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Israel advocates land on Alexander’s MLK/Palestine piece as ‘strategic threat’ and ‘shameful appropriation’ of King’s memory

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The US discourse was rocked this weekend by the opinion piece in the New York Times by columnist and “New Jim Crow” author Michelle Alexander saying that it was time for her to break her silence on Palestine no matter the career cost, in the spirit of Martin Luther King coming out against the Vietnam War in 1967.

Advocates for Israel have responded accordingly. Perceiving the piece as a huge blow to Israel’s reputation among elites, and to the traditional alliance of blacks and Jews, Israel’s cheerleaders have leaped to denounce Alexander as vicious in her views, and dead-wrong on facts.

Michael Oren, the American-born scribe, former Israeli ambassador and now member of the parliament, sees the piece as an attempt to delegitimize Israel and a “strategic threat.”

Israel has to take serious steps to defend itself. By equating support for Israel with support for the Vietnam War and opposition to MLK, Alexander dangerously delegitimizates us. It’s a strategic threat and Israel must treat it as such.

It’s hard to say which country David Friedman is an ambassador for in his attack on the piece, which references “an Arab” as the greatest beneficiary of Israel.

Michelle Alexander has it all wrong in today’s . If MLK were alive today I think he would be very proud of his robust support for the State of Israel. An Arab in the ME who is gay, a woman, a Christian, or seeking education & self-improvement can’t do better than living in [Israeli flag].

The ADL made sure to hail Alexander’s work as  a civil rights attorney before attacking her latest writing as her wading into waters she doesn’t understand:

We have great respect for Michelle Alexander & her path-breaking civil rights work, but her piece on the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dangerously flawed, ignoring critical facts, history & the shared responsibility of both parties to resolve it.

Like Friedman, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee says that Martin Luther King would be on Israel’s side. He tweets: 

Michelle Alexander’s piece: •in essence, calls for ’s end •approvingly cites extremists •invokes support of w/ no factual basis •ignores Israel’s search for peace since ‘48; nature of Hamas; terrorism; Jewish refugees from Arab world

His organization, the American Jewish Committee, is angrier in this tweet, saying that everyone is flawed and Alexander undertook the “shameful appropriation” of MLK against “democratic Israel.”

MLK’s memory is not a moral cudgel to wield against any cause or country you disapprove of. Michelle Alexander’s op-ed is a shameful appropriation. We all have a long way to go to reach the mountaintop. There’s no need to take potshots at democratic Israel

B’nai B’rith International calls the piece an error-ridden “rant”, and it will surely only exacerbate the enmity between Israel and the progressive community:

Michelle Alexander’s anti-Israel rant in the New York Times was filled with errors of both commission and omission. There was no mention of Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran, not to mention decades of terror against Israelis.

Camera has posted an article deploring the original commentary as the “NY Times’ latest anti-Israel smear.” Tamar Sternthal writes that contra Alexander there is no silence to be broken; that the real silence is about Palestinian crimes; that two activists Alexander embraces, Temple professor and former CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill and author/activist Angela Davis were “calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology,” and that Alexander “herself flirts with anti-Semitism” when she speaks of a “political lobby” with “well-documented power.”

The notion that the Palestinian issue is ignored, that a “silence” currently surrounds it, or has surrounded it in years past, and that pro-Israel advocates muzzle opposing views, is a common canard of anti-Israel activists.

Ali Abunimah deploys savage irony against the American Jewish Committee.

After its vicious attacks on and Angela Davis, the Israeli apartheid lobby comes for New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander. The goal: to intimidate and bully Black intellectuals and activists into silence over Israel’s horrific crimes against Palestinians.

And he emphasizes the new politics of the issue, with leftwing blacks vocally opposing Israeli policies:

Extremist Israel lobby group lectures New Jim Crow author Michelle Alexander on the rules for how she’s allowed to talk about MLK Jr.’s legacy. Israel lobby not only trains US police in Israel to oppress African Americans, but polices how Black intellectuals think too.

Ira Stoll in the Algemeiner suggests that the piece is anti-Semitic. “Alexander’s analysis is so far off the deep end that it almost doesn’t merit a response,” he says, before overcoming his distaste to try to counter the political damage in Alexander’s defense of boycott:

Maybe — hopefully — one of The New York Times‘ Zionist voices such as Bret Stephens, Bari Weiss or Matti Friedman will rise to the occasion with a powerful rebuttal of Alexander, the way Stephens did recently when another Times op-ed columnist, Michelle Goldberg, defended anti-Zionism. But there’s something vile about the notion that something as blatantly bigoted as a boycott of Jewish banks — by a Christian church, no less! — is something to be politely debated, with voices on each side, on the Times op-ed page, as if it were immigration policy or the optimal marginal tax rate.

Alexander never comes out explicitly for boycott, but she does honor those “guided by… moral clarity” in their response to Palestinian conditions, and mentions two Christian denominations’ endorsement of boycott aimed at the settlements and the support by new Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

In a column on the column in the Times of Israel,  Harris of the American Jewish Committee says that MLK would be “appalled” by the piece as an effort to “hijack” his legacy.

outrageously, Ms. Alexander tried to link her column to the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., though she presents no convincing evidence that he would have agreed with her premise. To the contrary, the Dr. King that AJC leaders worked with on civil rights and other pressing issues, in the 1960s, was a staunch friend of Israel (and the mainstream Jewish community).

I can’t help but wonder how Dr. King would have reacted to such a piece that seeks to shamelessly exploit his memory —and hijack his legacy — by turning an outspoken friend of Israel into a would-be moral cudgel against the world’s only Jewish-majority country. My guess is he would have been appalled.

Harris lists the “countless outrages” in the piece, including:

She unabashedly applauds boycotts of Israel; falsely accuses the Jewish state of apartheid; approvingly cites extremist voices like the misnamed Jewish Voice for Peace; endorses the Palestinian “right of return,” which would mean the end of Israel; veers dangerously close to anti-Semitism with references to Jewish money; and charges the country with endless acts of oppression against both its Arab citizens (who, in reality, are fully active in just about every aspect of Israeli life, including the Supreme Court) and Palestinians.

He expected more sympathy:

Nowhere does she show any understanding of Israel, much less even an ounce of sympathy for its unenviable situation in a rough-and-tumble region where the weak don’t last long and, tragically, peace has proved elusive.

Stoll says that Alexander’s comment about the Israel lobby links to the Washington Post “rather than to any actual documentation of such power,” as if the Post is controlled by Israel. “Never mind that the lobby isn’t ‘Israel’s’ but America’s, consisting of American Jews and Christians who support Israel for many excellent reasons,” Stoll elaborates.

This is Alexander’s reference to the Israel lobby and apartheid:

Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel’s political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel, even as it has grown more emboldened in its occupation of Palestinian territory and adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.

This is Alexander’s reference to money:

[C]ivil rights activists and organizations have remained silent as well… because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism

Harris is obviously worried. He claims that Palestinians are doing great in the occupation:

Of course, there’s not even a hint that, absent a peace partner to achieve a two-state accord, Israel tried at the very least to minimize the impact of occupation, as evidenced by a growing Palestinian population, rising life expectancy, improving standard of living, substantial self-government, and the founding of several universities in the West Bank.

P.S. The piece has drawn praise from Noura Erakat, Naomi Klein, Jamil Dakwar, IfNotNow, Yousef Munayyer, Katrina vanden Heuvel, and Glenn Greenwald among others, tho that is not our concern here.

Mondoweiss Editors

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43 Responses

  1. JWalters on January 21, 2019, 3:30 pm

    The critics of Michelle Alexander’s article deploy the usual dishonest tactics clearly described by Zionist strategists in the documentary about the Israel lobby, The Lobby.

