MLK would have supported Palestinian protest movement — Mercury News

Israel/Palestine
on 15 Comments

At Open Zion, Gil Troy is arguing that in 1967, Martin Luther King Jr made a strong statement supporting Israel. I bet Troy is right, but so what? That was 46 years ago. Israel then had broad support in American liberal circles. The issue is whether MLK would support Israel now, and any thoughtful person would have to say that he would have serious criticisms of its human rights abuses and would surely support the nonviolent movement inside Palestine. Morgan Bach has an op-ed at the Silicon Valley Mercury-News making this point:

“What would you march for?”

That’s what the teachers asked us after we walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, Ala. We were sitting in the school bus, notebooks in hand, being asked to reflect on the first stop of our Civil Rights Tour.

We had squeezed onto the bridge sidewalk, our group of 50 students, teachers and me, the AmeriCorps volunteer. I had chills. On the other side of the bridge, in 1965 there had been a line of state troopers waiting to attack marchers with clubs and tear gas. The second and third march, which finally made it to Montgomery, were led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

They were ghosts. We sat in the grass, imagining the troopers standing there. Would we have been afraid?

We learned about jail cells full of children, and the students were asked, “What would you march for?”

For me, it was Palestinian freedom. I’d spent the previous Christmas in Bethlehem and had marched in solidarity with the Palestinian village of Beitin, outside Ramallah. Their road to Ramallah had been closed to Palestinians; only vehicles with Israeli license plates could drive it.

Demonstrators, 200 strong, intended to walk that road, but we were confronted by a line of Israeli soldiers. The villagers didn’t stop. A little boy next to me squeezed between the soldiers and yelled behind him, “Yalla al-Ramallah!” Onward to Ramallah! But the soldiers pushed us back and released sound bombs and tear gas canisters. I waved my arms and shouted, “Don’t shoot!” because I was afraid; my friend’s cousin had been shot and killed by a gas canister in 2009 in the village of Bilin.

I was proud to have marched with the people of Beitin, Bilin, Nabi Saleh, and Al Walaja, but I didn’t share my experience. I was self-conscious, knowing that the Palestinian struggle is not viewed like the Civil Rights movement is viewed today. Yet King said, “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but … because conscience tells (one) it is right.”

15 Responses

  1. seafoid
    January 22, 2013, 11:32 am

    Bull Connor would have voted for Bennett

  2. pabelmont
    January 22, 2013, 11:37 am

    Thanks, Phil. Hard to guess what people now dead would say today. Today, many prominent (black) South Africans say the apartheid in Palestine is far worse than they had in S.A. So I think that if he’d lived MLK would agree with them.

    The shame of this guessing game is that we are in a position to know what still-living liberal (well, PEP) Jews often think about Israel and Palestine — they close their eyes to the dreadful H/R record of Israel, the “Kahane Lives!” stuff we’re seeing today, and keep singing their (by now clearly) long out-of-date liberal-Zionist we-love-Israel-and-its-only-democracy-in-the-middle-east songs.

    Reality is too much for them, denial is the order of the day. I feel sure, as you do, that MLK would have been different.

  3. CitizenC
    January 22, 2013, 11:39 am

    This is not the conundrum the Zionists claim; Mandela and South Africa reject Zionism as racism. King surely would have stood with them.

  4. Scott
    January 22, 2013, 12:13 pm

    I bet Troy is right too, that MLK did say make a pro-Israel statement (at Marty Peretz’s house in Cambridge, on a fundraising mission). But curious was that he apparently never said anything like that in public. Not that it would have been unpopular in late 60’s America. There must have been people (like Marty!) encouraging him to go public with his Zionism, especially after the emergence of some pretty over-the-top anti-Zionism in the black left. Yet he kept silent.

    And kudos to Morgan Bach. It is inconceivable that King and the mainstream civil rights movement wouldn’t stand up for Palestinian self-determination today.

