Bayard Rustin Was a Man of Courage and Principle, Not a Hero of Intersectionality

Sept. 14 2023

A close confidant of Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin was the chief organizer of the march on Washington where King gave his “I have a dream” speech. Because he was a black leftist as well as an open homosexual, he is today often hailed from the perspective of “intersectionality”—a school of thought fixated on hierarchies of victimhood, and one that inevitably turns its adherents against the Jews. Such a tendentious use of Rustin’s legacy does little justice to his own thinking, writes James Kirchick. Instead, Kirchick focuses on Rustin’s “intellectual fearlessness” and “resistance to party dogma,” which led him to become fiercely anti-Communist while remaining a socialist, break with his youthful pacificism, perceptively criticize black radicals, and maintain a staunch commitment to Zionism:

Mr. Rustin repeatedly said that if he had been aware of the Holocaust during World War II, he most likely would not have become a conscientious objector. . . . Yet another source of antagonism between Mr. Rustin and the left was his outspoken opposition to anti-Semitism within the Black community and fervent support for the state of Israel. “So far as Negroes are concerned,” he wrote in 1967, responding to an eruption of anti-Semitic statements by radical Black activists, “one of the more unprofitable strategies we could ever adopt is now to join in history’s oldest and most shameful witch hunt, anti-Semitism.” The following year, in an address to the Anti-Defamation League, Mr. Rustin condemned “young Negroes spouting material directly from Mein Kampf.”

In 1975, as the United Nations General Assembly was preparing its infamous resolution condemning Zionism as a “form of racism,” Mr. Rustin assembled a group of African American luminaries including A. Philip Randolph, Arthur Ashe, and Ralph Ellison into the Black Americans to Support Israel Committee (BASIC). “Since Israel is a democratic state surrounded by essentially undemocratic states which have sworn her destruction, those interested in democracy everywhere must support Israel’s existence,” he declared.

A descendant of slaves who was himself a victim of brutally violent racism, Mr. Rustin never let his country’s many sins overshadow his belief in its capacity for positive change. His patriotism was unfashionable among progressives while he was alive and is even more exceptional today. “I have seen much suffering in this country,” he said. “Yet despite all this, I can confidently assert that I would prefer to be a black in America than a Jew in Moscow, a Chinese in Peking, or a black in Uganda, yesterday or today.”

Asked to contribute to an anthology of Black gay men the year before his death, Mr. Rustin respectfully declined. “My activism did not spring from my being gay, or for that matter, from my being black,” he wrote. “Rather it is rooted, fundamentally, in my Quaker upbringing and the values that were instilled in me by my grandparents who reared me. Those values are based on the concept of a single human family and the belief that all members of that family are equal.”

Read more at New York Times

More about: Anti-Semitism, Anti-Zionism, Bayard Rustin, Civil rights movement, Intersectionality, Pacifism


Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy