Last week, Americans celebrated the life and legacy of the great civil-rights leader Martin Luther King. The veteran Palestinian activist Bassam Eid, who has dedicated much of his career to criticizing Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza, reflects on what his own people can learn from this great man:
Dr. King would have been proud to see the progress Israel has made toward making his dream of a free, equitable society a reality in the Middle East. In his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech, King shared his vision for a world in which his children would be judged “not for the color of their skin, but for the content of their character.”
Today in Israel, one can see the manifestation of Dr. King’s dream. Israel is a sprawling, diverse nation, where diverse communities coexist peacefully. Regardless of their background, Israelis—be they Jews or Arabs—can practice their religion freely, serve in government, and raise their children without fear of retribution.
Dr. King also recognized that there can be no justice and equality without democracy and economic opportunity. The event where he gave his 1963 speech was called “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Israel has internalized this message with its booming economy, and it is sharing at least some of that wealth. Every day, thousands of Palestinians are allowed to cross the border into Israel to work side by side with Israelis.
Meanwhile, the feckless Palestinian leadership has rejected this vision for decades, to the detriment of our people. The Palestinian Authority (PA) is currently led by a president who just celebrated the seventeenth anniversary of his election to a four-year term. Rather than use his position to improve life for ordinary Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas has spent his nearly two decades in office enriching his cronies. He has blocked fair elections, hindered peace with Israel, and done nothing to create jobs and opportunity in the West Bank. Things are even worse in Gaza, where a terrorist group runs the show and economic opportunity is nonexistent.