    1. They avoid a straightforward, face to face debate based on facts.

    2. Instead they attack the character of their opponent.

    3. They deploy the “anti-Semitism” canard and the “canard” canard.

    4. They rely on extravagant emotion to cover up their lack of a coherent case, aiming to scare and threaten people into silence.

    Let’s see any one of these frothing Zionists appear AT THE SAME TIME with any knowledgeable and articulate anti-Zionist on any mainstream news show in a normal, standard debate format. They will never do it for the same reason they have never done it. They know their litany of lies will be thoroughly crushed by the facts.

    • Misterioso on January 22, 2019, 8:44 am

      @JWalters, et al

      Audio – MUST LISTEN: Israeli journalist, Bradley Burston discusses his recent visit to the occupied west bank

      Haaretz, Jan. 20/19

      “LISTEN: In the West Bank, I Saw the Death of Zionism”

      Click on the Haaretz link above.

      “Bradley Burston discusses his recent visit to the West Bank and how he’s resolved not to remain silent; {PLUS: Danielle Ziri reports from the Women’s March] Listen free.”

      “In Part 2, Bradley Burston describes his visit to the West Bank, as part of an upcoming series of articles on about the future of the two-state solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. After carefully avoiding the quicksand – literal and figurative – we ask: What can Israelis who oppose occupation do to hasten its end, who could they possibly vote for in the upcoming election and is the warning sounded by historian Benny Morris too little, too late?”

      Bradley Burston’s interview begins at the 11:58 mark.

      Excerpt: “The occupation will kill Israel. Not Iran. Not Hamas. Not Hezbollah. Not leftist Israelis. Not the media. Not BDS…. It is killing Israel right now…”

      • jack dresser on January 22, 2019, 1:59 pm

        IDF Gen. Matti Peled predicted this immediately following the 1967 land grab aka “war” for which he of course was condemned as traitorous to the holy cause of Zionism, as did French-Israeli Michel Warshawski in his 2004 book, Toward an Open Tomb. It has the inevitability of any classic tragedy arising from the character flaw of hubris, which feels too good to renounce before it is too late. American empire is facing the same outcome for the same reason.

      • genesto on January 22, 2019, 5:24 pm

        And let’s not forget Hannah Arendt’s warnings back in the 1960’s of Israel’s coming moral collapse.

      • Abe Bird on January 23, 2019, 7:27 am

        This is proof that all the self playing “prophets” in their own eyes were mistaken about Israel. During the last 70 years of the existence of the Jewish state, she were doubled its economy and strength every decade mostly by her own economy, talent and initiative! If in the first decade of the state (1958) a million Jews lived there, then there were already 7 million Jews in 2017. That means that every Jew is much more productive and contributing to the society. Against them the Arab world crashed, slaughtering itself and much divided by hate and terror.

        Israel produces various coalitions with several moderate Islamic countries, some of them in secret. I am sorry to inform those who hate Israel, and call themselves “prophets”, that their joy is in vain. Instead of hating Israel and the Jews, why don’t you start to love the Arabs and make sure they make peace, first of all with themselves?

      • eljay on January 23, 2019, 8:33 am

        || Abe Bird: … During the last 70 years of the existence of the Jewish state, she were doubled its economy and strength every decade … Against them the Arab world crashed, slaughtering itself and much divided by hate and terror. … Instead of hating Israel and the Jews, why don’t you start to love the Arabs … ||

        You’re absolutely right: It’s time to start…
        – providing “the Arabs” with all of the unwavering political, financial, military and economic support that Israel currently gets; and
        – targeting Israel with the crushing sanctions, fomented civil unrest, support for terrorist organizations, bombing campaigns and/or regime change that “the Arabs” are currently treated to.

        I have no doubt that “the Arabs” will double their economy and strength every decade while Israel crashes, slaughters itself and is much divided by hate and terror.

      • Mooser on January 23, 2019, 12:48 pm

        “Against them the Arab world…”

        “Abe Bird”, please keep in mind the free speech rule: Nobody gets to say anything worse about Jews than what we say about them.

