Since his assassination on April 4, 1968, people have attempted to invoke the name and authority of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for many causes of justice, and often they fall short.
The latest such misrepresentation, made by New York Times columnist Michelle Alexander, contends that King would have probably championed the Palestinian cause if he were still alive today.
She writes, “Reading King’s speech at Riverside more than 50 years later, I am left with little doubt that his teachings and message require us to speak out passionately against the human rights crisis in Israel-Palestine, despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues.”
This takes reclaiming King’s legacy to a new low.
Like so many of Israel’s detractors, Alexander’s piece betrays a poor understanding of the Middle East, trumped only by a complete disregard of King’s documented attitude towards Israel.
As a guest at the Rabbinical Assembly on March 25, 1968, King voiced his support for Israel, and for peace in the region. March 25, 1968, was more than nine months after the Six Day War.
Yet, according to Alexander, “there was no way King could publicly reconcile his commitment to nonviolence and justice for all people … with what had transpired after the 1967 war.” Rather than guess about King’s positions, let us hear from the original source:
I think it is necessary to say that what is basic and what is needed in the Middle East is peace. Peace for Israel is one thing. Peace for the Arab side of that world is another thing. Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land almost can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.
Surely nine months was enough time for King to deliberate over the “complexity of the issues” in the region. As proof of his grasping those complexities, he commented further:
Peace for the Arabs means the kind of economic security that they so desperately need. These nations, as you know, are part of that third world of hunger, of disease, of illiteracy. I think that as long as these conditions exist there will be tensions, there will be the endless quest to find scapegoats.
True to his justice ethos, King expressed genuine concern for both the Israelis and the Arabs. He suggested a Marshall Plan — billions of dollars in aid for the Arabs in the region, particularly in the areas of food, education, and medicine.
Which brings us to the most glaring yet consistently omitted part of the equation for those who hold Israel solely responsible for a two-sided challenge: the Palestinian leadership.
The President of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas just celebrated the thirteenth year of his four-year term in office. In addition to refusing his people free and fair elections or a free press, Abbas’s net worth has ballooned to$100 million. Moreover, Abbas’s PA pays Palestinians to injure or kill Israelis; something he has vowed to continue doing despite international condemnation.
While the PA controls Palestinian areas in the West Bank, Hamas controls Gaza. From that land, evacuated by Israel in 2005, Hamas has launched thousands of missiles into Israel targeting innocents for murder.
Hamas has been staging violent demonstrations at the Israel-Gaza border, attempting to infiltrate the Jewish State to kidnap or kill more Israelis. Hamas has burned thousands of acres of Israeli land and destroyed millions of dollars in property by sending unguided incendiary devices over the border. While terrorizing Israelis, Hamas, true to its nature, subjugates the Palestinians under its control. Unlawful imprisonment, torture, forced, and rampant poverty are all common in Gaza.
Alexander did not mention any of these realities in expressing her concern for the Palestinian people. Perhaps she didn’t know. If she did know, however, she seems to want her readers to assume King would also ignore these human rights abuses.
Like Marc Lamont Hill’s 20-minute anti-Israel speech at the UN last November, Alexander managed to write a 2,100-word article on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and never once mentioned the terrorist group, Hamas. This is akin to writing a lengthy essay on the historic Black Civil Rights struggle in America, and never once mentioning the Ku Klux Klan. Alexander and the New York Times should be ashamed, readers and Dr. King’s legacy deserve better.
Pastor Dumisani Washington is the diversity outreach coordinator for Christians United for Israel.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.