Friday, 8 November 2013


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Sorry, Dr. King Did Not Consider You An Enlightened Anti-Zionist. Deal With It.

Posted: 11/18/11 12:10 AM ET

It is painful to be called an anti-Semite by a deceased saint. Yet the dead speak, even when we wish they'd keep their thoughts to themselves. There is a tremendous effort to deny that Martin Luther King ever said these words: "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism."
Unfortunately, he did. He said them at a dinner party in Cambridge (as quoted by Seymour Martin Lipset in Encounter magazine, December 1969, p. 24)
In fact, the complete quotation has a much sharper tone: Dr. King took a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Zionism:
One of the young men present happened to make some remark against the Zionists. Dr. King snapped at him and said, "Don't talk like that! When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism!"
Martin Luther King's quotations have been examined pitilessly by historians: his family in particular is careful to discredit words falsely attributed to him. One document in particular, "Letter to an anti-Zionist Friend," is unquestionably a hoax. The quotation recorded by Lipset, however, is undisputed. To be precise, it is "undisputed" in the only sense that matters: we know that he in fact said it.
The veracity of this quotation suddenly matters more than it has in years. A group of Palestinians have taken it upon themselves to emulate the Freedom Riders of 1961: the courageous non-violent protestors who took to the buses in the American South to break the back of the Jim Crow travel laws. These rides are of course inextricable from the language and strategy of Martin Luther King.
It is an unquestionably good thing that Palestinian protesters are openly emulating Dr. King's followers. In the spectrum of political strategies, this represents the antithesis of terror. It differs in every conceivable respect, including outcome: non-violent protest is demonstrably effective.
Thus far they have had an easier time of it than the men they style themselves after. When the Freedom Riders arrived in Montgomery, Alabama, they were beaten with baseball bats and steel pipes, so brutally that some never fully recovered. Even then they adhered rigorously to Dr. King's principles of non-violence.
The next night, Martin Luther King spoke in support of the riders at Reverend Ralph Abernathy's First Baptist Church in Montgomery. The church was filled with 1500 congregants. A mob of thousands burned cars outside and threw rocks through the windows. It is probably the closest the Civil Rights Movement came to experiencing a massacre.
One story -- perhaps apocryphal (and almost biblical) -- has it that Dr. King chose a dozen men to join him, all sworn to pacifism. They emerged from the church and walked calmly through the white mob, who parted before them. His mission? To convince the gathering black crowd to remain peaceful.
The Palestinian protesters are obviously aware of this history, and are making an effort to distance themselves from quite different tactics. "A tiny minority of Palestinians has been guilty of violent resistance and terrorism against Israelis, including suicide bombings intended to kill civilians."
Unfortunately, that "tiny minority" forms the elected government in Gaza. In the January 2006 elections, a majority of seats in the Palestinian Parliament went to Hamas. And Article 32 of the Hamas Charter is not subtle: 
The Zionist plan is limitless. After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion", and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying.
Leaving the circle of struggle with Zionism is high treason, and cursed be he who does that.

