A New York Times Columnist Exploits Martin Luther King’s Legacy to Lacerate Israel
“My conscience leaves me no choice,” wrote New York Times columnist Michelle Alexander on January 20, than to declare that it is “time to break the silence on Palestine.” She aligns herself with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. a day before his commemoration day, not to condemn segregation but to lacerate Israel. Even her hallucination that her “lonely moral stance” is breaking the silence on what has long been a left-wing cliché, she plunges into a subject far beyond her knowledge while exposing and reiterating her bias.
For Alexander, Israel’s “occupation of Palestinian territory” and adoption of “practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States” demands attention and laceration — as if she is staking out a novel (if ludicrous) claim. She believes that Rev. King’s “teachings and message” require her, “despite the risks and despite the complexity of the issues,” to excoriate Israel. She displays not the slightest awareness that she is about to regurgitate repetitive false allegations and impassioned hallucinations, often appearing in her own newspaper, to attack the Jewish state.
Alexander launches her diatribe by claiming that Israel’s nation-state law embraces a “system of legal discrimination … inside Israel.” The claim is false and the “system” is non-existent. Israel’s Declaration of Independence pledged that the fledgling Jewish state would “ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.” The nation-state law identifies Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. Israel, as Prime Minister Natanyahu declared upon its enactment, “respects the individual rights of all its citizens,” adding (accurately), “in the Middle East, only Israel respects these rights.”
“We must not tolerate,” Alexander continues, Israel’s “refusal even to discuss the right of Palestine refugees to return to their homes.” It is not clear whether she is referring to the absurdly inflated five million “refugees” falsely claimed by UNRWA, or the actual 30,000 living Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war (waged by Arab states against Israel’s survival). There is not a word about the 20 percent of the Israeli population who are Palestinians with full citizenship rights.
“We must cry out,” she cries, at “the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints,” “restrictions on their movements,” and “routine searches of their homes.” Not a word, to be sure, about Palestinian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians — including, as recent events tragically demonstrated, pregnant women. Her reference to “the system of legal discrimination that exists inside Israel” cites Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, for its commendable resistance. She fails to note that no such organization for the protection of Jewish minority rights has ever existed in any Arab country.
Appropriately for Martin Luther King Day, Alexander imagines “what King would do or think regarding Israel-Palestine today.” Admitting that there is nothing but her speculation to provide an answer, which should end the matter, she relies on the suggestion by an African-American historian with an ideological ax to grind that King’s “unequivocal opposition to violence, colonialism, racism and militarism would have made him an incisive critic of Israel’s current policies.” Who knows?
Demonstrating her evident skill in locating critics of Israel, Alexander also cites a rabbi who has “abandoned his faith” in Zionism because he saw “horrific human rights abuses” in the West Bank and Gaza — “worse in some ways than what he had witnessed as a boy in South Africa.” And, they were “fully supported and enabled by the Israeli military.”
Alexander is heartened by her constricted source base to imagine that “the days when critiques of Zionism and the actions of the State of Israel can be written off as anti-Semitism are coming to an end.” She is delighted that two female members of the House of Representatives — both Muslim women (one of whom is the daughter of Palestinian immigrants) — support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement that targets Israel. To be sure, it has been aptly described by American Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein as “a ‘politically correct’ form of anti-Semitism.”
In conclusion, Alexander preposterously claims that “those who speak publicly in support of the liberation of the Palestinian people still risk condemnation and backlash.” Yet, not coincidentally, they are invariably assured prominent space in The New York Times to voice their hostility to Israel.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel, 1896-2016, soon to be published by Academic Studies Press.