Black history month, which occurs in February, can be so much more than acknowledging the accomplishments of African Americans. It acts as a call to action to continue the fight for equality. While we have come a long way from the Civil Rights Movement, we still have a long way to go. The police should not be called because two African American men are waiting for a colleague at a Starbucks or because an African American student falls asleep in the common room. African Americans should not be incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. These issues will not solve themselves.
But I have come to a crossroads. While I am passionate about fighting for what’s right, the problem I now face is deciding if I can join a movement such as The Black Lives Matter platform, which contains an idea I fundamentally disagree with. In the Black Lives Matter platform, they state, “Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people.” Personally, I consider myself a proud Zionist. While I do not agree with every action that Israel takes, I do not believe that Israel is an apartheid state. So, what do I do?
The issue at hand is far more complicated. The fact that the Black Lives Matter Movement decided to make a statement about the conflict in the Middle East does not upset me because everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, I do not think that it was necessary for this Movement to take such a strong and public stance on the Middle East conflict, given its complicated history. Additionally, the main purpose of the Black Lives Matter Movement is “to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes,” but calling Israel an apartheid state does not align with this mission. In fact, I feel that the Movement has even isolated themselves from some Jews who support the Black Lives Matter platform but disagree with their stance on Israel. The Jewish people have a history of being persecuted and victimized, so I think it is important for the two communities to work in partnership.
So, what do I do now? Do I have to make a choice between fighting to end racism and standing with Israel? Personally, I think the answer is no. I should not have to pick one issue that I am passionate about and forget about all of the others. I plan on supporting Israel by not joining the Black Lives Matter Movement, but I can fight for racial equality by taking other action such as calling my representatives in Congress and asking them to write legislation that improves our criminal justice system. I hope to find an organization that supports me for being a Zionist and works to fight against racism. I believe that I can make a difference without compromising my beliefs towards Israel.
Liora Reiken is a senior at White Plains High School. She is a Staff Writer for Fresh Ink for Teens, a Jewish Week publication written by High School students across the U.S.