Saturday, February 25, 2012

Black Hebrew or Israel House Slave

These Israeli Zionists religiously believe their Jewish God has chosen them to replace the outdated European colonialism with a new form of colonialism, so well disguised that it will enable them to deceive the African masses into submitting willingly to their "divine" authority and guidance, without the African masses being aware that they are still colonized. 
- Malcolm X, Egyptian Gazette, September 17, 1964
How can one really liberate oneself when their identity has to be reconstructed from the shards of violent, American slave trade? While Malcolm X grew up in a Christian household, he became a Muslim and yet he always remained a victim of the American experience no matter how free he felt in his identity. 

If the Christian gospel was not attractive, and Muslims were seen as something foreign to the American narrative, what else could an African American identify with when their very identity itself had been manipulated and erased by American and European colonists?

The Nation of Islam after all was born as a retaliation to this white oppression, and while many do subscribe to the tenants of the Nation of Islam, others have found the Sunni tradition of Islam or 5 Percenter ideology more attractive, while many still remain as part of the Black Church.

While many African American thinkers wrestled with their identity in light of the institutionalized role US slave traders had imposed on them, trying to break free from the mental chains was in part integral to the development of the Civil Rights movement. While an African American's role in the Nation of Islam may have been reactionary to the racist treatment of white society, these do not necessarily always have to remain constant. Individual self discovery is not independent of community empowerment. Today the identity of some communities may have evolved according to its needs. As many individuals sought individual identity, how could that conform into a communal one?

This is perhaps the main issue or critical point of African American identity, in that, while personal questions of where one came from hover in the minds of individuals, the sense of community must also streamline these questions and answers into an organized society. Otherwise, the community may fall into misunderstandings, chaos, and sadly conflict.

Malcolm X sought to always reform, and it seemed throughout the stages of his life that he was constantly looking for more truth. He sought intellectual and spiritual independence from reactionary, hypocritical identities through his own personal narrative. Yet as he reached this independence, a dangerous state to reach in segregated America, he was murdered. He realized that oppression was not racial per se, but a matter of privileged agendas and elite classes manipulating society according to their own whims.

This effort for independence in identity can easily be manipulated by others with their own agendas of course--and the discussion hardly escapes any topic on reaffirmation of the identity of oppressed populations. Hence the debates between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, who accused MLK to love the oppressor while MLK defended his non violence as an approach to arouse guilt and consciousnesses in the white man.

 It is of emphasis that issues of identity become relateable not only to the community, but also to other communities in order to foster dynamics and relationships. And while MLK emphasized a common grounds approach between Christians and Malcolm X between Muslims, others discovered or revisited other religions,  and some began to search for the third  major monotheistic religion: Judaism.

While Malcolm X came from a household influenced by Marcus Garvey, teaching the return to Africa, the idea of homeland is never far from the minds of African Americans. We hear this in music. From Bob Marley to Lauryn Hill, we hear a yearning for homeland, a return to the African Zion. 

But what if African Americans literally mean the same Zion that Zionists colonize in Palestine?

A CNN blog reports that, "Jews and African-Americans share historical narratives of persecution and worked together during the political crusades of the 1960s."  This is probably why one hears of references to an African Zion so often, that Jewish enslavement, the creation of various diaspora and exile, is something parallel to the narrative of African American history. Yet in confounding religious, ancient texts with the Zionist agenda, its basis anything but religious and more elitist, are African American's landing themselves in a dangerous zone for disenfranchisement by becoming Zionists?

Perhaps it is the thirst for finding one's roots and understanding its diversity. But when one lends himself to manipulation, he will find that his own history and needs will in turn also be manipulated. In 2008 UCLA's African Student Union, whose numbers dwindled following anti affirmative action legislation, invited an Ethiopian Jew and Zionist to speak at an event despite being active in boycotting Israel. In the US where common grounds movements are a strategic and principled tactic to minority activism, blurring the line between two community's needs or characteristics is not easy to sacrifice for a middle ground movement. At news of the speaker's event, much conflict and criticism broke out not only internally but also from the allies of ASU, which admittedly had leaders state they were not aware what Zionism was, and merely were interested in the narrative of Ethiopia. 

The event backfired, the speaker was revealed for his agenda, and the African Americans distanced themselves from the Ethiopian and his Zionist organization. 

The obvious confusion and sadness in this example is immediately apparent. In want to hear of a dreamed homeland, the ASA welcomed an Ethiopian from a Zionist organization. The African Student Association felt used.

In a sketch in which Craig Robinson wears an Israeli Defense Forces t-shirt, he openly calls the members of groups Jews yet they hesitate to answer him. While he wears the shirt and feels like he is being manipulated, the rest grow timid of Craig's character's backlash. While the sketch is comedic and light hearted, it does tackle the connotations of religion, race, and politics.

The CNN blog notes that "after civil rights success, the ties between [Jews and Blacks weakened, sometimes giving way to hostility and violence."  Various civil rights leaders have been critical of Israel and Zionism for not only its racist role but because it in turn disenfranchises American marginalized communities. Zionists have also been revealed to be the authors of a hoax letter, horribly manipulated by Zionists, in which they stage themselves as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The letter was not written by MLK but claims to be his address to an "Anti Zionist Friend."