  2. Shingo on January 21, 2019, 5:48 pm

    The fact that these shameless shills are sinking to whitesplaining to a woman of colour who is an authority on MLK and Jim Crowe is truly mind boggling. If you read the comments to Oren’s Tweet and others, it’s truly amusing to see them taken to the woodshed. No one is buying their crap anymore.

    • annie on January 21, 2019, 6:51 pm


      • Misterioso on January 22, 2019, 8:36 am


        More proof that the Zionist leadership is running scared. Increasingly seen around the world by Jews and non-Jews as the monster it is, “Israel” is entering its death throes. It’s only a matter of time.

      • annie on January 22, 2019, 10:50 am

        By equating support for Israel with support for the Vietnam War and opposition to MLK

        someday people are going to look back on this era, it very much reminds me of the 60’s. anyone who understands american history .. the signs, they are all there.

    • JWalters on January 21, 2019, 7:42 pm

      Great news! Looking like Zionism has passed its “sell by” date.

  3. gamal on January 21, 2019, 6:58 pm

    “it’s truly amusing to see them taken to the woodshed”

    the appropriation of King by the mainstream American culture is incredible and so dishonest

    “A March 1968 FBI memo, from the month before King’s death, discussed ways to “prevent the rise of a ‘messiah’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.” The memo, which is redacted, hinted that a leader like King “could be a real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed ‘obedience’ to ‘white liberal doctrines’ (nonviolence) and embrace black nationalism.”

    “Through counter-intelligence it should be possible to pinpoint potential trouble-makers and neutralize them,” the memo added. The next year, the FBI was involved in the murder of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party and another potential “black messiah” the agency had targeted.

    Five decades later, however, despite their well-documented history of trying to destroy King, the FBI and other government institutions now use him to try to whitewash their sordid histories.

    The real King was an uncompromising political radical. He recognized that the US government was “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” He implored people to “question the capitalistic economy” and insisted, “We can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power.”

    King linked white supremacy to imperialism and Jim Crow in the US to apartheid in South Africa. When he came out against the barbaric war in Vietnam, which would leave millions dead, he was castigated by liberals and conservatives alike. The editorial boards of The New York Times and The Washington Post cast their scorn on King; on one day, 168 separate newspapers berated him.

    Yet King persisted. He declared that “the evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together, and you really can’t get rid of one without getting rid of the others.” He also said activists must must “make it clear that America is a hypocritical nation,” and maintained, “The whole structure of American life must be changed.”

  4. Henry Norr on January 21, 2019, 9:42 pm

    Gotta give Michael Oren one thing: “delegitimizates ” is a fantastic new word. I’m going to go right out and do some delegitimizating right now…

    • Mooser on January 22, 2019, 3:27 pm

      The deligitimizatniks are coming!

      • Talkback on January 22, 2019, 8:22 pm

        Antisemizatniks! Antisemizatniks!

      • Mooser on January 23, 2019, 11:54 am

        “Antisemizatniks! Antisemizatniks!”

        And watch out for the Hasbaratchniks, too!

    • Philip Munger on January 22, 2019, 4:18 pm

      I guess I misunderestimated Oren’s creativity.

      • Talkback on January 22, 2019, 8:26 pm

        Worse, you misunderestimizated it.

    • annie on January 22, 2019, 4:54 pm

      was that his invention? i looked it up at webster and found “First Known Use of delegitimize 1968” but it didn’t say pertaining to what or who. i never heard it until it was reference wrt israel.

      if he didn’t invent it, he sure did bring it into our lexicon.

      • Henry Norr on January 30, 2019, 8:58 pm

        You evidently looked up “delegitimize,” Annie. That’s a legitimate word, so to speak. But the word Oren used was “delegitimizATEs.” About that Merriam-Webster says “The word you’ve entered isn’t in the dictionary.”

