What We Can Learn from Bayard Rustin, Civil-Rights Leader and Great Friend to the Jews

July 14 2021

Bayard Rustin was a leading figure in the civil-rights movement of the 1960s, and one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most trusted advisers and associates. In addition, he was an incisive essayist, a relentless cold warrior who worked closely with the founders of neoconservatism, and a great friend of Israel and the Jewish people. During the 1970s, Rustin supported the liberal stalwarts of the Democratic party against the New Left radicals trying to overthrow them—a situation perhaps not so different, mutatis mutandis, from today’s. Arch Puddington, who worked with Rustin at the time, reminisces about this outstanding figure and his ideas:

Bayard . . . believed that the United States, as a beacon of freedom . . . had a special responsibility toward those whose lives had been turned upside down by war and persecution. . . . Bayard was also an active member of Freedom House, which he used as a base for fact-finding missions to South Africa and post-apartheid Zimbabwe as well as for campaigns to free jailed Soviet dissidents and support the new Solidarity trade union in Poland.

Bayard was a resolute supporter of Israel, a position that put him at odds with both his own pacifist principles and left-wing activists who regarded the Palestine Liberation Organization a legitimate liberation movement. Even before the Six-Day War, some outspoken Black Americans, most notably Malcolm X, gave vocal support to armed Palestinian groups. But Bayard laid the problems of the Middle East squarely at the feet of the monarchs and dictators who brutalized the Arab people—he referred to some of them as “proto-fascist”—and who resented Israel as the region’s lone democracy and, thus, a living rebuke to their own despotic regimes. After the UN General Assembly adopted the notorious “Zionism Is Racism” resolution in 1975, Bayard organized a committee of Black leaders to support the Jewish state.

Bayard did not use the term “racism” indiscriminately. When he applied terms of opprobrium like prejudice, bigotry, and, in the worst case, racism, he was a traditionalist: he tried to be precise.

Throughout his life, Bayard used democracy’s full array of possibilities for expanding human freedom. He believed in both the power of collective action and the indispensability of self-emancipation.

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Read more at American Purpose

More about: American politics, Cold War, Martin Luther King, Neoconservatism, Philo-Semitism, Racism

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy