By Benay Blend
In the run-up to Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) celebrations in honor of his birthday, there are the annual conversations about the presence of military recruiters at the MLK March in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Apparently there are similar issues across the country. In the past, activists have detonated King’s anti-war rhetoric from their cars, promulgated falling banners attesting to King’s opposition to the military, and presented letters to organizers expressing concern.
My own feeling reflects why I don’t argue with the Zionists anymore: They (Zionists and those who truly believe King would support the military presence on his birthday) are determined to maintain an ahistoric position no matter what. how incorrect the facts are. , so most likely will not listen to reason no matter how much the presenters are telling the truth.
In the case of MLK, however, there is an educational aspect that could impact young people who see the military as a way out of poverty. In a country that demonizes activists like King while they are alive and then whitewashes them after they die, it makes sense that young people don’t learn radical MLK in their schools.
The theme of this year’s commemoration is Beloved Community, a term first used by Josiah Royce, who founded the Fellowship of Reconciliation and then popularized by King to mean a global vision in which there would be no no poverty, racism or militarism, which King referred to as the three evils of this world.
The question remains: whose place is allowed in the Beloved Community in 2022? A quick review of the King Center’s sponsors for this event reveals that there are indeed questionable choices. A sponsor, Chick-Fil-A, has been spotted on several occasions donating to charities and anti-LGBTQ organizations.
As for Coca-Cola, Ali Abunimah notes that the company is on the United Nations list of companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. The remaining list of sponsors includes companies such as Bank of America, Porsche, and Lowe’s, among others, none of which would likely be comfortable residing in the King community.
The question remains, however, how would King think of companies such as Coca-Cola, given that he is said to profit from apartheid even in Israel which he loathed in South Africa, in fact, the racism which he compared to the southern United States. Sadly, despite Israel’s brutal occupation of the Palestinians, King chose during his lifetime to side with the oppressor.
Other activists of his time chose another path. Malcolm X and Kame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) denounced the Zionist state, even though it cost them the support of comrades who lacked courage. In “Sionist Logic” (1974), Malcolm X denounced the errors he saw in the Zionist justification of the State of Israel. Kwame Ture’s debate with an ardent Zionist was captured in 1973 and is available online.
King, too, showed courage when he spoke out against the Vietnam War because he knew it would cost him support. So why did he choose not to extend his anti-imperialist position to Israel?
In an opinion piece written several years ago, journalist Michelle Alexander looked at this same question. “We cannot know for sure what the king would do or think about Israel-Palestine today,” she writes, but she goes on to stress that “if we are to honor the king’s message and not just l man, we must condemn Israel’s actions. “Today,” she continues, “we can only ‘speculate’ what position King might have taken on Palestine. Had he had the chance to study the occupation as thoroughly as the Vietnam War, his conclusions might have been different, and his conscience, like Alexander’s, might not have left him any other choice.
As Alexander holds King responsible, she realizes that her life was cut short before her position on Palestine could change. Not if the politicians alive today who clearly put their careers before their conscience.
“While we understand that politicians too often falter and back down – because the system is such that keeping your job is playing a dirty game of betraying the weak and the miserable to appease the powerful,” writes Susan Abulhawa, “Activists must always be called upon to hold elected officials accountable for their transgressions.
The most recent case she refers to is that of Jamaal Bowman, a black politician who ran against Zionist Elliot Engel. While Bowman’s first platform supported the Palestinian struggle, he later took it over, leaving the American left, especially the Democratic Socialists of America, divided on whether or not to continue their support.
“The reality,” says Abulhawa, is that “left-wing individuals and organizations often give a pass to politicians who align with Israel against Palestine.” This happens more often, she continues, when the politician belongs to a marginalized community, because it is difficult to “understand how such individuals could become promulgated of oppression and empire.”
“I don’t understand why some people are suddenly surprised or disturbed by the DSA’s surrender to Cong’s palpable ‘liberal’ Zionist policies. Jamaal Bowman. “, tweeted radical lawyer Stanley Cohen. “They have done it time and time again, with excuses for growth and a better future.”
Regarding calls for “patience in the name of pragmatism”, Abulhawa concludes that “we should never give up the sacrifices our families make every day in Palestine for political reasons in the United States. We can applaud, thank and support the politicians who take moral positions with us, but that cannot blind us to when they align themselves and support the racist colonizers engaged in the ongoing process to eliminate us and replace us with foreign colonizers in our ancestral homeland.
Perhaps this is the true meaning of the beloved MLK community. If this is to be truly global in scope, then we should all follow the lead of the American Palestinians and others who see themselves as colonized communities in the United States. Borrowing a phrase that prevailed before the last election, harm reduction at home means more harm to communities abroad, and it should concern anyone commemorating King’s birthday this month.
– Benay Blend received his PhD in American Studies from the University of New Mexico. His academic works include Douglas Vakoch and Sam Mickey, Eds. (2017), “” Neither homeland nor exile are words “:” Knowledge located “in the works of Palestinian and Native American writers”. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.