After reading Michelle Alexander’s screed in The New York Times, I am not sure whether I should be more outraged by the paper’s publication of yet another in a seemingly never-ending series of anti-Israel articles, by Alexander’s outrageous misstatements of fact and scurrilous attacks on Israel, or by her disreputable effort to suggest that Martin Luther King Jr. would share her contempt for the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
One can get a clue of the distortions to follow from the headline, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine” as if there have not been decades-long efforts by everyone from “civil rights icon” Angela Davis to former president Jimmy Carter to smear Israel. Detractors regularly appear on broadcast media, op-ed pages and nearly every type of public forum – not to mention their ubiquity on social media. The notion that critics of Israel and supporters of the Palestinian cause are somehow silenced is laughable. In what has become a rallying cry for Alexander and her ilk, anyone who dares to counter their arguments is “McCarthyite.” Free speech is their divine right, but those with whom they disagree have no such right. Thus, she attacks those who have the audacity to call out supporters of the antisemitic boycott movement explicitly created to deny the Jewish people their right to self-determination and destroy their indigenous homeland – Israel.
Just what is wrong with publicizing the views of people who express anti-Israel or antisemitic (and I acknowledge they are not identical) ideas? They have no hesitation to put them on social media, for example, but it is somehow intimidating to then publicize what they write? Why should they fear how employers or others will view them unless they are embarrassed for anyone outside their echo chamber to see them?
I was offended to see Alexander try to put words in Dr. King’s mouth to justify her views on Israel. She says, “There is no way King could publicly reconcile his commitment to nonviolence for all people, everywhere, with what had transpired after the 1967 war.” This, however, is what King actually said in 1968 just 10 days before his assassination:
“Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”
In that same speech at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly, King also gave a strong response to Alexander, Linda Sarsour and other promoters of “intersectionality” when he said:
“The response of some of the so-called young militants does not represent the position of the vast majority of Negroes. There are some who are color-consumed, and they see a kind of mystique in blackness or in being colored, and anything non-colored is condemned. We do not follow that course.”
Alexander also misses the irony in an article claiming Jews are intimidating critics of saying that King canceled his planned trip to Israel because he was afraid of criticism by the Arabs.
It is hard to know where to start to refute her statements regarding Israel. She claims Israel violates international law. Really, which law? Resolutions by the UN that are political statements, not legal ones?
She says Israel occupies the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza. The West Bank was never Palestinian territory nor was east Jerusalem. Since Israel has an equal if not better claim to the territories, they are disputed, not occupied. Jerusalem was established as the capital of the Jewish people more than 3,000 years ago. It has never been the capital or even a significant city under Arab rule. The Palestinians want a capital in east Jerusalem, but they have no historical, political or religious claim to any part of the city.
It is especially galling for Alexander to refer to Gaza as occupied. Perhaps she was asleep during 2005 when Israel withdrew every citizen and soldier from Gaza. The area is now controlled by Hamas, which has used the territory as a base for terrorist attacks against Israel. Alexander has nothing to say about the more than 10,000 rockets launched into Israel by Palestinian terrorists. Her failure to appreciate the impact this has had on Israeli society, namely an unwillingness to evacuate additional land in Judea and Samaria (Israel already withdrew from 40%) out of fear that it, too, will become a base for launching attacks against Israel. Israelis also know, as Alexander must not, that allowing Palestinians to fire rockets from the West Bank would put Israel’s capital, airport and major population centers in the crosshairs.
Then again, I don’t think she cares. Clearly, her idea of being a human rights crusader does not include care for the lives of Jews or even Israeli Arabs. What’s more, like so many self-appointed spokespeople for the Palestinian people, she does not care about their human rights unless Jews can be blamed for their plight.
She advocates boycotting Israel, for example, despite the opposition of the Palestinian people. More than 100,000 go to work in Israel every day, thousands work in the settlements she derides. Ask the hundreds of Palestinians who lost their jobs when boycott proponents declared victory by forcing SodaStream to close its plant just outside of Jerusalem how they feel about Alexander’s disregard for their well-being.
If she wants to invoke Dr. King’s name, maybe she should consider what he would say about the dictatorship created by Mahmoud Abbas who is now serving the 15th year of his four-year term. What would he say about the Palestinian Authority’s silencing of its critics by jailing, torturing and sometimes killing them? What would he say about the “honor killings” by men of women who have violated their idea of moral behavior? How about their persecution of gays? What about the PA’s denial of women’s rights, freedom of speech, assembly or the press? What do you think King would say about the persecution of Christians by Hamas and Palestinians in the West Bank?
I am fed up with the hypocrisy of people who claim to be concerned about the human rights of Palestinians but are silent when it comes to their mistreatment by their fellow Palestinians, or in the case of places such as Lebanon and Syria, by their fellow Arabs. Why doesn’t Alexander have anything to say about the slaughter of Palestinians by Bashar Assad and the thousands he has turned into refugees? Does she think King would look the other way as she does? I think not.
Paragraph after paragraph is filled with vitriol. She says Israel will not discuss Palestinian refugees. It’s a lie. Since 1948, they have offered to allow tens of thousands to return and allowed in similar numbers. No Israeli from any political party would accept the idea that Palestinians have a “right” to return to homes they chose to leave in hopes that the Jews would be driven into the sea. No thinking person would accept the UN fiction that there are more than five million Palestinian refugees when the UN itself reported the number was 360,000 in September 1948. If five million Palestinians were permitted to enter Israel, the Jewish state would cease to exist, and the Palestinians would have not one but two states – one in the West Bank and one in what used to be Israel.
Alexander also trots out the tired canard comparing Israel to South Africa. This specious argument has been rebutted ad nauseum, but it is as indestructible as Holocaust denial and equally invalid.
Let me end with where Alexander begins her diatribe, with the view of Dr. King – not the one she imagines, but his actual words.
Alexander says, “The days when critiques of Zionism and the actions of the State of Israel can be written off as antisemitism are coming to an end.” King saw things differently. When a student attacked Zionism during an event in 1968, King responded, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking antisemitism.”
The writer, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter .
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