Inside Black Lives Matter's Long History With Hamas-Friendly Activists

BLM, Hamas supporters (Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images, Burak Kara/Getty Images)
October 19, 2023

Black Lives Matter chapters across the country made waves last week when they excused and explained away Hamas’s attack on Israel.

A coalition of 26 local chapters called the attacks a "desperate act of self-defense." The Chicago chapter shared an image glorifying Hamas gunmen on paragliders, before walking it back amid blowback. And the movement’s Phoenix branch praised Hamas "freedom fighters" for their acts of "resistance."

Echoing this rhetoric are two Hamas-friendly groups—American Muslims for Palestine and the Council for American-Islamic Relations—that have for nearly a decade worked arm-in-arm with the Black Lives Matter organization to plan rallies and lobby lawmakers.

The groups are united by an "oppressed-oppressor narrative that helps them destroy society," according to the Heritage Foundation's Mike Gonzalez.

"They see Israel as a kind of mini-me of the West and America," Gonzalez told the Washington Free Beacon. "They hate the West. Jerusalem is one of the founding blocks of Western thought, so if they're going to hate the West they have to hate Israel."

American Muslims for Palestine, whose board includes a man, Salah Sarsour, who helped raise funds for a Hamas front group in the late 1990s, declared itself "firmly in solidarity with Black Americans" and demanded "Justice for George Floyd" in 2020. It organized Black Lives Matter rallies in Dallas in 2020 and the following year cosponsored a rally in front of the Lincoln Memorial to demand the Biden administration to sanction Israel.

Speaking at the American Muslims for Palestine event in 2021, one Black Lives Matter leader articulated the groups’ shared commitment to destroying Israel.

"Black people know when Zionists try to twist the words of black brothers across the world," Black Lives Matter DC organizer Anthony Lorenzo Green said "I’m not just an ally, I’m your comrade. I’m in this struggle with you. Our struggles our connected. That’s why Palestinian flags were flying at Black Lives Matter protests last year and years before that."

"That’s why we can speak clearly that Israel is an apartheid state," Green declared, adding "From D.C. to Palestine, from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." "From the river to the sea" is a slogan used by Hamas and other anti-Semitic groups to call for the destruction of the Jewish state.

The Council for American Islamic Relations, whose cofounder and executive director Nihad Awad has called Israel a "settler colonial Apartheid state," was a vocal supporter of Black Lives Matter in 2020. A federal judge in 2007 found "ample evidence to establish the association" between CAIR and Hamas. CAIR lobbied Congress for a police reform act supported by Black Lives Matter and displayed a Black Lives Matter banner in front of its Washington, D.C. headquarters, while local CAIR chapters organized protests with their Black Lives Matter counterparts throughout the Summer of 2020.

Black Lives Matter’s cozy relationship with the Hamas-friendly groups may come as a shock to the movement’s Jewish allies, given that 600 prominent Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, signed a letter and published a full-page ad in the New York Times in August 2020 expressing their unequivocal support of Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter's ties with the groups dates back to 2014, when Palestinian activists advised black rioters in Ferguson, Mo., on how to resist the police. Their efforts earned accolades from prominent Black Lives Matter leaders such as DeRay Mckesson, who credited Palestinian protesters for teaching rioters "what to do when we got tear-gassed."

Rep. Cori Bush (D., Mo.), who said cutting off American support of Israel was the only way to put a stop to Hamas terror, honored Palestinian activist Bassem Masri during a speech on the House floor in May 2021 for resisting and rebelling with rioters in Ferguson.

Black Lives Matter solidified its ties with Palestinian forces in 2015 when its leaders embarked on a 10-day trip to Israel to "experience and see firsthand the occupation, ethnic cleansing and brutality Israel has levied against Palestinians" and to build relationships with people in the region "leading the fight for liberation."

During that trip, Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors organized a flash mob in Nazareth specifically to support the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. Cullors resigned from Black Lives Matter in 2021 amid allegations of financial misconduct and now earns a living as a nude performance artist. 

The following year, the Movement for Black Lives, a close ally of Black Lives Matter, released a policy platform that labeled Israel an apartheid state and called for the end of the "Israeli occupation of Palestine." The policy platform earned the unequivocal support of Students for Justice in Palestine, whose chapters have issued statements honoring Hamas "martyrs" who murdered Jewish children earlier this month.