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A Jewish Perspective on Racism and Riots - CAEF Bulletin June 5, 2020

Being an ”Ally” in More than Words and Acknowledging Jewish Diversity

CAEF deplores the victimization of any people, the callous murder of George Floyd and of other Black men and women in America and in Canada, by people in uniform who are hired to protect individuals and communities, businesses and property, and who need to be the model of civility and respect for the law. We cannot support the riots that have arisen; they are not a road to justice. The riots have endangered the lives of people across communities, destroyed property and livelihoods. They have led to callous deaths, harm directly to Black communities, and given rise to racial divisiveness and antisemitic attacks as well.

Jews are a minority people with a long history of victimization, harassment, discrimination, terrorism and murder. So, where do we stand and what should we do in support of others who are maltreated?

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Past generations of Jews were not welcome in various institutions of government, academia, professions, public and private spaces, and social clubs. Signs actually existed in Toronto that read “No Jews Allowed.” Somehow it seems that the goal of acceptance became assimilation and thus “whiteness.” Economic opportunity and success, and access to institutions and the highest echelons of political life were the sine qua non of “having made it.” But, have Jews indeed “made it?”

Reprinted from the Ontario Jewish Archives, sign at Jackson’s Point, ON 1938

Included in the delusional abysmal antisemitic rhetoric against Israel is the offending claim that Jews are “white and colonial”, so let’s review history and facts, and disavow the propaganda. This does not mean pretending that the majority of Jews don’t enjoy what comes with “white privilege” in Western Society, but it does mean debunking myths that suggest Jews are oppressors, and that Israel came into being as a colonial white European project.

Here are a few choice facts: Jews come in all colours! Jews in America are descended from Africa, the Middle East, East, West and Central Europe, Latin and Central America, Asia, and every other place where humans have inhabited. Jews in China are Chinese, Jews from Arab countries are Middle Eastern/Arab, Jews in Ethiopia are Ethiopian/African, and Jews in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Brazil etc are Latino. There are Jews in Madagascar, Zimbabwe, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kenya, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon, Burma, Nigeria, UAE, Bahrain, and probably every other country in the world. Today about 12-20% of Jews in America consider themselves “people of colour.” I summarize this because Jews of all types, colours, ethnicities, denominations, incomes, places of origin, mother tongue, gender or other defining characteristics must stand together, and not apart.

Emerson Swift Mahon, native of Grenada, first Black Jew in Canada 1912, photo from CJN March 7, 2019

Being of light or “white” skin doesn’t make Jews part of an oppressor class, any more than all other white people are oppressors, but in recent times it is a new, irrational stereotype used to demonize Jews and Israel. Identity politics chooses to categorize everyone by the number of “groups” one belongs to, but we should counter that: Jews are Jews and one diverse family! Racism cuts in all directions and is harmful to all peoples.

The horrible, excessive force used by a white policeman that caused the death of George Floyd was seen by the world. It was and is tragic, but not because of this one single brutal act, but because of serial acts of force used against the Black population, by people with power, control, weaponry and racist ideologies. This incident has spawned protests and riots, the latter of which are not going to resolve issues of racist discrimination.

Jews need to stand up against racism because it is wrong, inhuman, unjustified, disgusting and uncivil. We should make common cause with people of goodwill who are doing more than just speaking out. But we should not align ourselves with those who speak against racism while demonizing Jews, castigating Israel, denying the right of existence of the nation state of Israel, and spreading antisemitic hatred. There are many and varied views on how we might best reach out, be a true ally and not merely a hashtag protestor. Black Lives Matter is in association with the BDS movement and that is a hateful bigoted, destructive movement against the Jewish state. Seek out other avenues to support and collaborate with organizations that are true allies, and don’t accept the convenience of associating with those whose message includes antisemitism. There have been a number of articles by Jews lately saying that this is not the time to worry about the anti-Israel platform of Black Lives Matter because solidarity with Blacks over the murder of George Floyd is far more important, but we disagree.

Below are excerpts from a policy paper found on the BLM website titled, Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom and Justice, and they are categorized under several areas for action being state, federal and local. The article that drew attention to this was published on June 4th, 2020 on the blog site of the Elder of Ziyon, titled Black lives matter, but don’t support Black Lives Matter. Here are excerpts from the paper posted on the website of Black Lives Matter:

“The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people. The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US­ made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funnelled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much-needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Every day, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US ­funded apartheid wall. “

“Build invest/divestment campaigns that ends US Aid to Israel’s military-industrial complex and any government with human rights violations.”

“Organize campaigns against G4S and other global private prison companies that are profiting from the shackling of our community in the US, in Palestine, in Brazil and around the world.”

“Fight the expanding number of Anti­-BDS bills being passed in states around the country. This type of legislation not only harms the movement to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine, but is a threat to the constitutional right to free speech and protest.”

Standing up for injustice is a way of being a true ally. Allies support one another. Stand against antisemitism and racism in our own community and the wider community. Consider the words of two Black men who are reaching out to Jews and non-Jews in asking for support and changes that will benefit everyone: Anthony Johnson is an ordained minister and Tiger Woods, a famous golf champion. Consider these messages.

Some important positive messages for Jews and non-Jews


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