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Mayor Bass and BLM

Mayor Bass has remained eerily silent on remarks by Black Lives Matter (BLM) organizations and chapters expressing support for the horrifying attacks on Israelis and Americans.
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October 18, 2023
Mayor of Los Angeles Karen Bass (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for National Urban League)

She wasted no time: One day AFTER  Hamas massacred over a thousand Jewish civilians, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass issued a statement expressing solidarity with the people of Israel and condemning the horrifying attack. But while she was quick to make the statement, Mayor Bass has remained eerily silent on remarks by Black Lives Matter (BLM) organizations and chapters expressing support for the horrifying attacks on Israelis and Americans.

BLM Grassroots, a national splinter group with 20 chapters, including BLM Los Angeles, issued a statement saying that it “stands in solidarity with our Palestinian family who are currently resisting 57 years of settler colonialism and apartheid” and that the attacks should be seen “as an attempt to tear down the gates of the world’s largest open air prison. When people have been subject to decades of apartheid and unimaginable violence, their resistance must not be condemned, but understood as a desperate act of self-defense.” 

BLM Grassroots is led by Melina Abdullah, the founder of the Black Lives Matter Los Angeles chapter and a professor at Cal State L.A. with a history of antisemitism that includes supporting Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, complaining about “more & more Jews invading campuses, causing islamophobia, racism, & intolerance!” and urging that “we must dismantle patriarchy! specifically Jewish patriarchy offending Muslims & controlling our economy & campuses!” Abdullah’s antisemitism also came up in a lawsuit by the Deborah Project when she was chosen by United Teachers Los Angeles as a representative on the LAUSD ethnic studies committee and in the aftermath of the vandalism of synagogues in the Fairfax area after a BLM rally. 

After the Hamas massacres, Abdullah urged her followers to attend a pro-terrorist rally at the “Zionist consulate” claiming that Israel is punishing Palestinians “for exercising their right to resist their oppressors.” BLM Los Angeles played a pivotal role in Mayor Bass’s successful campaign in the hotly contested 2022 mayoral election. Abdullah has been one of Bass’ main supporters, a donor and, in her own words, a “longtime friend.” 

BLM Los Angeles played a pivotal role in Mayor Bass’s successful campaign in the hotly contested 2022 mayoral election.

When Abdullah was removed from the mayoral debate for her disruptive behavior, Bass came to her defense. The two women who have known each other for 27 years have been regularly in touch and Abdullah said, “I personally love Karen Bass as a human being, as a friend.” 

Mayor Bass has failed to condemn Abdullah’s antisemitism in the past or the support by her organization for the Hamas killings of Jews. 

BLM Grassroots is not the only national BLM organization at war with the Jewish State. Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the national Black Lives Matter movement, had previously rallied activists “to end the imperialist project called Israel.” While Cullors resigned after being castigated for the questionable decision to buy mansions using charitable donations, Mayor Bass has previously met with her and praised her as recently as this year. 

Black Lives Matter organizations have a history of opposing Israel. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) had outraged Jews with its endorsement of BDS. In the wake of the massacres, it has again promoted anti-Israel messages. So have individual BLM chapters, including the Chicago BLM chapter, which shared a now-deleted graphic of a Hamas terrorist on a paraglider along with the caption: “That is all that is it” in reference to Hamas terrorists invading Israel using paragliders and butchering hundreds of Israeli civilians at a music peace festival.

Black Lives Matter has a strong Los Angeles presence. Its leader and founders are based in Los Angeles. As a progressive African American politician, Mayor Bass has focused on forging ethnic alliances. She successfully garnered the support of the Jewish community, which historically has had strong ties with Los Angeles’ African American population, and employed the essence of the old Tom Bradley Coalition, whereby she sought to unite the Jewish, Black, and liberal white voters to elect her to office. It worked, and she won the mayoral election.

Mayor Bass has largely refrained from commenting on disturbing antisemitic remarks made by Black Lives Matter, but with the largest killing of Jews since the Holocaust, and the LAPD — along with police forces across the nation — on alert over threats to Jewish institutions in America, Mayor Bass is at a critical juncture. Can she stand with both Jews and antisemites of Black Lives Matter?

Mayor Bass needs to maintain her “go-along-to-get-along” consensus-building approach, aiming not to alienate anyone and embracing a centrist political stance. However, the coalition that elected her to office includes radical antisemitic and anti-Israel figures and organizations, including the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) which backed Bass and has been successful in electing a cadre of far-left members to the L.A. City Council. DSA and BLM have come under increasing scrutiny nationally for their antisemitism and failure to condemn the rape, kidnapping and murder of Israeli civilians while at the same time denouncing Israel in the harshest terms.

Mayor Bass needs to maintain her “go-along-to-get-along” consensus-building approach. However, the coalition that elected her to office includes radical antisemitic and anti-Israel figures and organizations.

DSA L.A. has accused Israel of “genocide” for defending itself and rallied for cutting off aid to the Jewish State. It retweeted messages from the national organization which claimed that the mass murder of over 1,000 Jews was “not unprovoked.” While some politicians, including those backed by the DSA, have condemned this defense of genocide, Mayor Bass has not.

Mayor Bass cannot stay quietly on the sidelines. She must take a clear stance, yet she has not. While she professes support for Israel, she has remained silent on BLM and DSA’s support for the murder of Jews. Los Angeles is second only to New York in its population of Jewish Americans. Antisemitism should not be allowed to play a role in its political life.

When Jews were shot at in the Pico-Robertson area, Mayor Bass issued a statement saying, “I want to be very clear: Antisemitism and hate crimes have no place in our city or our country. We are a strong city — and we are strongest when we stand united against hate, together.” Mayor Bass has the opportunity to show that strength, not just when it is easy, but when it is hard, when it means more than condemning a deranged gunman, but her closest political allies.


Soledad Ursúa is a finance professional and elected board member of the Venice Neighborhood Council. She holds an M.S. from The New School for Management and Urban Policy. She can be found on Twitter at @SoledadUrsua.

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