Do black lives matter or do all lives matter? This question was posed to the Democratic presidential candidates during Tuesday’s debate. While the answers that were given highlighted some of the challenging racial issues we face as a nation, it was not the answers that concerned me – it was the question. Created in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering Trayvon Martin, Black Lives Matter has quickly grown into a powerful activist movement that has led the charge against law enforcement after the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Eric Garner in New York City and Freddie Gray in Baltimore. In a relatively short period of time, Black Lives Matter has pushed its way onto the national stage and forced national leaders to talk about the safety, security and rights of black Americans.
While there are aspects of the Black Lives Matter movement that disturb me greatly, including their support of the anti-Israel BDS movement, this is not why I was concerned by the fact that Anderson Cooper chose to ask a question about Black Lives Matter on Tuesday night. I have to give Black Lives Matter credit for pushing America out of our comfort zone and making all of us, not just national Democratic leaders, talk about the racial divide we must overcome as a nation. I was concerned by Cooper’s question because as it was asked, Israel was reeling from another day of terrorist attacks in which three Israelis were killed and another 20 were wounded – part of an endless series of bloody attacks that continue to rock the Jewish State even today. I was concerned because on Tuesday evening most major news outlets, including CNN, had either ignored or shared misleading information about what was going on in Israel. I was concerned because Israel was only mentioned once in passing during a good debate that included comprehensive answers to questions regarding major global issues like Syria and Putin. I was concerned because, while I knew what was going on in Israel, it appeared that mainstream America was oblivious to the crisis. Of course black lives matter, but given the bloodshed in Israel, I wanted to hear one of the most prestigious news organizations in the world get our candidates talking about the fact that Israeli lives matter. I was concerned because it didn’t happen.
Many in the pro-Israel community shared my concern. While some tried to blame this on the Democratic candidates, others tried to blame Anderson Cooper and CNN. There are those who argued that Israel’s absence in Tuesday’s debate shouldn’t just be blamed on CNN, but on the media in general which has poorly reported on the terror crisis. A few experts argued that Israel was not discussed on Tuesday because there really is not much our next President will be able to do to resolve the tension between Israelis and Palestinians. In my opinion, Anderson Cooper’s question about Black Lives Matter helped me understand that there is only one group that is to blame for Israel being left out of Tuesday’s debate: the pro-Israel community.
Within the last few days there has, thankfully, not been a racial issue that has gotten the attention of national media, yet Black Lives Matter, a movement that isn’t even three years old, had the power to take center stage on Tuesday night. For those of us in the pro-Israel community, Zionism has been around a lot longer than three years. The State of Israel has been in jeopardy for decades. Our tradition encourages us to speak up for the underdog and our history teaches us how important it is to remember and learn from the horrors of our past. We can blame politicians and media outlets all we want for the way the crisis in Israel is portrayed – or we can come out of the shadows and stand up for Israel ourselves.
Again, there are aspects of Black Lives Matter that deeply trouble me, but we in the pro-Israel community have much to learn from them. They took an issue that has been festering for years and made it important. It is time that the pro-Israel community learns that Israel will not get the respect she needs and deserves simply by adding an Israeli flag to our Facebook profile picture. While financially supporting the Jewish State is essential, it is not enough to change the way Israel is portrayed in our country. We must be activists ourselves, gathering together to show strong support for Israel, being in constant contact with our local and national leaders about issues pertaining to the safety and security of Israel and powerfully speaking out against the media when they don’t report the truth about Israel. The Black Lives Matter movement wouldn’t matter if there weren’t strong, vocal, passionate people at its core who are willing to give it their all to make America wake up and appreciate that black lives do matter. It is time for the pro-Israel community to wake up and teach our country that Israeli lives matter too. Thank you to those who are already activists for Israel. I hope that more of you will join us as we do what we can to make the safety and security of Israel an issue for all Americans.
I know you join me in praying for a peaceful Shabbat in Israel.