A NAACP founder and future Communist who was always pro-Zionist
A civil rights leader who testified as to the good character of Ariel
The supposed article by Martin Luther King Jr. saying that to attack
Zionism was to attack Jews.
Jesse Jackson’s increasingly meek statements on Israel
Malcolm X and a Trotskyite party
The remarkable Stokely Carmichael
by Lenni Brenner
Deals with Nazis and Fascists (part 1) Lenni Brenner
If you asked today’s American college students when the civil rights
movement began, most would say “when Rosa Parks disobeyed a bus driver’s order
to give her seat to a white.” She was arrested on December 1, 1955. On December
5th, after her trial and the first day of the Black bus boycott, a meeting in
the Mt. Zion AME Church organized the Montgomery Improvement Association to
lead the struggle. Martin Luther King Jr. was elected its president. In 1957,
after strategy differences with King, Parks left Montgomery. She worked in
Detroit as a seamstress. In 1965, Democratic Representative John Conyers hired
her as his Detroit office secretary. She retired in 1988.
Americans easily understand the Montgomery Improvement Association’s
establishment in the Mt. Zion Church. Most Black Americans were religious. They
identified with the Hebrew slaves fleeing Egypt for “the promised land.” But,
beyond specialists in Black-Jewish relations, Parks’ subsequent employment by
by Conyers, a severe critic of Israel, and the later politics of the civil
rights movement is unknown to today’s public. Therefore this article will focus
on the evolution of America’s Black rights leaders and movements attitudes
towards Zionism, from the founding of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People in 1909, thru to 1994, when apartheid South
Africa, Israel’s open ally, vanished into history.
The Black Struggle from 1909 to WWII
When Parks was arrested, she was the secretary of the Montgomery chapter
of the NAACP. The national NAACP had only one Black, W.E.B. Du Bois, on its
first executive board in 1909. His politics and the NAACP’s evolved, eventually
in different ways, but he was always pro-Zionist.
“The African movement means to us what the Zionist movement must mean to
the Jews, the centralization of race effort and the recognition of a racial
In its early years the NAACP organized occasional protest marches but
its primary arena soon became the courts. Post WW I, its place in the streets
was taken by Marcus Garvey’s ‘back to Africa’ Universal Negro Improvement
Association. Asked if he was imitating Benito Mussolini, he replied that
Mussolini was imitating him. But men in military formations were needed in an
era of anti-Black riots.
The UNIA grew to massive size until 1922, when Garvey was arrested for
mail fraud re money collected for his Black Star Line, which would ultimately
ship followers to Africa. Convicted in 1923, imprisoned in 1925, he was
deported to Jamaica in 1927. Garvey always equated the UNIA to Zionism, even
after blaming Jewish NAACP leaders for his prosecution.
Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks came to power in Russia in 1917 and
established the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, based on ethnic equality.
The Communist Party here made Black rights a top priority and attracted the
attention of Black intellectuals. After Lenin died in 1924, party secretary
Joseph Stalin converted the USSR into a personal dictatorship and the CPUSA
took his commands to be holy writ. Stalin and Communist parties everywhere,
including Palestine, opposed Zionism, but it was not an issue in their
involvement in the Black struggle.
In 1928, the CPUSA called for a Black republic in the areas of the
American south where they were the majority. This attracted some Blacks, but
more important was the CP’s legal defense of the “Scottsboro boys,” nine young
Blacks convicted in Alabama in 1931 of raping two white women and sentenced to
death. The CP’s International Labor Defense took the case to the Supreme Court
which declared that defendants are entitled to effective counsel and that no
one may be de facto excluded from juries because of their race. White racist
rage against “Communists” and “Jewish lawyers” served to establish the
credibility of both among Blacks.
In July 1930, Wallace D. Fard Muhammad founded the Nation of Islam in
Detroit. Among other things, it called for an independent Black state in
America. In 1933 he established a security guard called the Fruit of Islam to
defend the NOI and other Blacks against white racists.
Fard Muhammad left Detroit in 1934 and was never seen again. Before
departing he conferred leadership of the NOI on one of his earliest followers,
Elijah Poole, who changed his name to Elijah Muhammad. He preached that Wallace
Fard Muhammad was Islam’s Mahdi and Christianity’s Messiah. The Nation and FOI
were a small but visible presence in Black communities until the early 1950s,
when Malcolm X, who had converted while in prison for burglary, became Elijah
Muhammad’s chief lieutenant. Under Malcolm’s leadership the NOI became a mass
movement and the FOI grew in every Black community.
It took the 1929 Depression, under a Republican President, to get
northern Blacks to vote for a Democrat, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1932, in hope
of improved economic conditions, but they had few illusions about their new
party. It ruled the legally racially segregated “solid south” and many northern
states where landlords and employers could discriminate or not, at their
option. There were no Black Democratic convention delegates until 1940.
In 1934, Stalin anticipated a second world war with Britain, France, the
U.S. and the Soviets against Hitler. Unofficially, so as not to embarrass him,
the CP supported Roosevelt, putting it in tandem with Black voters. It was
central in organizing the Congress of Industrial Organizations, a rival to the
almost universally racist American Federation of Labor. Hundreds of thousands
of workers, many Black, joined CP-led unions. By 1939 the CP grew to 90,000
members, many Jewish or Black. Singer Paul Robeson, while not formally a CP
member, was royally treated in the Soviet Union and helped make the CP a major
force in the Black community.
In 1938, Trinidad-born C.L.R. James, author of The Black Jacobins:
Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution, came to the U.S. and
joined the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. In 1939, under his influence,
the SWP declared that, if America’s Blacks wanted their own state in the south,
they would support the demand. The SWP was very small, but James’ book made him
well known to Black intellectuals, worldwide.
