Those Who Try to Explain Away Martin Luther King’s Support for Israel Ignore Its Spiritual Dimension

This Martin Luther King Day saw the now de-rigueur exercise of using the civil-rights leader’s legacy to condemn the Jewish state despite the inconvenient fact that King admired Israel and despite the absence of evidence that he expressed sympathy for the “Palestinian cause.” In a previous article for Mosaic, Martin Kramer refuted those who argue that King’s opinions about Israel were “contradictory, naïve, or ignorant.” Kramer now takes on another, equally unsubstantiated, version of this argument: that King would have expressed his hostility for Israel but was afraid that doing so would cost him “financial support.”

[The] notion of a quid pro quo takes no account of the spiritual dimension of King’s ties to Zionist Jews. The two who were closest to him were refugee rabbis from Hitler’s Europe, who regarded the creation of Israel as redemption. And just as the Holocaust drove their passion for civil rights, it steeled their devotion to Israel.

The first was Joachim Prinz (1902-1988), a social activist, pulpit rabbi, and Zionist organizer, who personally knew nearly all of Israel’s leaders. Prinz allied himself with King in 1958 and at the 1963 March on Washington spoke in the slot before King’s historic address. . . . The second was Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972), philosopher and theologian at the Jewish Theological Seminary and an heir to one of the great ḥasidic dynasties. King described Heschel as “a truly great prophet.”

For King, these men were not “supporters,” they were fellow visionaries, with whom he shared prophetic values. They spoke, too, as personal victims of racism, and gave voice to the millions who had perished in the Holocaust. The idea that their eloquent commitment to Israel didn’t affect King underestimates both him and them.

What would King think of Israel today? It’s an idle question. But he thought well of Israel then, and its flaws in his day weren’t far fewer, nor were its virtues much more numerous, than they are in ours. Whether he deserves to be called “a tremendous Zionist,” as Edward Said [derogatorily] claimed, is a matter of perspective and definition. But the attempt to make him into an advocate for Palestine is an offense to history.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Abraham Joshua Heschel, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Martin Luther King

An American Withdrawal from Iraq Would Hand Another Victory to Iran

Since October 7, the powerful network of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have carried out 120 attacks on U.S. forces stationed in the country. In the previous year, there were dozens of such attacks. The recent escalation has led some in the U.S. to press for the withdrawal of these forces, whose stated purpose in the country is to stamp out the remnants of Islamic State and to prevent the group’s resurgence. William Roberts explains why doing so would be a mistake:

American withdrawal from Iraq would cement Iran’s influence and jeopardize our substantial investment into the stabilization of Iraq and the wider region, threatening U.S. national security. Critics of the U.S. military presence argue that [it] risks a regional escalation in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Iran. However, in the long term, the U.S. military has provided critical assistance to Iraq’s security forces while preventing the escalation of other regional conflicts, such as clashes between Turkey and Kurdish groups in northern Iraq and Syria.

Ultimately, the only path forward to preserve a democratic, pluralistic, and sovereign Iraq is through engagement with the international community, especially the United States. Resisting Iran’s takeover will require the U.S. to draw international attention to the democratic backsliding in the country and to be present and engage continuously with Iraqi civil society in military and non-military matters. Surrendering Iraq to Iran’s agents would not only squander our substantial investment in Iraq’s stability; it would greatly increase Iran’s capability to threaten American interests in the Levant through its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon.

Read more at Providence

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy