The Black Lives Matter Movement Can Learn From Civil Rights Leaders Of The Past


Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Heschel were “prophetic voices” in the 1960s. In the photo we see them crossing the Pettus Bridge together in a Civil Rights march in Selma, Alabama in 1965. They both fought against racism and bigotry. And they both held their ground for what they believed in; for what was right.

Dr. King was a black Baptist preacher from the South. Rabbi Heschel was a Jew and Biblical scholar who came from Poland. Who knew that they would become close friends and fight alongside for the civil rights of African Americans and for Jews to live peacefully in their ancestral homeland; the land of Israel?

Susannah Heschel recounts this story about her father and Dr. King:
“The last time we were with Dr. King was when he spoke to a Rabbinical Assembly convention at the Concord Hotel in March of 1968, at a gathering of rabbis honoring my father. As Dr. King entered the hall, the rabbis stood up, linked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome” in Hebrew, as a tribute to him. In introducing Dr. King to the rabbis, my father asked, “Where in America today do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel? Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America.” A few weeks later, Dr. King was hoping to join my family for the Passover Seder; instead, that terrible spring, my father read a psalm at Dr. King’s funeral.”

In light of the unfortunate recent entanglement between the Movement of Black Lives Matter and the bellicose BDS crowd, championed by Jewish Voice for Peace, a couple of quotes are appropriate. We need to listen to the voices of King and Heschel, as they were committed to prophetic struggle and activism.

Martin Luther King said;
“Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood (sic) and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”        

A well-known quote from Abraham Heschel bears repeating:
“For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.” 

Now is the time to listen and then to act. Jewish Voice for Peace and BDS are highjacking the Black Lives Matter movement for their own gain. On their website JVP states, “Jewish Voice for Peace is following the leadership of Jews of Color in partnership with JVP as to how we can best contribute to realizing the demands and vision for Black lives laid out in the inspiring, bold Movement for Black Lives platform. Because the leadership team of JVP is currently all white Ashkenazi Jews, we are slowing down to ensure our members who are Jews of Color can lead the way, particularly in matters of racial justice… JVP endorses the Movement for Black Lives platform in its entirety, without reservation.”

The Movement for Black Lives states in their platform, “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.”  It goes on to accuse Israel of being apartheid.

The Movement for Black Lives began with clear focus and goals, but it is being corrupted by the lies and misinformation that is spewed from the mouths of those who either hate Jews or Israel or both and are taking advantage of the BLM Movement. To even consider that Israel is committing genocide is to betray what the word genocide actually means, which should immediately remind us of the Holocaust. And to accuse Israel of apartheid belittles the history of those who lived through apartheid in South Africa.

The Palestinians have their own governments. There are two: Hamas in Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The Palestinians have their own police force, health care, imported goods, banks, and schools.

These are the facts: It is not Israel who is oppressing the Palestinians; it is Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. Apartheid is carried out by their own leaders, with a stark difference between the haves and the have-nots. The Palestinian leaders are the ones lining their pockets with millions sent by the world of nations meant to build schools and playgrounds. The money given to Abbas in order to better the lives of his people ends up building personal mansions and amassing weapons. Hamas uses the money and cement supplies to build more terror tunnels and rocket launchers that will target Israeli civilians.

The problem is not Israel; it is Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. They train terrorists from the cradle to the grave. The young children are so brainwashed, they don’t know how to discern good from evil.
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas should be held accountable for crimes against humanity which would include what they do to their own people, as well as the violence that they have promoted and perpetrated against Israeli civilians.

Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Heschel would be ashamed to see what is going on now. I would urge my sisters and brothers in the Movement of Black Lives to reconsider the “plank” they have added to the Platform. We must stand as prophetic voices and put our hearts and our feet to our prayers like they did during the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. Maybe then will we find peace in the Middle East and here in America, but not until both sides here and abroad come to the table with open hands and open hearts.

Carla Brewington earned her doctorate at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. She is a Christian volunteer speaker for the Israel education organization StandWithUs. She can be reached at