    • Annie Robbins
      January 22, 2013, 5:03 pm

      I bet Troy is right too, that MLK did say make a pro-Israel statement (at Marty Peretz’s house in Cambridge, on a fundraising mission).

      sorry, that lie has been thoroughly debunked. and it was allegedly first published in ‘encounter mag’, published by irving kristol, a known cia magazine.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      Jump to: navigation, search

      Encounter was a literary magazine, founded in 1953 by poet Stephen Spender and early neoconservative author Irving Kristol. The magazine ceased publication in 1991. Published in the United Kingdom, it was a largely Anglo-American intellectual and cultural journal. The magazine received covert funding from the Central Intelligence Agency, after the CIA and MI6 discussed the founding of an “Anglo-American left-of-centre publication” intended to counter the idea of cold war neutralism. The magazine was rarely critical of American foreign policy, but beyond this editors had considerable publishing freedom.[1]

    • Citizen
      January 22, 2013, 7:42 pm

      @ Scott
      And now we have Obama, the Messiah, who also is ambiguous at best on anti-human rights Israeli conduct, and surely does what MLK did when it comes to dealing with the so very influential and rich establishment American Jewish community. Does his pick of Hagel for Sec of Def signal he may get more seriously righteous in his second coming? Soon, we will see.

  5. Memphis
    January 22, 2013, 2:04 pm

    Hi, Phil. Here is a link to E.I discussing MLK Jr and whether or not he supported ISrael

    link to electronicintifada.net

  6. James Canning
    January 22, 2013, 2:34 pm

    I think MLK would have deep sympathy for the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

  7. Abdul-Rahman
    January 22, 2013, 3:25 pm

    This thing that this hasbara agent is bringing up wouldn’t happen to be that old debunked HOAX letter falsely attributed to MLK would it? I’m not going to spend time reading some Zionist propaganda drivel!

    link to counterpunch.org

    link to electronicintifada.net

  8. DICKERSON3870
    January 22, 2013, 5:31 pm

    RE: “At Open Zion, Gil Troy is arguing that in 1967, Martin Luther King Jr made a strong statement supporting Israel.” ~ Weiss

    SEE: “The Use and Abuse of Martin Luther King Jr. by Israel’s Apologists”, by Fadi Kiblawi And Will Youmans, Counterpunch, 1/17/04

    [EXCERPTS] . . . Dr. King’s expertise as a non-violent civil rights leader and visionary are unparalleled in U.S. history. However, that does not make him an informed commentator on Middle Eastern affairs or on the ideological facets of Zionism. As impressive as the references to his views on Israel may seem, this is a textbook example of Argumentum Ad Verecundiam [SEE: Argument from authority @ Wikipedia - J.L.D.]
    Finding direct and published utterances by Dr. King about the modern Middle East and Zionism is extremely rare. A cursory review of dozens of books on and by the civil rights leader turned up nothing.
    Nonetheless, defenders of Israel often refer to a letter by Dr. King. This letter is reprinted in full on many web pages and in print. One example of a quotation derived from this letter is:
    “… You declare, my friend; that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely ‘anti-Zionist’ … And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God’s green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews… Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so.”

    Antiracism writer Tim Wise checked the citation, which claimed that it originated from a “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend” in an August, 1967 edition of Saturday Review. In an article on January, 2003, essay he declared that he found no letters from Dr. King in any of the four August, 1967 editions. The authors of this essay verified Wise’s discovery. The letter was commonly cited to also have been published in a book by Dr. King entitled, “This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.” No such book was listed in the bibliography provided by the King Center in Atlanta, nor in the catalogs of several large public and university libraries. . .
    More recently, the Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) featured excerpts from the letter prominently on its website. Despite its name, SPME is an advocacy group seeking to bolster Israel’s image on campus…
    . . . After one of the authors of this article informed SPME’s director of the quotation’s discredited status, he replied with hostility despite the simple verifiability of the claim that the citation is incorrect. After several exchanges he replaced it with another seemingly far-fetched quote:

    Martin Luther King addressed the issue in 1968, in a speech at Harvard when he said: “.. You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely ‘anti-Zionist.’ …When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews… And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe…When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews–make no mistake about it.”

