Over the past few months, several Black progressive leaders have been attacked for supporting Palestinian human rights; most notably, Angela Y. Davis, Marc Lamont Hill and the Hon. Ilhan Omar. In each case, the charge of anti-Semitism was 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.
We categorically reject the erroneous assumption that all criticism of the Israeli government is anti-Semitic. 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. We see this to be a strategy of the political right wing to misrepresent the very real 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. Our opponents are employing these tactics to divide our movements because when we’re aligned, we move our communities and the nation closer to achieving the more just and humane world we all deserve.
Despite any and all efforts to silence us, we will continue to stand with Davis, Hill, Omar and others around the world, whom as a matter of conscience and courage, are speaking out against the Israeli government’s discriminatory and violent treatment of the Palestinian people.
The recent attacks on prominent activists are both racist and strategically disingenuous. They remind us of the McCarthyism of the 1950s. This was a time of blacklisting, loyalty oaths, and political persecution. In the 1960s and 70s, groups like the Black Panther Party, which endured extreme surveillance and political assaults because of its opposition to the Vietnam war, and SNCC for its vocal opposition to both the Vietnam war and apartheid in South Africa, suffered harassment and violent repression. This 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. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. publicly condemned the war in Vietnam, naming militarism and capitalism as central evils behind it, he was told he should only speak on so-called ‘Negro issues,’ and that belief is at the foundation of the attacks our leaders are facing today.
We also recognize that Black leaders are often uniquely persecuted for the reprehensible beliefs and statements held by those who we are not in political relationship with. We condemn those beliefs and know that these divisive attacks often serve the same emboldened right-wing that seeks to silence dissent on Palestinian human rights.
We are committed to fighting for the liberation of all Black people, but we know that our liberation is tied up in the liberation of all oppressed people here and around the world.
Our movements are rooted in the tradition of radical love and resistance that calls us to acknowledge, value and fight for the humanity, safety and dignity of all people. Angela Davis, Ilhan Omar, Marc Lamont Hill, Michelle Alexander and so many others stand in that tradition, and we stand with them. We’re calling people of conscious to stand with us and to stand behind the leaders enduring these attacks.