Why is it important for Zionists to enter the black, Christian community? The vulnerability of African Americans has always been manipulated, whether by politicians or NGOs. Yet what makes the black Christian community simply attractive to Israel is its isolation and the stigma of  the civil rights movements.  As Israel becomes more and more isolated by the international community and Americans themselves, finding a stake in US minority populations will win support for their agendas and needs. In manipulating religious narratives, the alliance to Zionism looks appealing to some Black Churches presented through politicized Judaism.

It is of no shock how easily Zionists infiltrate the African American community when very few offer sustainable resources to these areas. During a long commute from Los Angeles to a majority black community, an advertisement to visit Israel aired on the radio. An African American single mother sighed, wishing she had the chance to visit Israel, stating that her church had introduced it as a place of Christian peace and history. She kept talking about how beautiful it was, and it sounded like a dream utopia. Yet the crimes against Palestinian Christian communities were absent from her narrative. And the passengers, all African American and one Latino, simply could not comprehend, and in a way, trust, the alternative narrative to Israel's rosy existence provided by the one Palestinian who happened to be in that van, a Palestinian who grew up in their communities and understood their needs. Despite being neighbors in a place where police and gang violence was understood as government irresponsibility, the Palestinian's narrative was a shock to these commuters. Had politics entered their church and why?

In CNN's article Zionists openly state that they are in need of new friends, but they offer nothing nor consider in the article, the needs of African Americans. And still, some Zionists are not comfortable with Christian Zionists, fearing "ulterior theological motives." With obvious distrust between the two groups, yet one typically disenfranchised and Zionists typically privileged and elitist, the relationship becomes skewed. And yet there are black Americans who reject black churches all together, searching for a narrative that parallels their post plantation slave society.

These minorities within the African American community are Black Hebrews, who do not resort to the allegory of religious Jewish texts to support the notion of returning to an African Zion; instead they independently reached the belief that they are a lost tribe of Israel and have a birthright to settle in Israel.  Some do not refer to themselves as Jews, and believe they are the real Israelites as opposed to mainstream Jews. While some Black Hebrews may have rejected Jews, Israel has rejected Black Hebrews from claiming the Right of Return "law" that gives Zionists the right to illegally reside in colonized Palestine.  Mainstream Jews may find Black Hebrews cultish. Lawsuits were pressed by Black Hebrews, citing racism. being exercised by Israel as some were deported and the group was not inherently Jewish but self created.

"Our identity is here in Israel. We are Hebrew Israelites, not Americans, and I think the Israeli government hasn't known what to do with us," said Freda Waller who immigrated to Dimona in 1976. The group struggled for decades following lawsuits, deportations, and allegations of racist Israelis.

The legal discrimination was reversed in 2003. Indeed Black Hebrews have tried to live in the Negev city of Dimona, where Israel's nuclear reactor sits. Whitney Houston, a Black Hebrew, took part in the choir there that helps the community raise money. They run a vegan cafe in Tel Aviv. Now they are serving with the IDF and receive various benefits from Israel

In an article published by the Global Post in 2009, the struggle of these African Americans in the Negev is something more of an outlet from US discrimination against blacks. "The most common cause of death in the black community was a handgun murder," says  Chicago native Atur Yermeyahu, pictured above with his family. "I've been shot. I've wrestled with individuals with guns. The black experience" and what he calls "the captivity" was "not a picnic."

Yet what about Black Hebrews who do not live in Zionist colonies and have to endure the black experience?  What safety are they receiving if they are not living the Zionist dream in Israel?

Some Black Hebrews, like the Nation of Yahweh in the US, have become militant and are actively recruiting within US prison facilities, warranting attention from the FBI. Some Black Hebrews assert their resistance to white supremacy, going so far as to claim that mainstream Jews are illegitimate manifestations and that blacks are the true chosen people. This has earned some Black Hebrew groups to be blacklisted by Israel as terror groups. 

While Black Hebrews have resorted to an identity that is reactionary to the history of enslavement, it has been used in two different lights: safety and resistance. For safety, Black Hebrews have thrown away their American roots for the comfort of Israeli security, and are Zionists. But those in the US who refute white supremacy, it has become nothing more than a form of resisting the chains of slavery.

While Jews debate the nature of Black Hebrews and whether they are legitimate Jews, they argue this on the basis of genealogy and history. They may say that it is scientifically unfounded that such people have any claim to "Israel." But if only all Zionists and Black Hebrews looked at such an argument and applied it to themselves, they would find that none have a claim to occupying Palestine, and that blacks and Africans unfortunately, are facing much oppression and discrimination in "Israel" despite whatever claims to Judaism or Democracy it stakes,  all at the cost of Palestinians who face Israeli Apartheid.

It seems sadly that the religious affiliation of African Americans is not enough to escape racism, neglect, and accusation. Succumbing to the Zionist affiliation, some African Americans are clearly being used.

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