in droves to march with our brethren. Their voices joined ours in demanding equal rights and equal justice for black Americans. We have been held down by our necks in this country for over 200 hundred years, but the Jewish people have been persecuted across history. They know our pain and our struggle and they have not stood by silently while we fought for breath. That is why it is so disheartening to see fringe groups exploiting the Black cause to take cheap shots at Israel.

Groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and other anti-Israel organizations are trying to co-opt the black struggle for their own political purposes. Their mistake was thinking that the black community is either dumb or gullible. We know what we’re fighting for. The demonization of the Jewish people—who have been unrelenting in their support for the black community—is counterproductive to our cause.

IBSI stands with Israel because, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world and a marvelous example of what can be done.” He called Israel “an oasis of brotherhood and democracy.” Whereas on the other hand, anti-Israel Arabs like Hamas condone and benefit from the trafficking and sale of African slaves. Anti-Israel groups can’t claim solidarity with the black cause while standing in the shadows of their own hypocrisy.

The black community and the Jewish community have a shared history of persecution. Whenever anti-Israel activists try to turn the black community against Israel and our Jewish neighbors, it rings hollow. We know that the Jewish community is full of our brothers and sisters in the fight for civil justice and no anti-Israel smear campaign is going to wash away the bonds of shared battles we have fought together or that of those still to come.

Joshua Washington is the director of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel.

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