Not a year goes by without an attempt by someone to associate the name of Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Palestinian cause. It’s particularly striking because while he lived, no one had much doubt about where he stood. Here, for example, is the late Edward Said, foremost Palestinian thinker of his day, in a 1993 interview:Kramer goes on to show how King was an unabashed Zionist even though today the anti-Israel crowd tries to steal his legacy.
With the emergence of the civil rights movement in the middle ’60s – and particularly in ’66-’67 – I was very soon turned off by Martin Luther King, who revealed himself to be a tremendous Zionist, and who always used to speak very warmly in support of Israel, particularly in ’67, after the war.
The Edward Said quote is fascinating, though. It seems to indicate that all of the good King did - all of the progress he made towards equal rights for all people - is worthless to Said because of this one position. Never mind that King's position of support for Israel is entirely in line with his support for equal rights for all; after all, King saw the justice of having a Jewish state which in fact allowed Jews to be considered equals with other peoples in the world. But to Said, all of MLK's legacy seems to be worthless because of his Zionism.
Further reading into Said's writings show that this is in fact consistent. He addresses King briefly again in his memoirs, where he says:
Eleanor Roosevelt revolted me in her avid support for the Jewish state; despite her much-vaunted, even advertised, humanity I could never forgive her for her inability to spare the tiniest bit of it for our refugees. The same was true later for Martin Luther King, whom I had genuinely admired but was also unable to fathom (or forgive) for the warmth of his passion for Israel's victory during the 1967 war. (141)
Said didn't just disagree with these icons of human rights. He was revolted by them if they also were sympathetic to Jews and Jewish aspirations to self-determination.
(Roosevelt did visit the Middle East after Israel was reborn, and contrary to Said's words she expressed sympathy for Palestinian refugees, saying the situation in the camps was "dreadful," but she noted that Arab nations did not want to resettle them and wanted to keep them in misery. There is an entire book by an academic in Ireland expanding on Said's hate for Roosevelt.)
Said didn't really care about human rights if he couldn't tie them to the Palestinian cause. The essay, The Politics and Poetics of Exile: Edward Said in Africa by
Paul Tiyambe Zeleza notes that Said was silent altogether in his memoir about the civil rights movement in America:
Said's representation of the United States also remains strangely silent on racism, the country's original and enduring sin rooted in the ravages of European settler colonialism that led to the genocide of the native peoples followed by the enslavement of Africans. ...
He only mentions in passing that at the Princeton of the 1950s "there wasn't a single black" (274), offering no comment as if this were an inconsequential fact for a country then in the throes of the civil rights struggle, which he does not even address.
Edward Said, the leading Palestinian intellectual who came of age on American college campuses during the height of the civil rights movement, did not offer a word of support for the blacks of America struggling for equal rights.
Real human rights champions care about all people. MLK didn't care only about black people's rights, but about all human rights.
But when Palestinians speak about human rights, they are invariably trying to hijack the cause, not promote it. They demand women and blacks in the US include pro-Palestinian agendas in their "resistance" platforms but there is no reciprocity, something that Zeleza mentions about Said:
Support for Israel's aggression against the dispossessed and oppressed Palestinians does indeed deserve censure, but reciprocity is required, in this case in terms of support for African American civil rights struggles, which is noticeably absent in this memoir.
The case of Eleanor Roosevelt is even more stunning. Roosevelt chaired the drafting committee for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights - but to Said, her including Jews as deserving of such rights makes her not mistaken but revolting. He is so disgusted by her that he discounts everything else she ever did, doubting her "much-vaunted, even advertised humanity" as if it was a scam and her entire life is defined by her supposed silence on Palestinian Arabs.
Is there anything that describes Palestinian Arab attitudes more accurately than this? Jews, the most persecuted people in history, have always been in the forefront of civil rights movements for everyone. For Palestinian Arabs, however, everything is looked at through the tunnel vision of their exclusive rights to being considered the victim, and other victims are only tools to push their own narrative.
Anyone who doesn't share their view of being the biggest victims is not considered merely wrong. They are the enemy.