There was a time when black leaders and Jewish leaders locked arms and marched for freedom and civil rights on behalf of millions of black people during the 1950’s and 1960’s. This remarkable bond that was shared by Rev. Martin Luther King and many Jewish leaders hit a severe road bump on Tuesday when many Black Caucus members boycotted the speech of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke before a joint session of Congress.
One of the ringleaders of this unlikely boycott was Georgia congressman John Lewis who actually participated with many Jewish civil rights participants during those harrowing times of struggle. Yet, he like, several of his black congressional boycotters including G.K. Butterfield, who heads the Congressional Black Caucus; decided that Barack Obama’s words or threats or promises of more money to their districts was more important. The morality of the past meant nothing and the bond of mutual support was soundly rejected.
It is unimportant that there was an overflow crowd which heard the prime minister issue dire warnings of what would occur if the president continued on his wrongheaded approach to wringing out a bad nuclear deal with Iran. The very fact that the black congressional representatives would even select political adolescent behavior as a defense for their stance against the Israeli leader is unfathomable.
What sort of message was this supposed to send to the Jewish people in Israel, many whose family members marched, donated money and supported the civil rights efforts that gave birth to laws that helped black people? Are they to think that now, in their hour of need when their very survival may be risked by a president who even refused to view the speech or send an official representative, black leaders looked away?
It is clear from all that Rev. Martin Luther King wrote and all that the martyred civil rights leader struggled for that he would be mournful at the actions of these Black Caucus members. He would wonder aloud how they could sell their hearts and their souls for 30 pieces of silver from a president who, himself, has put daylight between himself and Israel.
In 1967, when the Jewish state was fighting for its very existence during the Six-Day War between Egypt Jordan, and Syria, Rev. Martin Luther King did not hide in the shadows but spoke out strongly in support of Israel. He stressed, “Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect her right to exist, its territorial integrity and the right to use whatever sea lanes it needs. Israel is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world…Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality,” reported the DC Clothesline.
The key word in Rev. King’s words of support is “security.” This word should have meaning for the black congressional leaders who pontificate about the security of freedom, jobs, opportunity and yes, even to hope that the word “security” provides. Perhaps in time these morally challenged black leaders will understand that when the times call them to act, they must now cower like sheep being prepared for slaughter.
Perhaps John Lewis will once again remember why Rev. King stood with Israel and the Jewish people as they stood with black Americans. If he and his boycotting congressional associates had displayed the courage and moral conviction that Rev. King had, then perhaps their spines would not be bent to reveal the footprint of Barack Obama on their backs.