      • RoHa on January 30, 2019, 10:03 pm

        “Deligitimizates” isn’t in the real dictionary, either.✓&filter=dictionary&query=delegitimizate

      • annie on January 30, 2019, 10:03 pm

        delegitimizATEs? oh my! never heard of that one henry.

        i ask him about it

      • echinococcus on January 31, 2019, 1:00 am

        “Delegitimizatify” simply implements the general principle that you cannot add too many syllables to any word if you want to make your official fart sound authoritative, i.e. backed by the bailiff and the hangman. It looks as if Michael Scott Bornstein, Deputy Minister in Charge of Propaganda for the Zionist Occupation Kommandantur, is getting jittery when thinking of his illegitimate status.

      • Talkback on January 31, 2019, 6:26 am

        “deligitimizates” is a valid entry in the Zionist new speak dictionary.

        It refers to anyone who doesn’t buy Israel’s ludicrous legitimization and justification attempts when it comes to its violation of international, humanitarian and human rights laws or its existence as an Apartheid state.

  5. John Douglas on January 21, 2019, 9:50 pm

    I can’t help thinking of all those who have been the recipients of the rhetoric of feigned horror, feigned hurt, what JWalters calls extravagant emotion, the slander of anti-Semitism, the super-hyperbole of strategic threat and anti-Israel smear, the lie that a call for equal rights among people is an anti-Semitic act and more, those who were subject to it when the general populace bought it. Lost jobs, public condemnations. I really think it’s possible that those times are changing, that a rational discussion of Israel’s behavior within and without the US may be possible without the trash mentioned above.

  6. Marnie on January 22, 2019, 12:15 am

    Punchable face Oren has no right to comment on anything wrt MLK or claim to understand MLK when, if he hadn’t been assasinated and after the end of the Vietnam war, would probably have made several trips to palestine, with and without members of Black Lives Matter. Of course he would have been turned right back round at ben gurion after the first trip, once the zionists grasped they couldn’t use him for their photo ops. It’s insulting to see how quickly zionist’s and their enablers would rob from MLK to suit their nefarious purposes….all the while treating living black people here like the dirt under their nails and doing everything they can to keep israel for ‘white people’, and sending asylum seekers back to their certain deaths.

    • Mooser on January 22, 2019, 4:06 pm

      Zionism (with, no doubt, the facilitation of organized Judaism) is doing one heck of a job positioning itself socially and politically in the US.

  7. Qualtrough on January 22, 2019, 12:15 am

    “By equating support for Israel with support for the Vietnam War and opposition to MLK, Alexander dangerously delegitimizates us. It’s a strategic threat and Israel must treat it as such.”

    Thanks for your unwitting imprimatur Mr. Oren. Looks like those seeking to de-legitimize Zionism are on the right path.

  8. jack dresser on January 22, 2019, 1:48 am

    These are standard hasbara methods right out of their handbooks on “how to talk about Israel.” They seem/act oblivious to the fact that since Israeli archives were declassified 40 years ago their own “new” historians such as Ilan Pappe, Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim and Shlomo Sand have been able to access, study and publish what has really happened, supplemented by British , UN, and US consular records, Palestinian historians such as Walid Khalidi and Salman Abu Sitta, independent correspondents such as Robert Fisk, David Hirsch, Alan Hart and John Pilger, international attorneys such as Richard Falk, John Dugard and Francis Boyle, and a Palestinian attorney such as Noura Erakat or George Bisharat. Hasbara instructions emphasize avoidance of history and facts plus lots of emotionally evocative language, aka hysterics. If I were Ms Alexander I would immediately challenge them to a public, prime time-televised debate with several of the above figures empanelled alongside her. I would hope to see them bring along Alan Dershowitz to be skewered and publicly embarrassed as well. He once wrote that 95% of a defense attorney’s clients are guilty, which puts him in familiar territory defending Israel.

  9. jack dresser on January 22, 2019, 2:17 am

    If Ms Alexander decides to go to the mat with her quasi-intellectual assailants it could blow apart 70 years of diligent work by The Lobby to keep the U.S. public uninformed and misdirected. I hope she takes advantage of the opportunity.

