There is a street in central Jerusalem named for Martin Luther King Jr. – the only such tribute to the great American civil rights leader in the entire Middle East.
It is a reminder that Dr. King stood with Israel when others challenged its right to exist; and that he condemned anti-Semitism in every form it took, including anti-Zionism.
“I see Israel as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world,” he said in a speech to the Rabbinical Assembly delivered 47 years ago this month. He added that “(p)eace for Israel means security and security must be a reality.”
His words came to mind this week as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a joint meeting of Congress, during which he expressed his nation’s fear that its security will be jeopardized by the long-term nuclear agreement the Obama administration hopes to complete this month with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
A nuclear-armed Iran represents an existential threat to Israel, Mr. Netanyahu told lawmakers. And they needed not take his word for it. All they had to do was read a tweet last November by Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader – yes, he has a Twitter account – declaring that the Jewish state “has no cure but to be annihilated.”
The Congressional Black Caucus couldn’t care less about Israel’s security, as evidenced by the fact that more than half of its members decided to boycott Mr. Netanyahu’s address.
“I refuse to be part of a political stunt aimed at undercutting President Obama,” said Rep. G.K. Butterfield, the caucus chairman.
The supposed “political stunt” to which Butterfield referred was Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to Washington – at the invitation of House Speaker John Boehner – to make his case against the deal Mr. Obama is prepared to sign with Khamenei.
The White House was furious, calling the invitation a “breach in normal diplomatic protocol.”
That’s a fair argument to make, but Black Caucus members took it to an extreme, invoking the race card as a pretext for bashing Mr. Netanyahu and completely dismissing his concern that, if Iran succeeds in developing a nuclear weapon – be it later or sooner – Khamenei will make good on his threat to annihilate the Jewish state.
The Israeli prime minister’s address to Congress was “a real in-your-face slap at the president, and black folks know it,” said Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat.
“It’s not simply about President Obama being a black man disrespected by a foreign leader,” said Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat. “It’s deeper than that.”
The black lawmaker is right. It is deeper than that. But not in the way his words suggest.
Mr. Netanyahu’s visit to Washington exposed a dirty little secret in the black community – that many blacks are anti-Semites, masquerading as anti-Zionists.
Some have even managed to rise to the level of black “leaders.”
That includes Jesse Jackson, who in 1984 complained that New York City’s Jewish community cared about nothing other than its ancestral homeland. “That’s all Hymie wants to talk about, is Israel,” he said.
There was also Al Sharpton, who in 1991 issued a challenge to Zionists. “If the Jews want to get it on,” he said, “tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.”
Then there was Jeremiah Wright, who in 2009 lamented that “(t)hem Jews” in the Obama White House had come between Wright and the president. “Ethnic cleansing (by) the Zionist is a sin and a crime against humanity,” he said, “and they don’t want Barack talking like that, because it’s anti-Israel.”
Neither Butterfield, Clyburn or Johnson – nor any other of their fellow Congressional Black Caucus members – are as overt in their antipathy toward Israel, or their contempt for the Jewish people, as were Jackson, Sharpton and Wright.
But the suspicion here is their views on Israel, about Jews, are not far apart.