On Aug. 25, 1967, Theodore Bikel, a Folk singer and fairweather supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, wrote an open letter to the leadership of SNCC explaining he could no longer be associated with the organization, accusing it of anti-semitism.

How African People Became the Face of “Anti-Semitism”

Article By Ahjamu Umi & Onyesonwu Chatoyer

Zionism as a Political Movement 

First, in order for anyone to fully comprehend the contradictions that the Zionist movement presents, its essential for us to understand the difference between Zionism – a political movement – and Judaism, a faith practice.  Judaism as a religion is, of course, one of the oldest forms of organized political practice known to human civilization.  Without question, Judaism has its roots either directly in being founded in Africa, or at the very least, being nurtured and developed in Africa.  It is a spiritual faith practiced by millions that has existed for thousands of years.  Even much of what is written in the Bible occurs in North and East Africa, including the first country mentioned in the Bible in the book of Genesis (depending upon which version of the Bible you have, the country will be listed as either Ethiopia or K/Cush.  K/Cush is the ancient name for Ethiopia and translates in Amharic to “burnt faces.”

The Zionist movement has absolutely nothing to do with the religion of Judaism.  Zionism originated as a political movement with its first organized expression, a conference in Balse, Switzerland, in 1897.  The objectives of this conference, as articulated by the founder of the conference – Theodore Herzl – in his personal memoirs, was to create a political state that would become a world power.  That initial conference used the religion of Judaism as a cover for its political objectives of power creation and exploitation.  This is proven by the fact the Zionist founders at that Switzerland conference had no pre-determined commitment to making occupied Palestine the home of the Zionist state as is routinely claimed today by Zionists who wish to promote that their seizure of Palestine was Biblical prophesy.  Instead, their initial proposals focused on Venezuela and Uganda as potential destinations for this proposed state.  Logistical issues related to those initial areas being landlocked and other problems, pushed the focus of these Zionists to occupied Palestine.

By 1917, the Zionist movement had grown significantly under the leadership of Chaim Weizman.  He was essential in creating a strong political relationship with the Republic of (racist apartheid) South Africa and Britain.  This relationship led

Weizman and the Prime Minister of South Africa – Jan Smuts – to push Britain’s Lord Balfour to declare Palestine as the new state of Israel through the Balfour Declaration (1917).

In response to the Balfour Declaration, people throughout Europe who identified as Jews were encouraged to resettle in occupied Palestine and from the teens through the 1940s, thousands of these people left their European homes to settle in areas of occupied Palestine.  During this time, the Zionists established the World Congress of Zionists as an international political organization dedicated to promoting the creation of this Zionist state.  The Congress was unscrupulous in its political work to bring about its objective.  There is overwhelming evidence that the Congress even negotiated with government leaders in countries like Poland, Romania, and after its 1933 rise to power, the Third Reich Nazi government in Germany to push for this Zionist state.  The method in which the Congress promoted its objective to all of these governments was to appeal to the legitimate anti-Jewish sentiment that was rising at the time, not just in Germany, but throughout Europe.  As a result of the systemic oppression Jewish people were experiencing in these countries, many of them were joining developing socialist parties that were being built throughout Europe after the October 1917 Russian uprising.

The World Zionist Congresses primary tactic was to convince European governments, including Nazi Germany’s leaders, that the proliferation of Jewish socialists posed a serious threat to the stability of these governments.  The congress also sought to exploit the trauma and suffering of the Jewish people by promising them a better life in this new Zionist state.  As a result, the congress encouraged these governments to encourage their Jewish residents, either proactively or through terror, mostly terror, to leave and migrate to occupied Palestine.

By 1948, the existence of multitudes of settlers taking over territories in occupied Palestine, and the political and economic control the U.S. and other imperialist nations held over the newly established United Nations (UN), the UN declared that year that Palestine was no more.  The creation of the state of

Israel, a supposedly Jewish state but really the first outpost of Zionism, was established and countries around the world came to recognize Israel and Palestine, as a country ceased to exist.  This meant Palestinians as people, no longer had a country and were immediately unwanted immigrants within their own borders.