Until you renounce rather than elect terrorists -- who refer approvingly to the world's most notorious anti-Semitic text -- your attempts to co-opt the name of Martin Luther King are going to be a problem. That problem is fraudulence.
And those highly-educated North Americans who support "the struggle with Zionism" -- even if they make a point of rejecting Hamas and those vulgar, academically-discredited "Protocols" -- will have to stop pretending that they stand with Martin Luther King. Or they will continue to share fully in your fraudulence.
This isn't my opinion. It is, no matter how feverishly you work to bury that stony quotation, a fact.
I don't happen to agree entirely with Dr. King's equation. You can be critical of Israel without being an anti-Semite: many people are, including a few million Israelis. It is even possible to hold the view that Israel has no right to exist, yet harbor no animosity towards Jews. (It's possible. Not likely, but I can imagine that scenario.)
If you pronounce the word "Zionism" with righteous contempt, however, you'll have to accept this cold brute fact: Martin Luther King clearly and unequivocally considered you a bigot.
I can imagine that will be painful. Difficult. Uncomfortable. Or rather: it will be painful if you are in other respects a liberal. A neo-Nazi will welcome Martin Luther King's judgment. Proud Jew-haters are happy to be considered anti-Semites, especially by loathed giants of the Civil Rights Movement.
No, it is evidence of a profound liberal conscience that you squirm when an unlit corner of your soul is exposed and condemned, by a man -- now dead -- who you acknowledge was a better human being than you are. (You do, I hope. He was.)
Lots of otherwise very decent people feel personally assaulted by this undisputed quotation, as it stands. Hence there's a whole lot of disputation going on.
The trouble is, as I mentioned, that an overly eager Zionist did in fact go about forging a spurious letter, in which King was made to wax gluco-hyperbolic about Zionism in a way that the man obviously never could have: "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 -- this is God's own truth."
(Not that he wasn't an unblinking supporter of Israel: he was. He could never have found it in his soul, however, to be a bad writer.)
Armed with the knowledge of this unrelated letter, a small army of pseudo-scholars is out casting not-very-credible doubt on the Lipset quotation. This is a crucial business. You should be able to spit on Zionism without the inconvenience of being called a rank bigot, posthumously, by a famously decent man.
The best these righteous scholars can do, after a long desperate analysis, is this: "While these points raise some doubt, let us assume that the quote is accurate."
And this whipped canid at "Electronic Intifada" (oy) goes out with the fellowing whimper: "Assuming this quote to be genuine, it is still far from the ideological endorsement of Zionism as theory or practice that was evidenced in the phony letter."
If you insist. But it sure accords nicely with this other undisputed quotation:
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 note that even the politically bashful Wikiquote acknowledges that Dr. King unequivocally said this (on March 25, 1968, two weeks before his death).
This second quotation, however, is less galling. You can virtuously deny Israel's right to exist, and point out that you're simply disagreeing with a great man. If the other quotation is allowed to stand undisputed, on the other hand, your attempt at polite disagreement marks you as something pretty unlovely in his eyes.
I was innocently trying to source the Lipset quotation for a different article, when this little squabble spat in my eye. I could not remember whether King had said this at Harvard (he had). Yes, I knew the history of the fake letter: it's no secret. What I did not expect was to see a genuine quotation appear as "disputed" in Wikiquotes. So I've joined the battle in theTalk section of that otherwise reasonably accurate site. I've found myself saying unruly things, like the following (which I've loosely edited and augmented for entertainment value):
Look. "Disputed" implies that MLK might not have said this. That's all it implies. Period. Which is false. That other people dispute the content of what he said is completely and utterly irrelevant. Good God: every single important assertion in history, by that criterion, is disputed. Do we put the word "disputed" beside Newton's Laws?
Believe me, I wish George Bush had scribbled the word "disputed" on his "Mission Accomplished" sign, but he didn't. And if we were to append it to that sign on Wikiquote, we would be: a) making a pretty good joke, and b) making a joke out of the entire enterprise. Either this site is a serious scholarly undertaking, or it isn't.
One editor responds: "I personally see little valid reason to dispute that the quote is genuine, but see valid reasons to dispute associated claims or assertions related to it."
To which I say: Excellent. Cherish that opinion -- publish it on your blog; put it on a sandwich board and walk the streets with it -- but get it off the official Martin Luther King page.
(In case it's not obvious: I take Palestinians who study Dr. King much more seriously than I do their misguided cheerleaders in American academe, who figure they simply own him.)
This quotation is no more disputed than the Gettysburg Address. I'm sure there are interesting people out there who don't believe that Lincoln existed -- who "dispute" his words -- but that doesn't make his words disputed. Nor does disagreeing with the math in "four score and twenty."
It's a subtle distinction. You may not like Dr. King's words, but I'm afraid that doesn't mean that he didn't say them.
Anyway, don't worry. I'm sure he wasn't talking about you.
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"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. Soon afterwards, CAMERA, a rabidly pro-Israeli organization, published a statement declaring that the letter was "apparently" a hoax. CAMERA explained how it gained so much currency. The "letter" came from a "reputable" book, Shared Dreams, by Rabbi Marc Shneier. Martin Luther King III authored the preface for the book, giving the impression of familial approval. Also, the Anti-Defamation League's Michael Salberg used the same quotes in his July 31st, 2001 testimony before the U.S. House of Representative's International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights.

The bogus letter was further quoted by writers in prominent publications one would imagine armed with fact-checkers capable of spending the short amount of time needed to verify the primary source."
OK, I checked your source, CAMERA, and yes it corroborates what both you and Mr Cooper have stated, the quote mentioned does not appear in a letter. CAMERA goes on to confirm that MLK's statement actually was spoken at a dinner party. In this case you, Mr Cooper and Camera are all in agreement.
    Read Conversation 
    "I can imagine that will be painful. Difficult. Uncomfortable. "

    Not really, more like: boring, trite, filled with redundancies, belabored non-sequiturs in between the endless vicious asides. If you think I stopped reading about half-way through, you're right. Indisputably. But not about anything else really. Let's leave aside the possible agendas of a herald angel who's channeling the spirit of MLK and bearing the last name of "Cooper", and what that may indicate, or the credibility of MLK's foreign policy academic expertise.
    I'm happiest with my belabored non-sequiturs, but I'm working on my vicious asides. My next piece will be nothing but vicious asides. (I await your zany critique.)

