A new program to get Black support for the Jewish state is set to launch in October. But can it work?
The battle between Palestine and Israel has been going on for decades now, and the recent prisoner trade between the warring groups is a relatively calm moment in an otherwise tumultuous relationship. Their fight will go on, and part of the battle is for the sympathies and loyalties of people abroad. In a new tactic, Israel is now reaching out to the Black community for support. Can this relationship work?
A group called Christians United for Israel, the largest non-Jewish pro-Israel group in America, is set to hold two major events in New York next month in order to coax African-Americans into its fold.
“The biblical argument is our first and strongest motivation for supporting Israel, but the next motivation should be this joint history,” Michael Stevens, CUFI’s coordinator of African-American outreach, told Forward, a Jewish publication. “I firmly believe that Dr. Martin Luther King was a strong African-American Zionist, but I think nine out of 10 African-Americans don’t know that.”
Stevens’s events, called “Gatherings of Solidarity With the State of Israel,” will be held mostly in Black churches around New York, and they’ll focus on reminding “the African-American community about its pro-Zionist core belief, which stems from God’s biblical promise to ‘bless those who bless Israel,’” according to Forward.
Regardless of how the CUFI goes about courting Blacks, its mission is going to be a difficult one. Though Blacks and Jews worked together often during the Civil Rights era, later, especially in New York City, Black-Jewish relations have been occasionally turbulent. Beyond that, some in the African-American community have a history of painting Israel as an oppressive white nation that subjugates the brown people of Palestine. As Forward notes, “Attempts by Jewish organizations to pull back African-Americans from the left-wing perspective were mostly unsuccessful.”
In the end, it sounds like getting more Black proponents of Israel is going to be as complex as the Israel and Palestine debate itself. But African-Americans themselves should be able to understand both sides: Palestine’s, which is fighting perceived oppression, and Israel’s, which is fighting bigots who say it should be decimated.
(Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun)