Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend

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"Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend" is an open letter attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr. that expressed support for Zionism and declared that "anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever will be so."[1] The letter has been widely quoted on the internet and in a speech of the politician Ariel Sharon. The proclaimed sources of the letter, like an appearance in the Saturday Review from August 1967, do not exist. The first known reference to the text appeared 1999 (many years after the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.).

History[edit]

The letter may have been based on a statement attributed to King at a dinner event in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[2] According to Seymour Martin Lipset, an African American student made a statement sharply critical of Zionists at a dinner that Lipset recalled as having taken place in 1968, and King replied: "Don't talk like that. When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism."[3]

According to Eric Sundquist, a professor at UCLA, "eventually, through channels that are difficult to pin down, this quotation was transformed into a text purportedly by King titled 'Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend,' which was said to have appeared in an August 1967 issue of Saturday Review and later reprinted in a book This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.[2] However, no such letter was published in any of the four Saturday Review issues released that month.[2][4][5] The letter was allegedly re-published in This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but no book by that name has been located.[2][4][6] The letter was not found in the King archives at Boston University.[5]

There appear to be no references to the letter before 1999.[5][7] Tim Wise suggests that it originated with Marc Schneier, who published portions of it in Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Jewish Community that year.[4]

Fadi Kiblawi and Will Youmans have questioned the authenticity of Lipset's account.[6] According to a Harvard Crimson article published days after King's death, King had not been to Cambridge since April 23, 1967.[8] Kiblawi and Youmans did not find any 1968 speeches by King in the Stanford University archives.[6]

The letter was quoted by Ariel Sharon before the Knesset on January 26, 2005.[9] It was also cited by the Anti-Defamation League in testimony before the United States House of Representatives.[5][6][10] Other prominent individuals quoting the letter include Natan Sharansky (in the November 2003 issue of Commentary) and Mortimer Zuckerman (in the September 17, 2001, issue of U.S. News & World Report).[6]

Correspondence with King's views[edit]

According to Sundquist, King "paid frequent tribute to Jewish support for black rights, defended Israel's right to exist, supported the Jewish state during the Six Day War (while calling for a negotiated settlement in keeping with his advocacy of nonviolence), and on more than one occasion opposed the anti-Zionism then taking increasing hold in the Black Power movement." According to Sundquist, while the letter is a hoax, the sentiments it expresses are those of Dr. King.[11] Sundquist states that the positions expressed in the forged letter "are in no way at odds with King's views."[2]

Wise asserts that King "appears never to have made any public comment about Zionism per se." According to Wise, the Lipset quote does not support the claim that opposition to Zionism was inherently anti-Semitic, and the comment in question may have been limited to the specific circumstances: "As for what King would say today about Israel, Zionism, and the Palestinian struggle, one can only speculate."[4] Kiblawi and Youmans suggest that a reliance on King's views in this matter constitutes a fallacious argument from authority, since Middle East issues were not among King's areas of expertise. They also assert that the Lipset quote was a reply to explicitly anti-white and anti-Semitic militancy of the time, and that most modern-day renditions omit this "crucial context".[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The original text of the document is available on a number of different websites; see [1] and [2] for examples.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sundquist, Eric J. (2005). Strangers in the land: Blacks, Jews, post-Holocaust America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. p. 109. ISBN 0-674-01942-3. 
  3. ^ Lipset, Seymour Martin (1969). "The Socialism of Fools": The Left, the Jews, and Israel. New York, NY: Anti-Defamation League. p. 7. 
  4. ^ a b c d Wise, Tim (2003-01-21). "Fraud fit for a King: Israel, Zionism, and the misuse of MLK". Z Magazine. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  5. ^ a b c d Green, Lee (2002-01-22). "CAMERA ALERT: Letter by Martin Luther King a Hoax". Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Kiblawi, Fadi; Youmans, Will (2004-01-17). "The Use and Abuse of Martin Luther King Jr. by Israel's Apologists". CounterPunch. Retrieved 2009-08-26. 
  7. ^ Burchill, Julie (2003-12-27). "Corrections and Clarifications". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 09-10-2009. 
  8. ^ "While You Were Away". The Harvard Crimson. 04-08-1968. Retrieved 09-10-2009. 
  9. ^ PM Sharon's Knesset Speech Marking the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism (26 January 2005)
  10. ^ A Discussion on the U.N. World Conference Against Racism; Hearing before the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights U.S. House of Representatives, July 31, 2001.
  11. ^ Sundquist, Eric J. (2005). Strangers in the land: Blacks, Jews, post-Holocaust America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, p. 110.