  10. SeaPort on January 22, 2019, 8:24 am

    “The time has come,” the Walrus said,
    “To talk of many things:
    Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
    Of cabbages–and kings–
    And why the sea is boiling hot–
    And whether pigs have wings.”

    ~L. Carroll 1872 for such a time as this…

  11. wondering jew on January 22, 2019, 9:03 am

    A linguistic quibble: The use of “land” (in the headline here) as a verb as a replacement for the word “attack”. Since the fight between the Zionists and the Palestinians is (at least in part) over “land” the noun, I wonder: Is it useful to attract my attention with a word that has two meanings. Was it intentional? Is it misleading?

    Once I saw a headline in the NY Times using “Mars” as in the verb, meaning “disfigures”, and my eye was attracted by the planet being in a headline. It misled me, but attracted my eye.

    • Misterioso on January 22, 2019, 9:49 am

      @wondering Jew

      It seems your parents did not tell you that sometimes it’s best to say nothing.

      • annie on January 22, 2019, 10:22 am

        i’ve think we’ve landed on one of yonah’s trigger words ;)

  12. Doversberger on January 22, 2019, 12:02 pm

    When did Zionists become the guardians and interpreters of MLK and his legacy?

  13. tamarque on January 22, 2019, 12:18 pm

    I was interested in the article in Buzzfeed today that exposed the building of conspiracy theory about George Soros. It was so explicit naming the creators of the modus operendi that launched Netenyahu into PM against Peres years ago.

    This Buzzfeed article t is not much different than the hasbara of Israel against anyone who dares to criticize the apartheid State. One might recall Desmond Tutu’s visit to Palestine saying that what he saw was worse than anything in Apartheid S. Africa, a condition he knew full well.

    Michelle Alexander shows courage and clarity in here OpEd piece in the NY Times. More of her and Angela Davis is needed. These pro-zionist bigots are the ones to hang their head in shame as they denigrate the memory of all those who did perish in the Holocaust.

  14. eljay on January 22, 2019, 8:02 pm

    When it comes to I-P, there’s no end to Zionist wailing and gnashing of teeth and lies and whataboutism and hurling of vitriolic accusations of anti-Semitism and “Jew hatred”.

    But when it comes to I-P, one thing you’ll never hear from a Zionist is a call for – or even a hint at – justice, accountability and equality.

  15. Talkback on January 22, 2019, 8:36 pm

    Who isn’t fat up with the usual, disgusting Zionist sh**storm? It is hollow, repetitive and insults everybody’s intelligence. But I guess that they only want to reach morons.

    • Mooser on January 23, 2019, 11:48 am

      ” But I guess that they only want to reach morons.”

      Oh gosh, “Talkback”, that’s harsh. Can’t we just say that Zionism is positioning itself as a white, Republican concern.
      Since many people are confused about the position of Judaism and Zionism on the political spectrum, it is necessary to declare, once and for all, who Zionism stands with.

  16. Abe Bird on January 23, 2019, 7:13 am

    Saying that Martin Luther King Jr. would condemn Israel if he were alive today for her treating to the Palestinian Arabs means and proves that the Palestinians weren’t existing until 1967, otherwise he would have been condemn Israel.
    Isn’t that so?

    • eljay on January 23, 2019, 8:48 am

      || Abe Bird: Saying that Martin Luther King Jr. would condemn Israel if he were alive today for her treating to the Palestinian Arabs means and proves that the Palestinians weren’t existing until 1967, otherwise he would have been condemn Israel.
      Isn’t that so? ||


  17. Ian Berman on January 23, 2019, 2:39 pm

    My response to David Harris and the Times of Israel, published today on Mint Press News

    The Times of Israel’s Flawed Attack on the NY Times’ MLK and Palestinian Rights

    – Calling Michelle Alexander’s editorial in the New York Times a “new low” was a hyperbolic act of click-bait to appeal to the Times of Israel’s readers. One that lacked journalistic and editorial integrity.

    January 23, 2019

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