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

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.

Read more at American Purpose

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


To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy