What Martin Luther King Really Said about the Six-Day War

Jan. 16 2017

Supporters of Israel have marshaled two pieces of evidence to demonstrate that the great civil-rights leader shared their commitment to the Jewish state: first, that he was among a number of prominent Christian theologians who signed a strongly worded pro-Israel statement that was published in the New York Times on the eve of the 1967 Arab-Israel war; and, second, that he once rebuked someone in a private conversation, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!” Critics of these positions have found sufficient reason to question whether the New York Times statement accurately reflects King’s views, and whether he ever made the second remark at all. Having thoroughly investigated the matter, Martin Kramer concludes that King did in fact equate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism (although it is unclear whether he had in mind anti-Zionism in general or specific anti-Zionists) but also had regrets about signing the public declaration in support of Israel. From here Kramer offers some general thoughts about King’s positions:

King’s careful maneuvering before, during, and after the Six-Day War demonstrated a much deeper understanding of the Arab-Israeli conflict than critics credit him with possessing. . . . Palestinian-Americans who sought to dismiss the [anti-Zionism] quote suggested that the conflict “was probably not a subject he was well-versed on,” and that his public statements in praise of Israel “surely do not sound like the words of someone familiar with both sides of the story.”

Not so. King had been to the Arab world, had a full grasp of the positions of the sides, and was wary of the possible pitfalls of favoring one over the other. He struck a delicate balance, speaking out or staying silent after careful assessments made in consultation with advisers who had their ears to the ground. . . .

For this reason, it is an offense to history, if not to King’s memory, whenever someone today summons King’s ghost to offer unqualified support to Israel or to the Palestinians. King understood moral complexity, he knew that millions waited upon his words, and he sought to resolve conflict, not accentuate it. The pursuit of an elusive balance marked his approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict while he lived. There is no obvious reason to presume he would have acted differently had he lived longer.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Martin Luther King, Six-Day War

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy