Monday, January 21, 2013

Martin Luther King's plan to visit Israel in 1967


Last week, we posted an official publication on our website on the connection between Martin Luther King Jr. and Israel. We showed how Israeli and Jewish groups tried to invite MLK to the Jewish state several times, but to no avail.

King's attitude towards Israel has been a subject of some controversy. At his blog, Prof. Martin Kramer recently re-published a March 2012 article tracing the provenance of a quote attributed to King, in which he rebuked a student attacking Zionism. King was quoted as saying "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!”

In 2004, two Palestinian-American activists suggested that this quote was fabricated or invented. They claimed, in a nutshell, that MLK could not have said it, because he was not and could not have been in the place where he was claimed to have done so -- Cambridge, Massachusetts -- before his assassination. In this very researched and detailed article, Prof. Kramer proves that King could have said that quote -- since he was most certainly in Cambridge in late October 1967.

Prof. Kramer also posted on Facebook a most interesting poster of Martin Luther King's planned visit to the Holy Land in November 1967, after the visit that was cancelled due to the Six Day War. We published on our site the formal invitation to visit Israel sent by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol to Martin Luther King, and King's acceptance of the invitation. In his own words: "I take these means to express my deep appreciation to you for the invitation you extended to me to come to your wonderful country."

While I was writing this post, Prof. Kramer posted another piece, solving a question that had arisen while we were preparing our official publication: Why didn't Rev. King visit Israel in 1967, as he promised PM Eshkol in May 1967?  Prof. Kramer found the answer in the FBI wiretaps of King and his advisers. In a conference call with his advisers, King said that if he went to the Middle East “I’d run into the situation where I’m damned if I say this and I’m damned if I say that, no matter what I’d say, and I’ve already faced enough criticism including pro-Arab” and that "I just think that if I go, the Arab world, and of course Africa and Asia for that matter, would interpret this as endorsing everything that Israel has done, and I do have questions of doubt."

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