Grammy-nominated American rapper Vic Mensa recently published an article in TIME magazine wherein he compared the experiences of Palestinians to his experiences as a black man in America.
This article, unfortunately, contains a great deal of inaccuracies and omits a great deal of context. The fault for this lies less with Mr. Mensa and more with Dream Defenders, the organization that planned his trip to the region.
“I do not pretend to be familiar with every nuance of the longstanding turmoil that engulfs Israel and Palestine,” Mr. Mensa acknowledged in his article. “I can only speak to the experiences I had there.”
The problem is that the experiences he had there were carefully crafted by Dream Defenders, which makes no secret of its opposition to the very existence of the State of Israel, and which brought Black artists and activists on a delegation to the region to give them a view of the situation which would lead them to adopt the same position.
The description of the delegation on the Dream Defenders website includes shockingly incendiary and hateful language, including referring to Israel as a “settler colonial project” and accusing Israel of massacring Palestinians in order to test and sell military technology.
“After every Israeli assault against Gaza their sales have been a part of the package,” they write, evoking classic stereotypes of the greedy Jew.
Is it any surprise that an organization working to delegitimize self-determination for the Jewish people and the existence of the State of Israel would create a trip that makes Israel appear illegitimate?
As we so recently celebrated the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., we can’t help but think of what this great man had to say about Israel and how he would have felt about a Black rights organization working to demonize it.
As Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights leader who worked with Dr. King, wrote: “On March 25, 1968, less than two weeks before his tragic death, [Dr. King] spoke out with clarity and directness stating, ‘peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.’”
The world and the region have changed drastically since Dr. King was assassinated in 1968, but that much, at least, remains the same.
According to Clarence B. Jones, Dr. King’s attorney and close friend, Dr. King also “warned repeatedly that anti-Semitism would soon be disguised as anti-Zionism,” another term for opposition to the existence of Israel.
The anti-Zionism of Dream Defenders is in no doubt shaped in part by Linda Sarsour, an activist who serves as one of its eight Advisory Board members. Ms. Sarsour is an avowed anti-Zionist and a supporter of the discriminatory Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which works to isolate Israel in the cultural, academic, economic, and diplomatic arenas with the ultimate goal of ending its existence as the homeland of the Jewish people.
We at Creative Community For Peace (CCFP) — an organization comprised of high-level entertainment industry figures dedicated to promoting the arts as a means to peace, defending artistic freedom, and countering the cultural boycott of Israel — hope Mr. Mensa will have the chance to travel back to the region and gain a wider perspective on this supremely complex conflict.
Jason Derulo, Alicia Keys, Freddie Gibbs, Rihanna, Damian, Julian, and Ziggy Marley, Bobby McFerrin, Craig David, Gloria Gaynor, Lisa Simone, Alan Youngblood Hart, Buddy Guy, Wiz Khalifa, Noname, and DJ Black Coffee, are just a few of the many Black artists who have traveled to Israel over the past several years and seen much more than the narrow worldview Dream Defenders showed Mr. Mensa.
Only by rejecting the uncompromising black and white narrative of groups like Dream Defenders and BDS and acknowledging the conflict’s many shades of gray can we hope to make any progress toward resolving it.