New York Times Abuses Martin Luther

Posted: 1/20/2019 7:36:00 PM
Author: Simon Plosker
Source: This article originally appeared on the Honest Reporting website on January 20, 2019/

New York Times Abuses Martin Luther King’s Legacy to Attack Israel
by Simon Plosker

At a time of increasing tension in the US surrounding identity politics and the antisemitism afflicting the Women’s March movement, trust the New York Times to add to the toxic mix just in time to commemorate Martin Luther King Day.

There’s something ironic in the NY Times’ headline given that the newspaper is one of Israel’s most strident critics, frequently publishing news and opinion pieces about Israel. Hardly much of a need to “Break the Silence on Palestine.”

It’s sad that Alexander looks to Martin Luther King as her justification for penning an op-ed of over 2,000 words attacking Israel. She writes:

if we are to honor King’s message and not merely the man, we must condemn Israel’s actions: unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations. We must cry out at the treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints, the routine searches of their homes and restrictions on their movements, and the severely limited access to decent housing, schools, food, hospitals and water that many of them face.

‘False charges of antisemitism’ and ‘smear campaigns’
Instead we learn that:

Until very recently, the entire Congress has remained mostly silent on the human rights nightmare that has unfolded in the occupied territories. Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel’s political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel, even as it has grown more emboldened in its occupation of Palestinian territory and adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.

Where is the “well-documented power” of the Israel lobby? At this time of writing, the hyperlinked source is, believe it or not, the homepage of the Washington Post.

Alexander then claims that civil society organizations have been silenced for fear of “false charges of anti-Semitism” and their work being discredited by “smear campaigns.”

The charge that accusations of antisemitism are made in bad faith in order to smear opponents of Israel and to shut down legitimate debate over Israeli policies has become a well-worn method of dismissing antisemitism and portraying those who attack Jews and Israel as the real victims.

As David Hirsh points out:

This is a formulation which often appears in response to an accusation of antisemitism, which I have called The Livingstone Formulation (Hirsh 2007; 2010). It is a rhetorical device which enables the user to refuse to engage with the charge made. It is a mirror which bounces back an accusation of antisemitism against anybody who makes it. It contains a counter-charge of dishonest Jewish (or ‘Zionist’) conspiracy.

But Alexander believes that:

it seems 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. There seems to be increased understanding that criticism of the policies and practices of the Israeli government is not, in itself, anti-Semitic.

No credible Jewish or Israeli organization claims that criticism of Israeli government policies is, in itself, antisemitic. There is plenty of criticism to go around, much of it from within Israel itself and diaspora Jewish communities concerning Israeli government policies.

When someone decides to critique Zionism, however, that goes beyond the actions of the Israeli state and instead questions the very legitimacy of a Jewish state at all. When Israel’s very right to exist as a Jewish state is being debated, it’s perfectly legitimate to ask what is motivating that discussion.

While Michelle Alexander invokes Martin Luther King’s legacy to attack Israel, it’s worth remembering what Martin Luther King himself said about Zionism:

Martin Luther King on Zionism:

"When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism."

Supporting BDS as ‘moral clarity’
It’s hard not to see past the gross hypocrisy displayed by Alexander when she says: “This is not to say that anti-Semitism is not real,” and, referencing increasing antisemitic incidents in the US, states: “We must be mindful in this climate that, while criticism of Israel is not inherently anti-Semitic, it can slide there.”

And slide it certainly does. Just ask the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign that has done more than most to spread antisemitism in the US and beyond. Alexander makes it clear that she supports BDS, which she claims is guided by “moral clarity.”

Playing the victim card
Yet, for Alexander, it’s not only about playing identity politics, it’s about victim status. For her, victims include:

Bahia Amawi, an American speech pathologist of Palestinian descent, was recently terminated for refusing to sign a contract that contains an anti-boycott pledge stating that she does not, and will not, participate in boycotting the State of Israel.


Marc Lamont Hill… fired from CNN for giving a speech in support of Palestinian rights that was grossly misinterpreted as expressing support for violence.


the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama, apparently under pressure mainly from segments of the Jewish community and others, rescinded an honor it bestowed upon the civil rights icon Angela Davis, who has been a vocal critic of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians and supports B.D.S.

All of them, in Alexander’s eyes, victims of the apparent Israeli campaign to shut down freedom of speech and deflect criticism of Israeli actions.

Discredited claims of discrimination
Alexander’s attempts to portray Israel as an apartheid state are simply not credible. She writes:

And finally, we must, with as much courage and conviction as we can muster, speak out against the system of legal discrimination that exists inside Israel, a system complete with, according to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians — such as the new nation-state law that says explicitly that only Jewish Israelis have the right of self-determination in Israel, ignoring the rights of the Arab minority that makes up 21 percent of the population.

Adalah is, in its own words, “An independent human rights organization and legal center” that “promote[s] and defend[s] the rights of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel.” It supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign and has engaged in various anti-Israel activities.

Noteworthy, given Alexander’s focus on Martin Luther King is the information that, according to NGO Monitor, in August 2017, Adalah launched a project titled “Freedom, Bound” drawing comparisons between the “shared struggle for collective liberation” of the “Ferguson Uprising and the resurgence of Black-Palestinian solidarity.” Part of the project was for “Advocates and activists in Israel/Palestine and the US [to] use and exchange strategies of resistance to transform the systems of oppression that have been designed to exclude, marginalize, and even criminalize the presence and existence of both Palestinians and Black Americans.”

Has Michelle Alexander been directly influenced by this project?

As for Adalah’s list of discriminatory laws referenced by Alexander, this has been debunked and discredited on numerous occasions, including by NGO Monitor, the Institute for Zionist Strategies, and researcher and blogger David Collier. As Professor Gerald Steinberg notes, Adalah’s database: refers to Zionism in a pejorative manner, and makes no distinction between laws that were actually passed by the Israeli Knesset and legislative proposals that went nowhere. Furthermore, laws promoting Zionism and the historic Jewish connection to Israel are labeled as discriminatory, including the use of Jewish symbols and the Hebrew calendar.

‘Streets for Jews only’ lie
Alexander also refers to a Rabbi Brian Walt, claiming that:

For him, the turning point was witnessing legalized discrimination against Palestinians — including streets for Jews only — which, he said, was worse in some ways than what he had witnessed as a boy in South Africa.

There are no legalized “streets for Jews only” in Israel or areas under Israeli control. Legitimate Israeli security measures that necessitate separating populations are done, not on the basis of religion or ethnicity, but according to citizenship. Arab Israeli citizens of any religion have the same freedom of movement as Jewish Israelis. Whatever Walt was referring to, Alexander has propagated a lie.

Silence on Palestine
Michelle Alexander’s piece is very much silent on Palestine. Nowhere is there any criticism of Palestinians.

Nothing on Palestinian terrorism that necessitates Israeli security measures.
Nothing on the corruption of the Palestinian Authority that prefers to pay Palestinian prisoners and their families for carrying out acts of terrorism rather than improving the housing, schools and hospitals that Alexander laments.
Nothing about the antisemitism and rejectionism of Hamas and no criticism of rockets fired from Gaza, which Alexander refers to as “occupied,” towards Israeli towns and villages.
No criticism of the fact that PA President Mahmoud Abbas has just entered the fifteenth year of his four year term in office.
Just Michelle Alexander’s silence on Palestine.

Ultimately, Michelle Alexander has sullied the legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with her assault on Israel, aided and abetted by the New York Times, which continues to up the ante in its efforts to single out Israel for crude special treatment.

No amount of opinion pieces by credible writers such as Bret Stephens, Bari Weiss and Matti Friedman can mitigate the obsessive behavior that the New York Times is showing towards the Jewish state. The newspaper has added its anti-Israel poison to the already toxic mix of divisive American identity politics. Would MLK approve?