Ferguson, Missouri is under siege. Swarms of activists, including a specific faction who couldn’t point out the “Show Me State” on a map, have converged on the St. Louis suburb under the guise of civil rights, but justice is not really a part of their agenda. Their real goal is to hijack a tragedy and turn it into a rallying cry via which to attack and delegitimize the Jewish State.
Historians, community leaders and political pundits can debate until blue in the face how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would react to the Ferguson verdict and protests. But when it comes to Israel, the indisputable fact is that Dr. King was an adamant Zionist who said, “The whole world must see that Israel must exist and has a right to exist and is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world,” leaving little doubt that he would be appalled at the barrage of anti-Israel activity, and by those hijacking African Americans’ legitimate civil rights issues by comparing “Ferguson to Palestine” in order to score public opinion points.
Now, in the wake of the grand jury decision not to indict in the Eric Garner case, what we’ve seen in Ferguson will surely crop up in New York City, home to Israel’s strongest base of support, as well as some of the nation’s most virulent anti-Israel forces. And home to a heck of a lot of tv cameras, as well.
Sadly, co-opting the struggles of Black America to promote disdain against Israel and Jews is not new.
As far back as 1968, Dr. King warned of the hatred behind using “Zionism” as code for “Jews.” In the December 1969 issue of Encounter magazine, political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset wrote about a dinner at Cambridge he attended with King:
“One of the young men present happened to make some remark against the Zionists. Dr. King snapped at him and said, ‘Don’t talk like that! When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking ‘anti-Semitism!’”
Gil Troy, Professor of History at McGill University wrote, “King was pro-Israel and pro-Zionist, recognizing much anti-Zionist rhetoric as anti-Semitic. Mr. Troy continued, “He understood, anti-Zionism cast Israel, the collective Jew, as the modern world’s ultimate villain. Moreover, King and his allies feared this sloppy analogizing—comparing Israel to South Africa or the segregationist South—as threatening the purity of their struggle against what one activist called ‘real racism.’”
Seven years after King was assassinated, African American and civil rights leaders were outraged when the United Nations passed resolution 3379 pronouncing “Zionism as racism.”
Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver called it a “travesty upon the truth.” Radical leftists Cesar Chavez and A. Philip Randolph were appalled at the UN label. Randolph would go on to found Black Americans to Support Israel Committee (BASIC). Over 200 prominent African Americans, including Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., Coretta Scott King, Arthur Ashe and Hank Aaron publicly supported BASIC.
During this time, Civil Rights leaders were offended by the Arab world and the Soviet Union for hijacking their language.
Mr. Troy cited Bayard Rustin, who had schooled King in Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent philosophy. Rustin claimed the Arab and Soviet anti-Semitism caused “incalculable damage” to the fight against racism. He said the word racism had become a “political weapon rather than a moral standard.”
Nearly forty years after African American leaders fought against anti-Semitism and the co-opting of the civil rights movement, the same hatred toward Israel and Jews has reared its ugly head in Ferguson–seeking the same opportunity to exploit the struggles of African Americans to shape public opinion against Israel.
But this time around, African American leaders are silent about the abuse of their cause. In a few cases, such as the social media pages of Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush, we have witnessed the embrace of Israel detractors. Mr. Bush, who forfeited his 2005 Heisman Trophy after allegedly receiving improper benefits while playing at University of Southern California, posted a photo of a protestor holding a sign that read: “The Palestinian people know what mean [sic] to be shot while unarmed because of your ethnicity #ferguson #justice.”
What is ironic about the anti-Israel takeover in Ferguson is that the outrageous accusations being leveled against Israel by pro-Palestinians are actually the legitimate grievances of the Jewish people.
It’s Israeli civilians who have to fear being murdered because of their “ethnicity.” The massacre of Jews is the goal of Hamas. And Palestinians who oppose the Hamas government in Gaza will find themselves with a bag over their head at their public execution. The only thing they have to fear from the Jewish State is being used by Hamas as human shields to protect Hamas’ craven leaders and their weapons.
A legitimate sign would read:
“The Jewish people know what it means to be blown up and massacred because of your ethnicity #Israel #neveragain.”
Paul Miller is a contributor to the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity. He serves as principal of Pauliegroup LLC, a Chicago-based new-media and political consulting firm.