The Black Lives Matter movement can take credit for having forced Israel to back off, even if only partially and temporarily. It is an example of international solidarity in action which goes all the way back to 2014.
In that year, the black community in Ferguson rose up almost as one person after Michael Brown was killed by the police. They were met with repression, including heavy tear gas. 6500 miles away, people in Gaza were under heavy bombardment from Israel. Despite having to deal with that attack, they sent tweets to Ferguson’s black community, expressing solidarity and explaining how to deal with tear gas. Now, the black community of Ferguson, and the entire Black Lives Matter movement, has returned the favor. It was this movement that set in motion a chain of events that resulted in the cease-fire in Israel/Palestine. (See this short interview in Ferguson in 2014:)
Those who doubt the connection should consider the chain of events:
On May 10, formal military hostilities opened up between Hamas and Israel. This had followed weeks of Israeli attacks on worshippers at al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem as well as plans to evict Palestinian families in Sheik Jarrah.
Three days into the Israeli slaughter, Biden commented that “Israel has a right to defend itself.” This is the classic dog whistle for the meme: “Israel is the victim and they are just defending themselves.” Biden’s support for Israeli war crimes was met with an outcry from within his own party. This was really a first. The Washington Post reported on the several comments: “The president needs to tell Netanyahu to stop,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). Of Biden’s response, he said, “I think it has to be much stronger.”
Representative Debbie Dingell (D, Mich.) commented on the Arab community in her district: “I’ve lived in this community for 30 years. These are very intense, passionate and caring people, and they did not believe that in the midst of a war in the Middle East that their voices should not be heard because many of them have family there, and they are deeply concerned.”
The evolution of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is also instructive. In 2018, she appeared on PBS’s “Firingline” and when questioned on the issue of Israel-Palestine started off with the ritual assertion that “Israel has a right to exist.” Then, when challenged on calling Israel’s occupation of the West Bank what it is – an occupation – she said: “I am not the expert in geopolitics…. I may not use the right words.” And she said that “of course” she’d be happy to talk with “leaders” in Washington DC on the issue and also willing to visit Israel (presumably as a guest of the Israeli regime).
Now, two days after Biden’s apology for Israel, Ocasio Cortez commented on the floor of congress, “Do Palestinians have a right to survive? Do we believe that? And if so, we have a responsibility to that as well.” She later more directly criticized Biden, tweeting, “If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to?”
Representative Cori Bush, whose district includes Ferguson and whose election can be attributed to the uprising in that city, directly linked the two issues. She promised to “fight for our rights in Palestine and in Ferguson,”
Even the main leadership of the party in congress showed a slight shift. The Washington Post reported “Even longtime Israel hawks such as Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) have shown a sensitivity to the shifting winds in their party with carefully worded comments suggesting they would not always march in lockstep with the Israeli government.”
Led by Ocasio-Cortez, several Democrats in congress then moved to block a $735 million arms sale to Israel. Nobody expected that sale not to go through, but the fact that there was opposition was significant.
As a result of these “shifting winds”, according to AP and other sources, on Wednesday, May 19, Biden told Netanyahu that he expected “a significant de-escalation”. Netanyahu in effect told Biden buzz off. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that the majority within Israel opposed a cease fire, the very next day he accepted exactly that – a cease-fire/
Where to from here?
Palestinians celebrated the cease-fire as a victory, and so it was to an extent. Netanyahu and his racist base had wanted to kill a lot more people in Gaza and reduce many more buildings and infrastructure to rubble. The pressure from the US – mostly behind the scenes – forced him to stop, at least for now. In order to placate his racist base, Netanyahu immediately sent his forces into al-Aqsa Mosque to attack Palestinian worshippers there. A remaining question is whether the Israeli supreme court will okay yet another land theft in the eviction of Palestinian families from Sheik Jarrah.
That is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Zionism has gone too far to turn back. A recent column in the NY Times (long an uncritical supporter of Israel) was entitled “Israel Is Falling Apart, Because the Conflict Controls Us” The subtitle was “Our politics are stalled. Our democracy is in tatters. Blame the occupation.” From LGBTQ rights to simple democracy, everything in Israeli politics is taking a back seat to repressing the Palestinians, the article explained. “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict dominates Israeli politics, muscling out sound policymaking in other critical areas of life. The conflict is suffocating liberal values, eroding Israel’s democratic institutions. Israeli leadership at large is collapsing under its weight,” it said. In other words, the occupation of the West Bank is not even serving the interests of the Israeli capitalist class. That’s because it is hindering rational (for them) domestic policy and, most important, inhibiting trade relations and export of capital to the surrounding countries. But what can they do? The hounds have been set loose and they won’t return to the kennel willingly.
The situation is not as extreme but also not all that different here in the US, where even a sane policy regarding Covid 19 is inhibited by the Trump crazies. Biden and company are having enormous difficulties even getting a huge sector of the population to get vaccinated due to the conspiracy theories. Another important source of instability is the racism and brutality of the police here. They continue to frame up, brutalize and murder anybody they wish, black people especially. The hope was that a conviction of Chauvin would start to rein them in, but it has not. So a movement will continue here, too.
Cori Bush unintentionally made clear the connections: “As someone who has been brutalized by police, I continue to stand in strong solidarity with Palestinians rising up against military, police, and state violence. Congress must stop funding human rights abuses by the Israeli military.” she tweeted.
To sum up: The continued protests against racist murders by the police in the US reached a crescendo last summer after the murder of George Floyd. An estimated 6 million participated in the George Floyd protests. This has had a major effect on the consciousness in the U.S., making people a lot more aware of the issue of white supremacy. This awareness has been transferred to the international arena, specifically Israel’s racist policies. That is what Cori Bush expressed in so many words and what the shift in the Democratic Party reflects. However, the Democratic Party will continue to support Israel, just as it continues to support the police here at home. In both cases, just a few reforms are all that is needed, according to the Democrats.
Therefore, the next logical and necessary step is for the heightened consciousness about racism and oppression (as well as economic attacks) to express itself through an organization, meaning a working class party in the United States, with that party linking up with the struggles of workers and the oppressed around the world – from Palestine to Burma and all points in between.