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This article originally appeared in the Times of Israel
Since his death, many groups have attempted to use the name of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as champion of their cause. His timeless quotes are applied to all things related to social justice, equality and political freedom. Of course, in addition to being a beacon for all of the above, Dr. King was also a staunch supporter of the State of Israel, and loyal friend to the Jewish people. Yet this historical, indisputable fact does not seem to faze anti-Zionists who also claim Dr. King’s posthumous blessing on their agenda. How do they reconcile such a blatant discrepancy? They simply label the Palestinians as victims and the Israelis as perpetrators, and voila: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, becomes an obvious condemnation of the Jewish State.
The problem is, we have Dr. King’s unambiguous words supporting Israel, and none of his words to the contrary. In fact, his most full-throated endorsement of Israel may surprise you, not just because of its content, but its context.
It was March 26, 1968 – 10 days before Dr. King’s assassination. He was the honored guest at the 68th Annual Convention of the Rabbinical Assembly for Conservative Judaism. During an interview in which Rabbi Gendler read questions submitted by the group, Dr. King was asked specifically about African-American support for Israel. The question itself is a topic for a separate article, but on to Dr. King’s answer:
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.
These words are powerful at face value. What is even more powerful is the realization that King spoke them almost a full year after the 1967 (Six Day) War in which Israel preemptively attacked Egypt, Jordan and Syria. When the War ended, Israel had regained control of Judea and Samaria (West Bank), as well as Gaza and the Sinai desert.
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