In 1939, after Britain and France signed the Munich pact with Hitler,
Stalin reversed himself and made the Hitler-Stalin pact. Thousands of Jews quit
the CP in disgust, but Bayard Rustin, a gay Black Quaker member of the Young
Communist League since 1936, stayed on. In 1941 the YCL assigned him to fight
against U.S. military segregation, then called off the campaign when the Nazis
invaded the Soviet Union. He quit in disgust and joined A. Philip Randolph
(1889 – 1979), president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in calling
for a Black march on Washington against racial discrimination in war industries
and segregation in the military. The march was cancelled after Roosevelt issued
Executive Order 8802, banning war industry discrimination. The military
remained segregated, but the Executive Order was seen by many Blacks as a
Rustin went to prison in 1944 for violating the WWII draft law. He could
have accepted a religious pacifist civilian work assignment, but chose prison,
feeling that his political opposition to war was more important than his
The Cold War Era
With Hitler’s defeat, Democratic President Harry Truman faced a very
different enemy, foreign and domestic. The USSR was seen by many Blacks as for
their rights. Many thousands of Blacks were in CP-led unions. In 1947, Randolph
formed the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service, later renamed the
League for Non-Violent Civil Disobedience. Truman had two concerns. If the U.S.
faced off militarily with any Communist foe, it would try to get Blacks in the
segregated military to mutiny, and he was hoping to get elected in 1948.
Vice President Truman became President when Roosevelt died in 1945. In
1948, one of his opponents was Henry Wallace, his predecessor as Roosevelt’s
Vice President (1941–1945). During anti-Black riots in Detroit in 1943, Wallace
declared that America couldn’t “fight to crush Nazi brutality abroad and
condone race riots at home.” Such politics were too left for Roosevelt and
he chose Senator Truman, front man for the notoriously corrupt Kansas City,
Missouri Democratic “machine,” to run with him in 1944. Every poll predicted
Truman’s defeat. If he lost enough Black votes to Wallace he was certain to
lose. So, on July 26, 1948, he abolished military racial segregation via
Executive Order 9981.
Wallace got only 2.4 percent of the national vote, but even after 9981
and a civil rights plank in the Democratic Party platform, the first in its
history, he received one third of the Black vote. Prominent Blacks supported
him including heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis, singer Lena Horne, Robeson
and Du Bois. This led to the NAACP terminating Du Bois’ employment, but Zionism
wasn’t an issue in the rupture. The NAACP’s leaders were for Truman, who raced
Stalin to be the first to recognize the new Israeli state.
Wallace opposed the “cold war” and was running as the candidate of the
Progressive Party, created for the occasion by the CP. It maintained Lenin’s
anti-Zionist line until 1947, when Moscow suddenly declared its support for the
creation of Israel. The scholarly consensus is that Stalin wanted Britain,
Palestine’s Mandatory ruler, out of the Middle East. None of London’s Arab satraps
were interested in rebelling against their overlord and Stalin thought Zionist
success in kicking the British out would, somehow, force Britain’s Arab puppets
to try to do likewise.
Until the late 40s, most Jewish men were blue collar workers. In the
30s, almost all Jewish union leaders opposed Zionism. When their bosses gave
donations to Zionist charities they felt that the money should have gone to
their members as wages. This changed dramatically after the Holocaust. A
nationalist wave swept through American Jewry. In Manhattan, thousands of Jews
and others marched and danced around the New York Times tower when its
electronic sign announced the creation of Israel. That demonstration was
organized by the CP and Black CPers were among the dancers.
There were two reasons why Truman overruled his “the Arabs got the oil”
oriented State Department and recognized the new state in 1948. In her book,
Harry S. Truman, his daughter Margaret related how “On October 6,1947, Bob
Hannegan,” the Democratic National Chairman,
“almost made a speech, pointing out how many Jews were major
contributors to the Democratic Party‘s campaign fund and were expecting the
United States to support the Zionists’ position on Palestine.” 
The other reason was the Progressive Party’s strength among Jews and
Blacks in New York, the home state of Thomas Dewey, his pro-Zionist Republican
opponent. Truman feared that, unless he backed Zionism, rich Jews would fund
Dewey, Jewish workers would vote Progressive and he would lose the state. In
fact Truman did lose it but, to everyone’s amazement, won the national
Two years later, in 1950, Du Bois ran for the U.S. Senate as the
candidate of the American Labor Party, the Progressive Party’s New York
affiliate, and received almost 210,000 votes, and 12.8 per cent of Harlem’s
With Stalin it was always gyrations. His own pro-Zionist politics
generated enthusiasm for Israel among Soviet Jews which he equated with
disloyalty to him. In November 1948 he began a purge of “cosmopolitans,” almost
always with Jewish names or with their Jewish birth name in brackets next to
their later Russian name. On January 13, 1953, a group of doctors was accused
of being agents of a Zionist conspiracy to poison him and other Soviet leaders.
He died on March 5, 1953 and the new Soviet leadership exonerated the doctors
in a March 31 decree.
Many Jews left the CPUSA, usually with their Times Tower politics and
pro-civil rights feelings intact. Those still loyal after 1953 simply used the
exoneration to wash away Stalin’s anti-Semitism and their zeal for him in that
period. Thereafter the CP supported the Soviet Union’s alliances with
Palestinian movements and Arab regimes, but it always opposed the call for a
democratic secular binational state. Party members and CP-led unions continued
to play important roles in the civil rights movement.
Although Black voters backed pro-Zionist candidates, Israel wasn’t a
Black election issue in 1948. But on September 17, Sweden’s Count Folke
Bernadotte, the U.N. mediator in the Arab-Israeli conflict, was assassinated by
the Lohamei Herut Israel, Fighters for the Freedom of Israel (aka the Stern
gang), and Ralph Bunche, a Black American diplomat, took his place. He worked
out the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan,
and Syria, establishing the armistice line between Israel and Jordan, now known
as the Green Line.
