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.”