My Re-examination of Martin Luther King and Anti-Semitism

My life has presented me with no shortage of opportunities to re-evaluate my thinking, or to show me my short falls when it comes to my path of reasoning. It never comes when I think it will, nor will it present itself in a comfortable manner. My latest moment of clarity came when I asked a question of other people that I had not asked of myself in years, "Do MLK's accomplishments in the area of civil rights outshine his anti-Semitism enough we can call him a hero without shame?" It was not my answer to the question that caused me to reflect, it was response to the content of the question.

Every couple of days on my social networks, I ask the people who follow me questions meant to inspire them to think about the world differently. On Martin Luther King Day, I asked the question about MLK, expecting a flurry of activity about heroism and how we define it, or why it did not matter. I learned the presuamption of the question was wrong.

When I was younger, I believed that any anti-Israel or critical comments about Israel were anti-Semitic. I confess; it was incredibly simplistic, and shamefully lacking in nuance. It was a dreadfully unsophisticated point of view.

At some point, in a discussion about Dr. King, I heard that he said that Israel was, "smug and unyielding". He had discouraged Israel from fighting the Six Day War. Shocked and a bit disillusioned, I resolved to never forget that even though MLK accomplished a lot in the area of civil rights, he was not beyond having bigotry of his own. He obviously did not care much for Jews.

I carried the belief that Martin Luther King was anti-Semitic for years. The facts that led me to that belief have not changed, my interpretation of the circumstances around the comments have evolved. As the conditions in Gaza worsened, settlements increased, human suffering became obvious, and some of the behaviors of Israel became indefensible by my standards, I could no longer see Israel as the naive prey in a regional conflict about religion. I see Israel as a complex country with policies and actions that do not reflect on all Jews, nor are the actions of Jews a reflection on Israel. I began to see Israel as I saw my own country - flawed and granted no exceptional status for their accomplishments or atrocities.

I reexamined my opinions on Israel, but I had stopped reformulating my opinion before it came to MLK. This was not an intentional dismissal of facts but I did not even notice again that the two overlapped. The two traveled in my mind on two separate roads. It was not until I asked others to investigate their own points of view that the two roads finally crossed, leaving me standing at the fork.

The people I asked to answer my question rightfully began to demand answers of me. In order to justify my position, I went out seeking sources. It was the first time since I repositioned my view of Israel that I was also compelled to scrutinize my belief of Martin Luther King. I scoured the internet for the sources that made me draw the conclusion of anti-Semitism. As I re-read the content that had previously angered me, I was left a bit staggered. I had a belief I could no longer justify.

I am a bit disappointed in myself that it had not occurred to me on my own to revisit the foundation of my idea about Dr. Martin Luther King. I pride myself on inspection of my own viewpoint and behaviors, to a degree that is often painful. I am ashamed that I jumped right over this one, but I am grateful that the people who I encourage to converse about their thoughts, turned the tables and challenged me to do the same.

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