    When a citation for this new quote was requested, he refused to provide one, leaving visitors only with its claim that Dr. King delivered it in a 1968 Harvard “speech.” However, the language of SMPE’s new posting strongly resembles their original one — on account of the fact that it too comes from the same discredited “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend.”
    The first time the fake letter was quoted, it could have been a mistake, but to draw on different lines from the same fictitious letter is strikingly unscholarly — as is the false citation of it to a 1968 “speech” at Harvard. Either this citation was invented or taken from another unspecified source–classic plagiarism, whether intentional or out of gross negligence.
    SPME’s reference to a 1968 “speech” at Harvard mirrors the details from a published account that appeared in two sources: First, it was in right-wing and ardently pro-Israeli sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset’s 1969 article in Encounter. Second, it was in a January, 2002 San Francisco Chronicle op/ed by Congressman John Lewis, who knew Dr. King personally. . .
    . . . Lipset wrote in his essay “The Socialism of Fools: The Left, the Jews & Israel” about a “dinner” for Dr. King he attended. When one black student made “some remark against the Zionists,” Dr. King “snapped” back, “’When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking anti-Semitism’.”
    The piece by Congressman Lewis also quotes this same remark though it is not clear if it is gathered from Lipset’s essay.
    Congressman Lewis claims Dr. King made this comment “shortly before his death” during “an appearance at Harvard.” Lipset states it was “shortly before he was assassinated” at a “dinner given for him in Cambridge.” This quotation seems on its face much more credible. Yet, SPME presents snippets from the fake letter while apparently citing this statement (a 1968 “speech” at Harvard).
    There are still, however, a few reasons for casting doubt on the authenticity of this statement. According to the Harvard Crimson, “The Rev. Martin Luther King was last in Cambridge almost exactly a year ago–April 23, 1967″ (“While You Were Away” 4/8/68). If this is true, Dr. King could not have been in Cambridge in 1968. Lipset stated he was in the area for a “fund-raising mission,” which would seem to imply a high profile visit. Also, an intensive inventory of publications by Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Papers Project accounts for numerous speeches in 1968. None of them are for talks in Cambridge or Boston. . .
    While these points raise some doubt, let us assume that the quote is accurate.
    This is where context comes in.
    One of the principal arguments of Lipset’s 1969 article is that the split between blacks and Jews “stems much more from the American situation than from the Middle East Conflict.” He identifies Jews as a dominating force within the civil rights movement. Black nationalist leadership wanted to distance themselves from Whites in the movement, Lipset argues. In Lipset’s own words, he summarized what Black nationalists were saying: “We don’t want whites, but we particularly don’t want Jews, and we are expressing antagonism to Jews in the form of opposition to Israel.”
    Few of the articles that cite Lipset’s essay mention this crucial context. . .

    SOURCE – link to counterpunch.org

  9. MHughes976
    January 22, 2013, 6:25 pm

    King was one of very few prominent Americans at the time to have visited Palestine, in what was then its Jordanian sector, and walked up to the Mandelbaum Gate. He cannot have decided either that the matter was of no importance, since intelligent visitors must have seen that it was of great importance, or that Israel deserved the public encouragement that would have seemed routine in left-wing circles then. He must have decided that this was a problem for another time or another generation. Meanwhile Stokely Carmichael, who was developing a more radical version of King’s views, had been influenced by Zionism in his youth and despite his radicalism did not at the time – ie while King was alive – make any anti-Zionist statement, at least not strongly or publicly. He said later that he had been brought to see the truth of the matter by a female colleague whom, presumably for her protection, he did not name – which all shows how entrenched Zionism was in progressive opinion of the 60s. Still is, really. The likes of us are still a minority everywhere in the West.

  10. rws450
    January 23, 2013, 1:13 am

    Last year we had a very notable ML King Day speech in the East Bay community of Walnut Creek. The keynote address was by Dr. Lonnie Bristow, MD, and the first (and perhaps only) African American to be president of the American Medical Association. Dr. Bristow went to Morehouse College and was in the same fraternity as Dr. King. He knew him. To the shock of some in the audience, here is how Dr. Bristow closed out his speech “Let Freedom Roll”. ………….

    [Speech of Dr Lonnie Bristow follows .......]
    “No less than three winners of Nobel Prizes for Peace have written sharp criticism of the current situation. I refer to former President Jimmy Carter, as well as South Africa’s Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela. No one supports the activities of the terrorists, but Carter and Tutu have minced no words about it and both have labeled the circumstance in Palestine as being a replication of “Apartheid”. I believe Dr. King would lend his voice to now make it four Nobel laureates taking that position!
    ……………
    If there is to be “Justice”, there must be “impartiality” and “fairness” brought to bear (and respected) on the solution.

