While the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is best recognized as a champion of the American civil rights movement, his wisdom and vision extended beyond the borders of the United States to all of humanity. Dr. King was an outspoken supporter of Israel’s right to exist, and the right of the Jewish people to a homeland. Here are a few of his statements and the words of close colleagues that shed light on this:
“Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.”[i]
“Israel’s right to exist as a state in security is incontestable.”[ii]
“When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism,”[iii]
“I can say with absolute certainty that Martin abhorred anti-Semitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism,”—Clarence B. Jones, personal attorney and close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr.[iv]
“Martin… warned repeatedly that anti-Semitism would soon be disguised as anti-Zionism.”—Clarence B. Jones, personal attorney and close adviser to Martin Luther King Jr.[v]
“[MLK] understood that a special relationship exists between African Americans and Jews… He knew that both peoples were uprooted involuntarily from their homelands. He knew that both peoples were shaped by the tragic experience of slavery. He knew that both peoples were forced to live in ghettoes, victims of segregation… He knew that both peoples were subject to laws passed with the particular intent of oppressing them simply because they were Jewish or black. He knew that both peoples have been subjected to oppression and genocide on a level unprecedented in history.”—Rep. John Lewis, former civil rights leader who worked with Martin Luther King Jr.[vi]
View this video of Dumisani Washington speaking about Dr. King’s views on Israel, peace, and coexistence:
Based on this evidence, it is inconceivable that Dr. King would engage in, or endorse, the demonization of Zionism that permeates documents like “Zionism Unsettled”. Yet, the international Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement describes its efforts as a close cousin of the American civil rights movement, and compares itself to the movement against apartheid in South Africa.
The American civil rights movement was about a minority seeking basic rights as citizens of their country. The movement against South African apartheid was about an oppressed majority seeking the same basic rights. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, however, is about two national movements and two peoples.
The Palestinian movement is a national movement that seeks a Palestinian Arab state, not the “one state solution” BDS advocates promote. Palestinian leaders have publicly stated that “not a single Jew” will be permitted to live in Palestine. Under Palestinian law today, the sale of land to a Jew is a crime punishable by death, and Palestinians suspected of land sales to Jews have been executed without trial. This is not America in 1968, and it is not South Africa under apartheid.
Both the American civil rights movement and the movement against apartheid in South Africa had a plan of action: to enact laws and practices that gave the full rights of citizenship to all of the country’s people, regardless of race or ethnicity. The BDS movement has no real plan to “end the occupation”, which cannot be addressed in isolation from the conflict. The conflict and occupation can only be ended by both parties agreeing to peaceful coexistence, and each people fully recognizing the rights of the other.
The real plan forward is to continue the foundation-building necessary for the two-state solution to become reality. In Palestine this means promoting economic development, attracting external investment, economic cooperation with Israel, and the development of governmental institutions. This is what “investing in peace” is all about, and it is the only genuine path forward.
[i] John Lewis, “’I have a dream’ for peace in the Middle East / King’s special bond with Israel,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 21, 2002, at http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/I-have-a-dream-for-peace-in-the-Middle-East-2880295.php
[ii] Martin Luther King Jr. “The Peace Race,” n.d., at http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/kingweb/about_king/warandpeace/wpeacerace.htm
[iii] Martin Kramer, “In the words of Martin Luther King…” March 12, 2012, at http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2012/03/in-the-words-of-martin-luther-king/
[iv] Clarence B. Jones, “King and the Jews,” Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2008, at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120951797764154811.html
[vi] John Lewis, “’I have a dream’ for peace in the Middle East / King’s special bond with Israel,” San Francisco Chronicle, January 21, 2002, at http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/I-have-a-dream-for-peace-in-the-Middle-East-2880295.php