The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.—A Proud Unapologetic Zionist

by Jeff Dunetz at

“When People Criticize Zionists They Mean Jews, You Are Talking Antisemitism” Martin Luther King Zionist

More exact words were never said. They were told by the great civil rights leader, The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., the American hero whose life and dream America celebrates on Monday, January 15.

Dr. King was a great leader for civil rights, and as part of that, he was a Zionist who loved the Jewish people. One of the closest. Friends was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Unlike some self-styled civil rights leaders today who seek divisiveness, Dr. King’s dream was a post-racial society where people were judged by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin.

In recognition of MLK Day, some will reference a letter supposedly penned by Dr. King called “Letter to a Zionist Friend.” The most famous line in the letter, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You are talking Antisemitism,” was uttered by Dr. King and reflected his beliefs but wasn’t written in any letter.

Clarence B. Jones, Dr. King’s attorney, once wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

“I was his lawyer and one of his closest advisers, and I can say with absolute certainty that Martin abhorred antisemitism in all its forms, including anti-Zionism. “There isn’t anyone in this country more likely to understand our struggle than Jews,” Martin told me. “Whatever progress we’ve made so far as a people, their support has been essential.”

Over twenty-five. Years ago, CAMERA (Committee For Accuracy In Middle East Reporting And Analysis) tried to verify the letter but couldn’t find a source document anywhere. They even tried Boston University, where Dr. King’s work is archived. The archivists, too, were unable to locate any such letter. “We can only conclude that no such letter was written by Dr. King.”

The late Rep. John Lewis, who worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr., wrote an op-ed called “I Have A Dream” For Peace In The Middle East / King’s Special Bond With Israel” confirmed that Dt. King was a firm believer in Zionism, and the famous quote was spoken, not written:

“During the recent U.N. Conference on Racism held in Durban, South Africa, we were all shocked by the attacks on Jews, Israel, and Zionism. The United States of America stood up against these vicious attacks.

Once again, the words of King ran through my memory, “I solemnly pledge to do my utmost to uphold the fair name of the Jews — because bigotry in any form is an affront to us all.”

During an appearance at Harvard University shortly before his death, a student stood up and asked King to address himself to the issue of Zionism. The question was clearly hostile. King responded, “When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking Antisemitism”