    But would he stop there? After four and a half decades of “no action”? I think not. He clearly would support non-violent actions (as he did in the South), and would be supportive of using the South African model, which was: use economic pressure.

    How? BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction).

    Several religious faith groups, and several interfaith groups, have tried vigorously to engage those largest commercial corporations which appear to both facilitate and benefit from the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. Finding their efforts being essentially stonewalled or ignored by such entities as Caterpillar, HP, and Motorola, these faith groups are now going through the very deliberate process to decide in 2012 (this year) on resolutions which would divest these corporate offenders from their investment portfolios.

    Where would Martin Luther King Jr. be on this? I believe he would see this action as the appropriate Non-Violent pressure needed to “let Justice Roll down like water, and Righteousness like a mighty stream”.
    Those “formative years” he spent back in Morehouse College would not let him take any other course.
    No less than three winners of Nobel Prizes for Peace have written sharp criticism of the current situation. I refer to former President Jimmy Carter, as well as South Africa’s Bishop Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela. No one supports the activities of the terrorists, but Carter and Tutu have minced no words about it and both have labeled the circumstance in Palestine as being a replication of “Apartheid”. I believe Dr. King would lend his voice to now make it four Nobel laureates taking that position!
    As has been put forward by former President Jimmy carter, the preferable solution would seem to be:
    Recognize the value of the U.N., as imperfect as it may be, as providing the “impartial perspective” and, accordingly, adhere to its Resolution 242 which, in 1967, stated the unacceptability of any nation acquiring land by force, and called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and to negotiate land for peace; and asserted the right of all nations in the region – including an independent, democratic Palestine state – to live in peace within secure and recognized borders. This “solution” was endorsed in 2003 by the so-called “International Quartet” (U.N., Russia, the European Union, and the U.S.).
    I believe Martin Luther King Jr. would support that. If there is to be “Justice”, there must be “impartiality” and “fairness” brought to bear (and respected) on the solution.
    But would he stop there? After four and a half decades of “no action”? I think not. He clearly would support non-violent actions (as he did in the South), and would be supportive of using the South African model, which was: use economic pressure. How? BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction).
    Several religious faith groups, and several interfaith groups, have tried vigorously to engage those largest commercial corporations which appear to both facilitate and benefit from the illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory. Finding their efforts being essentially stonewalled or ignored by such entities as Caterpillar, HP, and Motorola, these faith groups are now going through the very deliberate process to decide in 2012 (this year) on resolutions which would divest these corporate offenders from their investment portfolios.
    Where would Martin Luther King Jr. be on this? I believe he would see this action as the appropriate Non-Violent pressure needed to “let Justice Roll down like water, and Righteousness like a mighty stream”.
    Those “formative years” he spent back in Morehouse College would not let him take any other course.
    Happy Birthday, Martin!

    [the above is from speech commemorating Dr Martin Luther King Jr in 2012].

  11. HHM
    January 23, 2013, 3:48 pm

    I think people were still believing the Exodus myth at that time – that Israel was a land without a people for a people without a land. My understanding is that historians such as Ilan Pappe and Avi Shalaim did not have access to the military archives until the early 80’s, therefore the truth of the Palestinian Nakba was largely unknown, except for the victims of course. Please see also Lenni Brenner’s piece, The Black Civil Rights Movement And Zionism (link to thestruggle.org).

    • MHughes976
      January 24, 2013, 4:51 pm

      To some degree we don’t have to speculate about what King would have said, since we have what he did say in his Easter sermon of 1959 about his walk through the Holy Land. I would suggest that this is a determinedly neutral text, though noticeably free of contemporary Israeli propaganda slogans about blooming deserts etc., mentioning Exodus as far as I recall not at all and the ancient Kings of Israel only to contrast their militarism with Jesus’ peacefulness and humility. The phrase ‘Jerusalem, Jordan’ is used and in some passages King makes it very clear that he is a political as well as religious animal, celebrating the liberation of African countries. Remember that this was someone who had strong political views and had seen the Palestinian reality on the ground, a highly intelligent observer who would not have needed academic studies. Overall these are surely the words of someone who had set himself, after experience and reflection, to approach the Palestine question not so much with political commitment to one side but with theological goodwill towards all.

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