Most educated Blacks saw Bunche’s Armistice as sanctification of
Israel’s existence, especially so after 1950, when Bunche won the Noble Peace
Prize. This pro-Zionist spin was later reinforced when Bunche participated in
the 1963 March on Washington and the Selma to Montgomery march that led to the
passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
This same period also saw a rival left involvement in the civil rights
movement that produced what comes off today as amazing secular prophesy. In
1946-48, Daniel Guerin, a French Trotskyist, visited the southern U.S. In
Negroes on the March, copyright 1951, he assessed the NAACP:
“In Mobile, Ala., an important industrial city, the NAACP branch
numbered 2,000 members when I was there, but I could not find a single worker
among them. One of the few places where I saw a branch with a relatively
proletarian composition was Montgomery, Ala.; the reason for this happy
exception was that the branch secretary was also a trade union
A living example of this evolution was presented to me by E.D. Nixon of
Montgomery, Ala., a vigorous colored union militant who was the leading spirit
in his city both of the local union of Sleeping Car Porters and the local
branch of the NAACP. What a difference from the other branches of the
Association, which are controlled by dentists, pastors and undertakers!”
Leftist presence in the civil rights movement automatically meant FBI
spying. In June 1952, a CP informer brought Stanley Levison, a New York lawyer
and realtor, to the FBI’s attention. He was supposed to be a secret major CP
financier since the end of WWII. In 1955 he, Rustin and others set up In
Friendship to send money to southern Black activists.
Rustin introduced Levison to King in 1956 and he soon became King’s good
right hand. He set up the MIA’s first mail-solicitations for funds, and helped
King get the contract for his first book, Stride Towards Freedom, and wrote
parts of it. On September 20, 1958, King was stabbed by Izola Curry, a mad
Black woman, while promoting the book, and Levison became central to the
financing of King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference while he
Levison drifted away from the CP before he met King. But he refused an
FBI request that he inform on the party and took the 5th Amendment when called
before a Senate committee. That made the Kennedy brothers and FBI Director J.
Edgar Hoover think that might he still might be a covert CPer. On June 22,
1963, President John Kennedy told King that he should drop Levison. He wouldn’t
abandon his confidant and, on October 10, 1963, Attorney General Robert
Kennedy, violating the 1st Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of religion and
speech, authorized wiretapping King. The FBI soon bugged his hotel rooms,
taping his extra-marital affairs. Eventually they sent the tapes to King,
hoping that they would drive him to suicide.  Spying continued until his
In reality, Levison had shifted his allegiance to the Zionist American
Jewish Congress and ran its Upper West Side Manhattan branch. This is
understandable, given his CP involvement during its Times Tower phase. Rabbi
Stephen Wise (1874–1949), founder of the American Jewish Congress in 1918, had
been a NAACP national board member since 1914, but many scholars, including
pro-Zionists, consider his Nazi era behavior disgraceful. According to Saul
Friedlander, “In the spring of 1941, Rabbi Wise had decided to impose a
complete embargo on all aid sent to Jews in occupied countries, in compliance
with the U.S. government’s economic boycott of the Axis powers.”  On
December 2, 1942, after reports of the slaughter in the Ukraine reached the
West, he wrote a letter to “Dear Boss,” Franklin Roosevelt, asking for a
meeting and informing him that “I have had cables and underground advices for
some months, telling of these things. I succeeded, together with the heads of
other Jewish organizations, in keeping them out of the press.” 
When Peter Bergson, a rival Zionist, organized a “They Shall Never Die”
pageant to mobilize pressure on Roosevelt to rescue Jews, the AJC kept it out
of auditoriums wherever it could.  Du Bois and Randolph signed Bergson’s
newspaper ads and Walter White, then the NAACP Director, spoke at his 1943
Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe.
There is no evidence that Levison knew this when he joined AJC, or that
he was its agent in the civil rights movement. On the contrary, he was King’s
‘agent’ in getting support from the Jewish establishment. King knew that few
southern Jews joined the civil rights movement, but declared that “the national
Jewish bodies have been most helpful.” 
The night before his murder, he famously proclaimed that he had “been to
the mountaintop…. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with
you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the
promised land.” In fact he had actually been to Palestine.
In 1959, under the influence of Rustin and the Quakers, King went to
Mohandas Gandhi’s Indian birthplace to study satyagraha, Gandhi’s resistance to
tyranny through mass civil disobedience. He returned via Jordan and visited
Jericho and Jerusalem‘s “old city.” It was then impossible to go to through the
Mandelbaum Gate between the Israeli and Jordanian sectors of Jerusalem, and he
returned home by way of Egypt and Greece, but the visit and the fact that he
couldn’t go through the checkpoint remained prominent in his thinking. Indeed
he referred to his traveling the road from Jericho to Jerusalem – where a
Biblical Hebrew was rescued by a good Samaritan, after other Jews ignored his
misery – in his last, immortal, speech.
In 1961 W.E.B. Du Bois joined the American Communist Party, became a
citizen of Ghana and, still pro-Zionist, died there in 1963, only days before
King’s celebrated “I have a dream” speech. King was the greatest American
orator since Lincoln, but Rustin put together the speakers list for the massive
August 28, 1963 March on Washington. King spoke immediately after Joachim Prinz
(1902-1988), President of the AJC, 1958–1966:
“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler
regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned… was
that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problems. The most urgent…
and the most tragic problem is silence.” 
In reality he had been an eager collaborator with Nazism. In 1937, in
America, he wrote about Germany. His article described the Zionist mood in
“The government announced very solemnly that there was no country in the
world which tried to solve the Jewish problem as seriously as did Germany.
Solution of the Jewish question? It was our Zionist dream! We never denied the
existence of the Jewish question! Dissimilation? It was our own appeal! … In
a statement notable for its pride and dignity, we called for a conference.”
On February 8, 1981, I interviewed him.
Brenner: “What made you think that you could represent the Jews in
dealing with the Nazi government?”
Prinz: “Oh, we thought, in our discussions with intellectuals in the SS
movement, that the time would come when they would say, ‘Yes, you live in
Germany, you are Jewish people, you are different from us, but we will not kill
you, we will permit you to live your own cultural life, and develop your own
national capacities and dreams.’ We thought, at the beginning of the Hitler
regime that such a very frank discussion was possible. We found among the SS
intellectuals, some people were ready for such a talk. But of course such a
talk never took place because the radical element in the Nazi movement won
How did a wannabe collaborator with Hitler come to speak with King? As I
was leaving, after the taped interview, he told me that “When I got to America,
everything I believed in Germany sounded crazy to me.” I’ve never doubted his
honesty. The 1963 rabbi was very different from the 1933 rabbi, and Rustin and
King knew nothing about that rabbi. They, like most Jews and gentiles of that
era, knew little of Zionism’s history.
Although the March was massive, Malcolm X called it a “farce.” On
October 11, 1963 Malcolm spoke outdoors to thousands at the University of
California’s Berkeley campus. The NOI’s representative had nothing good to say
about the racially integrationist civil rights movement. But after the rally,
with the microphone off, two men went up to the podium. I heard one say, in
accented English, “Minister Malcolm, we think your talk was very good. But we
are from Iran, a Muslim country. There is nothing about race in the Koran or
Islam.” Malcolm looked at them, without moving or saying a word, for over a
minute, until a U.C. official took his arm and led him off the podium.
On November 22, President Kennedy was assassinated. On December 1,
Malcolm was asked about it and declared it “chickens coming home to roost” and
Elijah Muhammad ordered him silent for three months. During that period Malcolm
heard rumors about Muhammad’s extramarital affairs with young secretaries. On
March 8, 1964, he announced his break from the NOI, claiming Muhammad confirmed
the rumors. He converted to Sunni Islam, and set up the Organization of
Afro-American Unity, a secular Black nationalist movement.
On March 26, he met King at a Senate debate on the Civil Rights bill
outlawing unequal voter registration requirements, racial segregation in
schools, workplaces and public accommodations. They were photographed warmly
smiling and shaking hands. 
In April he went to Mecca, saw those Iranians were correct, visited
several Arab and Black African countries and returned to the U.S., eager to
work with all races for worldwide human rights. The SWP asked him to speak at
its New York Militant Forum and he did so three times. He and the SWP discussed
having its Young Socialist Alliance organize a national college tour for him.
Then, on February 21, 1965, he was assassinated by members of the NOI at a
public OAAU meeting.
America’s Blacks were outraged. The Harlem NOI mosque was torched and
NOI members were attacked in other places. Tens of thousands viewed his body
before his funeral. Rustin and Andrew Young from SCLC, John Lewis from the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, were among many civil rights leaders
at the televised wake. Actor Ossie Davis delivered an acclaimed eulogy for
“our shining black prince.” King telegrammed Betty Shabazz,
expressing sadness over “the shocking and tragic assassination of your
husband. While we did not always see eye to eye on methods to solve the race
problem, I always had a deep affection for Malcolm and felt that he had a great
ability to put his finger on the existence and root of the problem.”
After his death, the SWP’s Pathfinder Press published many of Malcolm’s
speeches and their evaluations of his development. They saw his strengths and
“At a press conference held on the day of his return to New York…. he
was also asked if he still thought Negroes should return to Africa…. Malcolm
X replied that after speaking to African leaders he was convinced that ‘If
Black men become involved in a philosophical, cultural and psychological
migration back to Africa, they will benefit greatly in this country.’ He
compared this to the benefits that Jews had derived from their identification
Editor George Breitman cited “overgenerous remarks Malcolm made about
Prince Feisal, who had shown Malcolm extraordinary courtesies in an emotionally
tense period during his trip to Mecca…. Malcolm did fail, on occasion, to
differentiate sufficiently between revolutionary and non revolutionary African,
Arab and Asian leaders.”
But Breitman was correct. “The Last Year of Malcolm X” was indeed “The
Evolution of a Revolutionary.”  His trip to Mecca converted him into an
intense personal cosmopolitan and he realized that the SWP, a central element
in the anti-Vietnam war movement, had a lot to teach him re the political side
of that world view.
Martin Luther King, Black Power, Black Panthers and Zionism
That leftward evolution didn’t stop with Malcolm. Growing out of a
February 1, 1960 Greensboro, North Carolina, Woolworth’s sit-in, the Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, (SNCC, pronounced “snick”) played a central
role in the sit-ins, freedom rides and racially integrated voter registration
drives over the next years. Its Chairman, John Lewis, prepared to make the most
radical speech at the 1963 Washington march, including
“Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it
in the courts. Listen Mr. Kennedy, the black masses are on the march for jobs
and for freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won’t be a
‘cooling-off period.'” 
The Kennedy administration put pressure on Rustin and this statement was
deleted from his speech but it reflected SNCC’s ever growing radicalism.
On the West Coast, Huey Newton heard me speak during the 1963 Cuban
missile crisis. On October 16, 1964, he introduced himself to me in Oakland,
California, in jail. Over four days we spent two hours discussing America, the
civil rights movement, Marxism and Vietnam, but didn’t discuss Zionism.
However, his Black Panther Party, founded on October 15, 1966, was anti-Zionist
and worked with left Jews and other whites inside the Peace and Freedom Party.
They called themselves Panthers from the ballot logo of SNCC’s Alabama Lowndes
County Freedom Organization, in 1966 known for “Black Power” and
It was Trinidad-born Stokely Carmichael, SNCC’s chair after Lewis, who
converted it into a Black organization and put “Black Power” into America’s
political lexicon in a June 16, 1966 speech in Greenwood, Mississippi, but he
always said he wasn’t the one who converted SNCC to anti-Zionism.
Born in 1941, he came to the New York at 11, after his mother proved
that she was born in the Panama Canal Zone when it was governed by the U.S. He
graduated from the world’s best high school. In his posthumous book, Ready For
Revolution, he told us that
“At Bronx Science, I attended study camps with the Young Socialists and
Young Communist groups. Here I learned to sing ‘Hava Nagella’ and to dance the
hora. During the fifties, these young-left groups were unquestioningly
pro-Zionist. Stalin had given arms to Zionist factions in 1948, and Israel was
said to be progressive. End of story. There was no discussion at all of the
rights of the Palestinian people. None.” 
His transition to anti-Zionism “was due almost entirely to the work of
one courageous activist sister.” To protect her from retaliation, he never
named her, but scholars say it was Ethel Minor, SNCC’s communications director.
“She met Palestinians…. She began to investigate the issue…. she
followed Malcolm into the Organization of Afro-American Unity. After his
assassination, the sister joined SNCC, where she organized a study group on the
question…. We found, to my surprise, that a great deal of the most incisive
and persuasive critical writing was by Jewish writers.” 
His biggest shock “was discovering the close military, economic, and
political alliance between the Israeli government and the racist apartheid
regime in South Africa.” 
He related how “war was declared on SNCC” when the press reported a SNCC
anti-Zionist position paper:
“No other civil rights organization had a position on the Middle East,
and there were clear reasons for that. A good deal of their financial support
came from mainstream liberals, quite often from progressive elements of the
Jewish community…. So obviously there would be a price to pay…. But as Dr.
King said, ‘There comes a time when silence is tantamount to consent.’”
King said that in 1967, re the Vietnam war. But in 1966 he was among the
civil rights leaders who denounced the notion of Black power, calling it “an
unfortunate choice of words.”  And he only agreed to speak at an April 15,
1967 anti-war rally at the U.N. if Carmichael wasn’t allowed to speak. The
organizers accepted his condition but then invited Carmichael, who spoke and
led a marching group carrying Vietcong flags. By then King was so anti-war
that, according to Murray Friedman’s 1995 What Went Wrong: The Creation and
Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance, they went to Harry Belafonte’s home,
where the three “exchanged views on future plans.”  We don’t know more
about what they discussed, but Friedman and subsequent scholars understood that
future joint public appearances would have served to further legitimatize
Carmichael’s anti-Zionism, regardless of King’s personal opinion re
“Black Power” made Carmichael so famous that, three decades later, the
Times reported his cancer diagnosis. This generated a 1996 letter from
Anti-Defamation League National Director Abraham Foxman:
“Re your laudatory news article on Kwame Toure, formerly Stokely
Carmichael (March 1): While working for civil rights is admirable, there is
another side to Mr. Toure’s career that the article did not convey. Mr. Toure
is an unabashed racial separatist and anti-Semite who often uses the slogan
‘the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist.’ His visits to college campuses have
been followed by acts of anti-Semitism and violence.” 
I wrote the paper a letter, accompanied by an article by Carmichael. The
Times called me. “Thank you very much for your letter.” It ran on March
“As a Jewish leftist who worked with Mr. Toure against the Iraq war, I
insist that he is not anti-Semitic. Mr. Toure’s nuanced position was expressed
in the May 1991 Anti-War Activist newsletter…. ‘Africans must transform the
anti-war movement to an anti-capitalist and anti-Zionist movement…. The
Zionists tried to chastise [Nelson] Mandela for his support for the P.L.O….
They control our community’s politicians. Look how they work harder for Israel
than for Azania-South Africa! We must properly distinguish between Judaism and
Mr. Toure’s hatred of Zionism, not Judaism or Jews is justified. Nathan
Perlmutter, Mr. Foxman’s predecessor at the Anti-Defamation League, has written
about why the organization would not join the group Trans-Africa in its
demonstration against apartheid:
‘I cannot ignore the fact that the [African National] Congress’s
literature is anti-Israel, highly sympathetic to the P.L.O. cause and tolerate
of cooperation with the South African Communist Party. The lesson for us as
Jews is not to engage our emotions in indignation about evil empires like South
Africa. I think we too have a responsibility to determine whether or not that
which stands in line to replace a current regime is better for the Jews or
worse for the Jews’.” 
Did the Times caller’s “thank you” speak for its editors? No, but he
certainly spoke for many of its readers, relieved that a civil rights icon
hadn’t become anti-Semitic. In any case, the Times 1998 obit, “Stokely
Carmichael, Rights Leader Who Coined ‘Black Power,’ Dies at 57,” heaped
criticism on him, including King’s “an unfortunate choice of words,” and threw
in a few praises: “Tall, slim, handsome…. Carmichael was arrested so often as
a nonviolent volunteer that he lost count after 32…. a spellbinding orator,”
but the obit said nothing re his anti-Zionism. 
The Times may not have known of the Belafonte meeting. It certainly
didn’t know of their last meeting. In 1968, the Washington Post warned King
that Carmichael would turn the Poor People’s Campaign into rioting. But, in
2003, Ready For Revolution told us that
“When Dr. King came into D.C., I went to see him. Of course I assured
him that I and SNCC would never do anything to… jeopardize the campaign. He
said, ‘Stokely, you don’t need to tell me that. I know you.’ I told him that
Washington SNCC would organize the local community, the street people and youth
gangs – to make sure they were cool. He said he’d appreciate that…. As I was
leaving, he held onto my hand, looking worried. ‘Stokely, please be extra
careful now. Avoid any unnecessary risks. Promise me.’ I recall laughing….
King repeated his warning…. Very soon I’d have reason to remember his mood at
our last meeting.” 
Attorney General Eric Holder spoke at SNCC’s 50th year reunion in 2010.
Knowing that Israel’s alliance with apartheid until its end is known to many
Blacks, Holder didn’t utter a word against Carmichael.
In 1967, Nobel Peace Prize winner King signed a Times ad just before the
June “six-day war,” calling on the U.S. to back Israel. But, according to
“In a conversation with Levison and his other New York advisers the
following day, King admitted to being confused. He had never actually seen the
ad before it appeared, he told them. When he did, he was not happy with it. He
felt it was unbalanced and pro-Israel, although he observed that it would
probably help with the Jewish community…. his advisers, even the Jewish ones,
suggested in effect that King carry water on both shoulders. Since war settles
nothing, as Levison put it, King could adapt a peace position without taking
sides. While agreeing that the territorial integrity of Israel and its right to
be a homeland were incontestable, King should urge a peace position without
taking sides. King should urge that all other questions be settled by
negotiations. Such a position, said Levison, would serve to keep the Arab
friendship and the Israeli friendship. King agreed to it.”
A month later he proposed “a pilgrimage of blacks and whites to the Holy
Land.” He worried “that the Arab world, and probably Africa and Asia too, would
interpret the action as endorsing everything that Israel had done and he did
have doubts.” Andrew Young “chipped in that he felt it important that King
develop a strong point of view and personal contact with the Middle East
situation since the Arab position had never had a hearing in this country,
Months later King wrote “a four-page letter to the president of the
American Jewish Committee.” He had spoken at a Chicago New Politics convention.
“Jewish agencies asked King to disavow the malevolent language” after he left.
“He indicated that had he stayed he would have reiterated the SCLC stand…
Israel’s right to exist as a state was incontestable.” 
King’s public statements pleased Zionists, and rabbi Abraham Heschel was
on the podium when King gave his powerful April 4, 1967 New York Riverside
Church anti-Vietnam war speech. But rabbi Marc Schneier’s Shared Dreams: Martin
Luther King, Jr. & The Jewish Community, tells us that King’s oration
created a problem for
“major Jewish organizations. Though most disliked the war, they were
extremely cautious in their public opposition to it, since President Johnson
had warned them that any anti-war stands from them would jeopardize American
support for Israel.”
Schneier writes that
“Johnson liked having things his way. If you disagreed with him, he was
likely to find a sore point to which he could apply the pressure until you
complied with his wishes. For Jews, Israel was that sore point.
Never saying it outright, Johnson strongly implied to several key
Congressional and Jewish leaders that Jewish opposition to the war could
trigger cuts in American military and economic aid to Israel. It was a trump
King’s April 4, 1968 assassination came at a crossroad in his relations
with Washington and American Zionism. He was publicly pro-Israel but met with
Carmichael against Johnson’s war and for King’s Poor Peoples Campaign, as the
Zionist establishment silently moved from him towards Johnson. They didn’t
identify with his Poor People’s Campaign aimed at bringing poor Blacks, Whites,
Indians and Hispanics to Washington. The establishment wasn’t helping him in
Memphis, Tennessee when he died supporting Black sanitation workers, striking
for higher wages and racially equal treatment. “The most important thing that I
learned… was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problems. The
most urgent… and the most tragic problem is silence.” That’s what Prinz said
in 1963, but they were silent about that strike.
The murder generated Black riots across the U.S. and Johnson, who loved
listening to tapes of King’s sex, had to declare him a martyr. Since then the
Zionist establishment has loudly publicized its marching with him in 1963, even
while, as Zionist John Rothman reports, “For some Jews, Nixon’s support for
Israel was the litmus test. Yitzhak Rabin actively campaigned for him in 1972,
when Nixon got 37 percent of the Jewish vote, up from 19 percent in 1968.”
‘King loved Israel, Israel loved him’ propaganda has reached enormous
proportions. Israel has an official ML King day and forest. Schneier, chair of
the World Jewish Congress’s American Section, tells of “an article that
appeared in the Saturday Review two months after the  war ended.”
According to Schneier, King wrote:
“You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely
‘anti-Zionist.’ And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain
tops, let it echo through the valleys of God’s green earth.When people
criticize Zionism, they mean the Jews — this is God’s own truth. Anti-Semitism
… has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this we are in full
agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently anti-Semitic, and ever
will be so.” 
Schneier’s gives his source as “King, ‘Letter to an Anti-Zionist
Friend,’ Saturday Review, 47 (August 1967), 76. Reprinted in King, This I
Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York,
1971), 234-235.” 
Except that this writer and Harlem’s Schomberg Library couldn’t locate
the Letter or “This I Believe.” At my request, The Journal of Palestine Studies
and the Library of Congress also sought and couldn’t discover them. On March
15, at a public meeting in New York’s Queens University, I asked Schneier to
locate the Letter for me. “Contact my office.” I emailed his Foundation for Ethnic
Understanding, waited, then phoned: “We got your email. We’re not supposed to
talk to you.”
Off the record, Hoover had told some Congress Representatives and others
about Levison and King’s sex life. After King’s April 1968 assassination, a
journalist revealed that Robert Kennedy, then running in Democratic primaries
to replace Johnson, had authorized wiretapping King, but there wasn’t much
public focus on this. Then, on June 5, Kennedy was shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a
Except for the usual conspiracy buffs, his jailers and today’s scholars
agree that he did it on his own. But the assassination drew the public’s
attention away from the tapping of King, and turned Kennedy into a Democratic
martyr. With time, details of the wiretapping emerged, but today perhaps the
best example of the party’s hypocrisy is its simultaneous iconic treatment of
King and the two villains who spied on him.
After King’s slaying, Black movement splits deepened. John Lewis, Andrew
Young, Jesse Jackson and others went into Democratic politics, hoping to get
practical if limited reforms. But Stokely became the Black Panther “honorary
Prime Minister” in 1968. He tried to make them into a community movement. He
visited Newton, waiting a trial in jail. Huey thought the party would become a
Northern SNCC, however Stokely told him
“That was not very likely if their most visible community program
remained armed patrols monitoring police behavior in the streets…. We agreed
that this image would only isolate the party out in front of the community,
whereas, where they needed to be was deep inside the day-to-day fabric of the
Then the party’s leaders forbade more visits to Newton. In 1969, he and
his wife, South African singer Miriam Makeba, moved to Guinea-Conakry.
In July he publicly rejected the Panthers. Stokely saw “the youth gang
culture,” unsalable to “anybody’s aunt or the deacon board of the local
church.”  He also disliked white lefts hailing the Panthers, thereby
convincing themselves (and the FBI) that they were revolutionaries.
The Black Democrats and the Zionist-Apartheid Alliance
With Stokely in Africa, the disintegration of the Panthers in the 1970s,
and federal enforcement of legal equality, the Black masses stopped demonstrating
in the streets and voted southern Black Democrats into the House of
Representatives. In 1977, Georgia Representative Andrew Young was appointed
U.N. Ambassador. Then, on August 15, 1979, Young, who stood next to King when
he was murdered, resigned over a secret discussion with the Palestine
Liberation Organization after a U.S. promise not to talk to the P.L.O. until it
Every sector of Black leadership was outraged. White diplomat Milton
Wolf previously met the P.L.O., no resignation. Why then did Jimmy Carter
accept his Black appointee’s resignation “with deep regret”?  Was it
Zionist pressure? Over time Young said no, the issue was his repeated
undisciplined public statements, etc., and he stayed loyal to the Democratic
Party. Most leaders felt it was Israeli pressure but also stayed solidly
Jesse Jackson, who dashed upstairs after the King shooting and appeared
in a bloody shirt at the following press conference, ran for the Democratic
presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988. On February 13, 1984, the Washington
Post reported that “In private conversations with reporters, Jackson had
referred to Jews as ‘Hymie’ and to New York as ‘Hymietown.’” On February 19 he
lied: “It simply is not true,”  On February 26,1984, he apologized in a
Neither before nor after the Hymietown affair was Jackson ever against a
Zionist state. In 1984, with the Zionist-apartheid alliance before the world’s
eyes, he was for no more than a weaponless sheep pen Palestinian Bantustan in
the West Bank and Gaza. By 1988 he even announced that he would not, as
President, meet with Yasser Arafat, then the P.L.O.’s leader, and babbled about
understanding “the pain of the occupier.”
Many years later, in 2008, the New York Post reported that
“Jackson believes that, although ‘Zionists who have controlled American
policy for decades’ remain strong, they’ll lose a great deal of their clout
when Barack Obama enters the White House.” 
Obama’s campaign immediately disassociated itself from Jackson’s
comments. Indeed Jackson’s evolution certifies the thesis that closeness to
King at any point doesn’t necessarily justify anyone’s further
All scholars see Rustin as the most pro-Zionist of the Black civil
rights Democrats. After his break with Stalinism he joined the Socialist Party
and then, over time, he and the S.P. went into the Democratic Party.
Norman Thomas, the S.P.’s leading figure, developed a celebrity media
reputation, running for President six times, 1928-48. He joined the Progressive
Party, then quit over its obvious CP domination and ran his 1948 campaign to
offer left of center anti-Stalinists an alternative to Truman and Wallace. He
was very friendly with the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, but by
then the public didn’t care what he thought about anything (139,569 votes,
Post 1953, Thomas secretly started taking money from Central
Intelligence Agency Director Allen Dulles, who he knew from their college days.
When did Rustin learn of this? Perhaps before February 22, 1967, when the Times
ran an article, “Thomas Upholds CIA-Aided Work.” 
The S.P. was minuscule and without influence until the mid-1950s, when
Rustin linked up with King. In 1958, Max Shachtman, an SWP founder who broke with
Trotsky in 1939, joined the S.P. and became Rustin’s mentor. Moving ever
rightward, they were intensely anti-Stalinist and for the S.P. entering the
Democratic Party. Getting anti-Stalinist AFL-CIO support for the southern
struggle became their top priority.
Again, we don’t know exactly when Rustin learned that the AFL-CIO was
working internationally with the CIA, but presumably it was before Tom Braden,
former CIA foreign operations director, published “I’m Glad the CIA’s
Immoral,” in the May 20, 1967 Saturday Evening Post. He proudly wrote of
using the AFL-CIO to fund “strong-arm squads in Mediterranean ports, so
that American supplies could be unloaded against the opposition of Communist
dock workers.” 
Later in 1967, after the Israeli-Arab “six-day war,” S.P. national
secretary Irwin Suall, skeptical regarding Israel, went there and came back so
pro-Zionist that he was appointed fact finding director of the Anti-Defamation
League. ‘Fact finding’ translates into spying on “anti-Semitic” anti-Zionists,
Rustin’s Vietnam war hawk stance took him away from dove King. The war
debate also broke up the S.P. In 1973, Rustin and Suall, still for the Vietnam
war, set up Social Democrats USA, with Rustin as National Chairman.
After the U.S. defeat, Rustin focused on Israel. In 1975 he set up a
Black Americans in Support of Israel Committee, with heavy Black Democratic
support and Zionist funding. Young signed up, as did David Dinkins, later mayor
of New York, but it had no popular following with Israel’s alliance with
apartheid South Africa before American Blacks’ eyes. Even Rustin had to voice a
“deep sense of concern and disturbance” when Israel brought South African Prime
Minister Johannes Vorster to the Wailing Wall in April 1976.  Yet his
zealotry for Zionism continued. In 1984, he appeared as a character witness for
Israeli defense minister Ariel Sharon when he sued Time Magazine for libel for
a 1983 article saying that Sharon urged the Lebanese Phalangists to avenge
leader Bachir Gemayel’s death by the September 1982 Sabra and Shátila massacre
of hundreds of Palestinians. To put Rustin’s testimony into perspective,
readers should know that the Israeli government’s own Kahan Commission later
found Israel indirectly responsible for the event and compelled Sharon to
resign as head of the Ministry.
Rustin’s later-day pro-Zionism was looked upon as apostasy by many civil
rights activists as they morphed into anti-apartheid fighters. To this day
Reverend Matt Jones, the second most arrested civil rights era campaigner, will
not sing at any demo on any issue unless he is allowed to denounce Israel.
Elombe Brath, New York’s prime anti-apartheid organizer, routinely had this
writer and other anti-Zionist Jews speak at anti-apartheid rallies.
The word got out to the broad community. Typically, a Jewish civil
servant told me of how pleased her Black colleagues were when they complained
about the apartheid alliance and discovered that she was anti-Zionist. But rank
and file Black anti-apartheid activists focused on what Israel was doing to
Africans via the alliance, rather than on what Zionism did to Palestinians and,
after apartheid’s downfall, most didn’t continue on in the anti-Zionist
On the electoral level, John Lewis and the Black Congressional Caucus
talked against apartheid, but Michigan Democrat John Conyers went further and
critiqued Israel’s alliance with apartheid. The other Caucus Democrats
generally evaded the alliance, concerned about Zionist campaign contributions.
But not talking about the alliance de facto meant not mobilizing the community,
which would have asked about the collaboration, putting them on the spot re
party funders. Conyers could talk about Israel because Michigan is the one
state where Arabs are a significant proportion of the vote.
What Should We Learn from this History?
What must we learn from these decades of Black rights leaders’ thinking
about Zionism, first as an idealistic notion, then as Israel, an on the ground
political fact? The civil rights struggle was successful. Millions of Blacks
gained legal equality. But King’s assassin killed the mind behind the Poor
People’s Campaign. After his death, it organized one badly planed encampment in
Washington, then vanished. Now King’s birthday is a legal holiday, but millions
of Blacks and others still live in poverty. In 2010, America’s first Black
President commemorated King’s birthday by going to a soup kitchen and feeding
some poor. Did that traditional charitable gesture honor King? Of course not.
That Black President then went right back to bailing out the rich.
The best way to honor the founder of the Poor People’s Campaign is to
study his political strengths and weaknesses and then use that knowledge to
help abolish poverty in America and injustice around the world. Studying his
politics includes, among other things, dealing with his public pro-Israel
statement, his off-the-record concerns about it, and his last two meetings with
Carmichael, a proud anti-Zionist.
What would King have done had he lived thru years of open alliance
between Zionism and apartheid? He would have been 84 in 2013. What would King
say, today, when Israel is the only country in the U.N. that doesn’t condemn
the U.S. embargo on Cuba, whose 41,000 soldiers were the decisive force
defeating South Africa’s army in the battle of Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in
1987-88. That defeat convince apartheid’s leaders that it was time to hand over
power to the African National Congress. Do you, dear reader, need a
“weatherman” to know what King would have said, today, about the U.S,
Cuba and Israeli apartheid?
1 – Manning Marable, W.E.B. Du Bois: Black Radical Democrat, Twayne
Publishers, Boston, 1986, p. 100.
2 – Margaret Truman, Harry S. Truman, Morrow, New York, 1973, p. 386.
3 – Daniel Guerin, Negroes on the March, 1951, Rene Julliard, Paris,
[English edition, updated Oct. 9, 1954, published February 1956], pp. 116, 179.
4 – Scott Shane, “To Investigate or Not: Four Ways to Look Back at
Bush,” New York Times, www.nytimes.com/2009/02/22/weekinreview
5 – Saul Friedlander, The Years of Extermination: Nazi Germany and the
Jews, 1939-1945, Harper Collins, New York, 2007, p. 304.
6 – Eliyahu Matzozky, “The Responses of American Jewry and its
Representative Organizations, November 24, 1942 and April 19, 1943,”
unpublished Masters Thesis, Yeshiva University, app. II.
7 – Sarah Peck, “The Campaign for an American Response to the Nazi
Holocaust, 1943-1945,” Journal of Contemporary History, April 1980, p. 374.
8 – Marc Schneier, Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King, Jr. & The
Jewish Community, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vt., 2009, p. 45.
9 – Joachim Prinz, “America Must Not Remain Silent,” Congress bi-Weekly,
October 7, 1963, p. 3.
10 – Joachim Prinz, “Zionism under the Nazi Government,” Young Zionist,
London, November 1937, p. 18.
11 – Joachim Prinz and Lenni Brenner, “Excerpts from an Interview,
February 8, 1981,” 51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration With The Nazis,
Barricade Books, Fort Lee, NJ, 2002, pp. 104-105.
12 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_X.
13 – http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry
14 – George Breitman, The Last Year of Malcolm X: The Evolution of a
Revolutionary, Pathfinder, New York, 1967, pp. 63, 92.
15 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
16 – Stokely Carmichael with Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, Ready for
Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture),
Scribner, New York, 2003, p. 557.
17 – Ibid, p. 558.
18 – Ibid, p. 558.
19 – Ibid, pp. 560-561.
20 – Michael Kaufman, “Stokely Carmichael, Rights Leader Who Coined
‘Black Power,” Dies at 57,” New York Times, November 16, 1998
21 – Murray Friedman, What Went Wrong: The Creation and Collapse of the
Black-Jewish Alliance. Free Press, New York, 1995, pp. 248-249.
22 – Abraham Foxman, “Black Activist Disparages Jews,” New York Times
(Letters), March 11, 1996, p.16.
23 – Lenni Brenner, “Anti-Zionism Doesn’t Equal Anti-Semitism,” New York
Times, (Letters), March 16, 1996, p. A20.
24 – Michael Kaufman, “Stokely Carmichael, Rights Leader Who Coined
‘Black Power,’ Dies at 57,” New York Times, November 16, 1998
25 – Carmichael, pp. 647-648.
26 – Friedman, p. 252.
27 – Schneier, pp. 142, 182.
28 – John Rothman, “Nixon’s Israel support cannot excuse his
29 – Schneier, p. 178.
30 – Ibid, p. 213.
31 – Carmichael, pp. 661-662.
32 – Robert Weisbord and Richard Kazarian, Jr., Israel in the Black
American Perspective, Greenwood Press, Westport, Ct., 1985, p. 122.
33 – Rick Atkinson, “Peace with American Jews Eludes Jackson,”
Washington Post, Feb. 13, 1984, p.186.
35 – “Thomas Upholds CIA-Aided Work.” New York Times, Feb. 22,
36 – Tom Braden, “I’m Glad the CIA’s Immoral,” Saturday
Evening Post, May 20, 1967, pp. 10-14.
37 – Weisbord and Kazarian, p. 94.