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

Jan. 21 2020

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.

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Read more at Times of Israel

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

Europe-Israel Relations Have Been Transformed

On Monday, Israel and the EU held their first “association council” meeting since 2012, resuming what was once an annual event, equivalent to the meetings Brussels conducts with many other countries. Although the summit didn’t produce any major agreements or diplomatic breakthroughs, writes Shany Mor, it is a sign of a dramatic change that has occurred over the past decade. The very fact that the discussion focused on energy, counterterrorism, military technology, and the situation in Ukraine—rather than on the Israel-Palestinian conflict—is evidence of this change:

Israel is no longer the isolated and boycotted outpost in the Middle East that it was for most of its history. It has peace treaties with six Arab states now, four of which were signed since the last association council meeting. There are direct flights from Tel Aviv to major cities in the region and a burgeoning trade between Israel and Gulf monarchies, including those without official relations.

It is a player in the regional alliance systems of both the Gulf and the eastern Mediterranean, just as it has also become a net energy exporter due to the discovery of large gas deposits of its shoreline. None of this was the case at the last council meeting in 2012. [Moreover], Israel has cultivated deep ties with a number of new member states in the EU from Central and Eastern Europe, whose presence in Brussels bridges cultural ideological gaps that were once much wider.

Beyond the diplomatic shifts, however, is an even larger change that has happened in European-Israeli relations. The tiny Israel defined by its conflict with the Arabs that Europeans once knew is no more. When the first Cooperation Agreement [between Israel and the EU’s precursor] was signed in 1975, Israel, with its three million people, was smaller than all the European member states save Luxembourg. Sometime in the next two years, the Israeli population will cross the 10 million mark, making it significantly larger than Ireland, Denmark, Finland, and Austria (among others), and roughly equal in population to Greece, Portugal, and Sweden.

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Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Abraham Accords, Europe and Israel, European Union, Israeli gas