After Hamas’s surprise attack on Israel on October 7, which U.S. President Joe Biden described as the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust, Black Lives Matter groups voiced their support for “the resistance” in Palestine.
BLM also asserted that state violence against Black Americans in the United States and state violence against Palestinians in Israel were similar. Therefore, “Palestinian resistance” must be understood as a desperate act of self-defense and not condemned.
BLM-grassroots clarified that as a “radical Black organization” that fights to end “militarism,” they must stand unwaveringly on the side of the oppressed.
Is this a true statement?
Since 2000, Eritrea’s government has forced minors to serve in the military. Girls and boys are required to complete their final year of secondary education in a military camp.
Human Rights Watch reports that each year, thousands of young people are forcibly transported from their homes to military training. While the majority of 12th-grade pupils are over the age of 18, some are still children conscripted in violation of international standards. For trivial infractions, the children are subjected to cruel treatment and severe punishments. They are also forced to work. One former student said, “They are making us into slaves, not educating us.”
Despite Eritrea’s law limiting military service to 18 months, it becomes indefinite. According to Human Rights Watch, a significant number of students adopt extreme measures to avoid the military. Students fail classes on purpose to remain in a lower grade or drop out of school to evade military training. Students who drop out of school are terrified of government roundups that transport unenrolled children directly to the military camp. Many young women choose early marriage and parenthood to avoid military service.
BLM grassroots claim to be fighting to end “militarism”, but they have never issued an official statement opposing forced military service in Eritrea.
Recently, the Daily Asian Age reported that Uyghurs residing in Turkey have taken a stand against China’s human rights abuses. (Uyghurs are an ethnic minority in China who are mostly Muslims.) A new Amnesty International report called China’s genocidal campaign against the Uyghurs a crime against humanity. These crimes include the mass internment of over 3 million people in concentration camps, forced labor, sterilizations, cultural erasure, the separation of nearly one million Uyghur children from their families, state-sanctioned rape, and the suppression of religious freedom.
The persecution of Uyghurs is obviously state-sponsored, but BLM-grassroots has never declared its support for the Uyghurs.
Since 2019, a Panel of Independent International Experts has reported that Muslims in India have been subjected to grave violations of their human rights. According to the experts, the Indian government has enacted a number of laws and policies that directly target Muslims and disproportionately affect them. With regard to violations committed by non-state actors, the state failed to take the essential measures, conduct an effective investigation, and prosecute those responsible. Many of these violations, according to the experts, constitute crimes against humanity, war crimes, and incitement to commit genocide.
BLM campaigns against mass incarceration, which indicts the system of racism because the number of minorities in U.S. prisons is disproportionate to their percentage of the population, but CNN reported, “What we are seeing in India is more than systemic oppression of Muslims and other minorities. Prior to 2014, Muslims accounted for only 14 percent of the population, but almost 20 percent of inmates in India’s jails. But with authorities abandoning their fundamental duty to safeguard the constitutional rights of minorities, India’s Muslim population is rendered insignificant by the day.”
BLM-grassroots did not express solidarity with India’s oppressed. Why do BLM grassroots support Palestine but not these other oppressed people?
As a “Black radical” organization, BLM adheres to the Black Radical Tradition. BRT was popularized in Cedric Robinson’s book Black Marxism. BRT aims to disrupt the social, political, economic, and cultural norms that stem from European colonialism and American imperialism. BLM’s mission statement states clearly that their overall objective is to eradicate White supremacy. Israel, according to BRT, is a colonial, settler-apartheid state allied with the White supremist powers in Europe and the United States. Therefore, BLM’s solidarity with Palestine stems from the idea that the enemy of my enemy is my ally.
Eritrea, China, and India are governed by “people of color.” BLM respects Eritrea’s, China’s, and India’s right to govern their respective countries as they see fit, and BLM shows their solidarity with nations governed by “people of color” by not condemning them when they are accused of human rights violations by White supremacists.
So, it’s not necessarily true that BLM stands with the oppressed. It’s more accurate to say BLM stands unwaveringly against White oppressors.