Zionism and the African Liberation Struggle

Once established as a regional power within the Middle East, the state of Israel immediately became the central imperialist ally in that region.  As a result, the U.S. adopted the Zionist state as its satellite outpost in that region.  Record amounts of U.S. economic aide were directed, and are still directed, at Israel on an annual basis to ensure the stability of this Zionist entity.

A part of this strategy was for Zionism to engage in extensive political espionage and sabotage in Africa.  From 1948 up to present times, Israel has relied on the polishing diamonds industry to provide one of the most stable aspects of the Zionist regime’s gross national product.  In 2019, almost 40% of the polished diamonds for sale on the world market are developed through Israel.  This is true despite the fact not a single diamond mine exists in Israel.  The diamonds to Israel pipeline resulted from those original relationships between Jan Smuts and Chaim Weizman back in the early 1900s.  In order to ensure the protection of that pipeline was maintained, instability was necessary in Africa.  As African nations began to experience self-determination in their independence movements in the 50s and 60s, more and more revolutionary African leaders like Mangoliso Sobukwe, Steve Biko, Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, and Sekou Ture were outspoken in calling for an end to the exploitative diamond industries throughout Central and Southern Africa which served as the foundation of the Israeli diamond polishing industry.  As a result, Israel played an active role in supporting the assassination of Lumumba in the Congo, the overthrow of Nkrumah’s government in Ghana, continued attacks against Ture’s government in Guinea, and the devastating destabilization of East Africa through Israeli arming and training of Ethiopian security forces to enable them to control (and carry out Zionist interests in that region) over Eriteria, Somalia, and other areas.  The results of this sabotage have been devastating to African security. 

During the U.S. civil rights movement in the 60s, there was a concerted effort by Zionist forces to portray themselves as allies to the African movement for justice and forward progress as a propaganda methodology to link the suffering of African people (which people were widely becoming aware of) to the Zionist support of Israel.  As a result, Zionist organizations within the U.S. contributed finances to civil rights organizations that supported Israel.  An African pro-Israeli group was established called Black Americans in Support of Israel (BASIC) to which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leading spokesperson.  

At the same time, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began to move farther to the left with a heightened spirit of African nationalism developing within it.  Ethel Minor was a former member of the Nation of Islam (NOI).  The NOI would have to be credited as one of the oldest, if not the oldest, anti-Zionist organizations within the U.S.  Elijah Muhammad spoke out against Israeli occupation into Palestinian territories as early as the early 1940s.  Malcolm X was an articulate spokesperson against Zionism.  When Malcolm left the NOI, Ethel Minor left with him to join his newly formed Organization of Afro-American Unity in 1964.  Once Malcolm was assassinated in February 1965, Minor soon joined SNCC.  She was the source that Kwame Ture (formerly Stokely Carmichael and the chairperson of SNCC as of 1966) credited with educating SNCC members about Zionism.  From that education and the more militant and independent spirit within SNCC that was signified by Ture’s election as chair, defeating (now congressman) John Lewis, SNCC became the only African organization in 1967 to take a position supporting the Arab people in general, and the Palestinians in particular, during the six day Arab/Israeli war that year.

SNCC’s decision to take this bold stance cost them dearly as it relates to already severely limited resources to do their work.  Based on overwhelming pressure placed upon them by Zionist organizations, practically all African civil rights organizations – from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference – unleashed substantial criticism on SNCC for taking such an “antisemitic” position by opposing Israel.  It was another clear example of how Zionism was able to successfully manipulate and portray any legitimate political criticism against the state of Israel as a racist, antisemitic attack against all Jewish people.