    Meanwhile, what you seem to be saying is that Martin Luther King didn't say this -- it's a lie -- and anyway he didn't know anything about foreign policy, so the fact that he indeed said this doesn't matter?

    That seems to have you covered.
    "Look. "Disputed" implies that MLK might not have said this. That's all it implies. Period. Which is false. That other people dispute the content of what he said is completely and utterly irrelevant."

    No, it's not irrelevant that it is disputed, seeing the history of this "quote".

    " Good God: every single important assertion in history, by that criterion, is disputed"

    How is this an important assertion in history?

    "Do we put the word "disputed" beside Newton's Laws?"

    Newton's laws are no a quote.
    Read the article again.

    Concentrate on the definition of "disputed."
      Read Conversation 
      When MLK made his statement, I do not believe there were second and third generation Palestinians growing up in refugee camps. Great people with strong opinions can change their perspective over time. Was Israel already violating international law by refusing Palestinians' right of return when he made his statement? Yes. Did he know about this? I don't know. Do you? His words were strong, but possibly not carefully chosen. If he ever acknowledged that not all Jews consider themselves "Zionists", he would know that his statement was at least technically inaccurate. I do believe he was a reasonable man, and, had he lived, would have qualified his views as time went on. Of course, that is speculation, but I have faith in his wisdom. We liberals with a bone to pick with Israel's practices are the very people who are most appalled at the treatment of any group or individual who is marginalized, abused, rounded up, killed, tortured, and we sympathize with both the innocent Israelis who are victims of Palestinian tactics, and the Palestinians who's rights have been betrayed by a world still too shocked by the Holocaust to have the courage to strongly state that two wrongs don't make a right, and enforce the resolutions of the UN. And yes, sometimes even the most carefully researched and worded and fair criticism of Israel is cast as Antisemitism, and if you deny that, you have no business criticizing anyone else for not knowing the whole story.
      Blah blah blah.

      He said it. Get over it.
        Read Conversation 
        • 4
        Yes, he said 1969. Gandhi also said, in 1938, and I quote:

        "My sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice. The cry for the national home for the Jews does not make much appeal to me. The sanction for it is sought in the Bible and in the tenacity with which the Jews have hankered after their return to Palestine. Why should they not, like other peoples of the earth, make that country their home where they are born and where they earn their livelihood?"

        If people (not the writer, who's making a philosophical/historical rather than a political statement) want to take this venue, there will be plenty of quotes by remarkable people pending one way or the other. The bottom line is, neither Gandhi nor MLK had any direct connection to the conflict. Hence, their opinion, in my view, has limited value.
        Easy for Gandhi to say. He went home to India, from South Africa, because he had a homeland to go to.
        "Haaretz reports that settlers from Yitzhar have been canvassing Israeli businesses in Jerusalem to determine which ones employ Arab-Israelis, so that the names of these companies can be put into a "
        The Yitzhar settlers' actions were praised by The Prevention of Assimilation in the Holy Land group, which has gained notoriety for opposing racial mixing between Israeli women and Arab men and urging landlords to not rent properties to Israeli-Arabs.

        "The Haaretz story implies that Hewbrew Labor will be encouraging Israelis to boycott stores with Israeli-Arab employees.public directory."
        Uh oh, the flip side of the BDS movement...
          Read Conversation 
          • 4
          "If all of these nations are worse (and we can go around the world, one by one, ticking them off) -- many of them much worse -- then why are you obsessing about Israel? Why is every flaw in Israel's behavior more important to you than, for instance, grotesque war crimes committed by her enemies? "

          All of these other nations don`t claim to be to be the only democracy in the Middle East.
          So much for the lie of "human rights."
            Read Conversation 
            • 5
            The question should be if Martin Luther King were alive today would he still feel the same way?
            We will never know.
            Can you think of anything else he'd "change his mind" on? And if not, why not?
              Read Conversation 
              Why doesn't Israel stop apologizing? It's their land right now and until they lose it they have the right to exist and defend themselves in any way they see fit. And that includes preemptive strikes and taking revenge. 

              Sorry. But it's true.
              And taking revenge...

              The problems is that the victims will bomb you. Do they want the victims family to stop the bombings?
                Read Conversation 
                Rewriting history is a sin. 

                Looking at it in perspective is not. 

                When Martin Luther King spoke out supporting Zionism and Israel, the Israelis were the underdogs, an abused people fighting for a bit of their traditional homeland and it was cool. It was a Braveheart kind of story. 

                Forty years on, one can still support Israel's right to exist and also be rather disgusted by the current regime's use of the US as a bullying big brother to get their way. The American right-wing's anxiousness to attack Iran comes largely from Israel egging them on.
                • 2
                If only MLK knew that it was no longer "cool" to support Israel, he would surely have changed his mind...
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