Who is the Real Face of Rising Anti-Semitism

Because the African liberation struggle was among the earliest national liberation struggles to align itself with the indigenous people of occupied Palestine and to speak out against the white supremacist and settler-colonial project of Zionism, African revolutionaries have been consistently attacked with opportunistic accusations of antisemitism for decades. Nowadays it’s to the point where if one of our leaders ever dares to speak out against, for example, white supremacist pedagogy in colonial-capitalist schools that posits that the Holocaust is the worst genocide that has ever existed while actively erasing ongoing genocides targeting Africans and Indigenous people, that leader is dog-piled from all corners of the internet and the broader social justice movement – often for days and weeks at a time – until they submit. If that African leader is, like Tamika Mallory of the Women’s March, even associated in passing with another African who has previously been attacked in this way, the demand is that they cut off all associations or risk being pilloried themselves. 

In this way, the Zionist movement has effectively moved to control what African revolutionaries and revolutionary organizations can and can not say and who we are and are not allowed to associate with as punishment for our alignment with Palestine and against Zionism. It has also moved to deputize the broader social justice movement into willing, although mostly unwitting, agents of this form of control.  This situation is clearly not acceptable or sustainable for our movement. It is, in fact, indicative of the colonized position African people occupy within a system of European neo-colonialism and settler-colonialism under capitalism. We are not free to independently define our positions, our friends, or our enemies. 

The aforementioned phenomenon happens with such frequency that at this point one could draw the conclusion that African people have become the face  and the main agents of anti-semitisim, particularly in the US. But how accurate is this really? 

We are living in a period of rising fascism. A Pan-European fascist movement is unifying and solidifying the leadership of authoritarian capitalist states around the globe. In the wake of this movement we are seeing a wave of violence targeting African, Indigenous, Romani, and colonized people, queer and trans people, Jewish people, and Muslims. The agents of this violence? Vigilante actors of white supremacist terror active in paramilitary formations like the Atomwaffen Division, the Proud Boys, neo-nazi parties, and so-called “Patriot” groups. But also: an increasing number of far right figures, open white nationalists, and fascists holding office in the highest echelons of power. In short, it’s a bunch of angry petit-bourgeois Europeans flipping out and scrambling to consolidate reactionary power and attack us, all around the world. 

To see this movement consolidating power and presenting an existential threat to all of us and to see the response be to go for Africans again and again and again is demoralizing but unsurprising. Given the option between an enemy who holds state power and military and police force and an easy, and at this point powerless target that exists at the bottom at the colonial-capitalist social structure, you can kind of understand why folks would go for the easy target. Better chance at coming out on top, even if the ‘victory’ is just an emotional and fleeting one while yet another African leader gets their reputation destroyed, yet another African organization implodes, and while fascists holding elected office keep building power, deputizing paramilitary groups, and making geopolitical moves with catastrophic implications.

It should be obvious at this point that as African revolutionaries we can no longer accept this status quo. We should never have accepted it. We should have learned our lesson a long time ago. We can not accept a situation where we are made to be the face of a structure which we did not create, in which we have no power, and which represents life or death to us too. Particularly when turning us into such a face directly threatens the work we need to do to save ourselves. We can not accept a reality where we are told what to believe and what friends we are allowed to have when our beliefs and friendships must be rooted in an uncompromising anti-colonial and anti-capitalist ideological framework. We cannot accept any movement dynamics that replicate the colonial-capitalist relationships that we are fighting to destroy.

We say unequivocally that move in solidarity with all struggles of oppressed and colonized people’s against the systems of capitalism, colonialism, Zionism, and imperialism that reproduce and spread white supremacy, racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. We unite against fascism and with all just struggles for a better world. We will not allow y’all to make us the face of something we did not create and that only we – united with the colonized masses of the world –  can destroy. We will not allow y’all dogpile us anymore and we refuse to participate when we see you doing it to any one of us. We’ve peeped what the game is and we’re done with it. This is your notice. 

Ready for revolution.

More from this Writer

“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them; that if we stagnate it is their responsibility, and that if we go forward it is due to them too, that there is no such thing as a demiurge, that there is no famous man who will take the responsibility for everything, but that the demiurge is the people themselves and the magic hands are finally only the hands of the people.”
― Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth