Dr. Reverand Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 - 1968) was an American clergyman, activist, and a prominent leader in the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's. He was also an outspoken advocate on behalf of Israel's security and against anti-Semitism, especially among the African-American community.
Dr. King: "Israel ... is one of the great outposts of democracy in the world" (1967)
Speaking at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Assembly in 1968, Dr. King said:
“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, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. Peace for Israel means security, and that security must be a reality.”
He is also attributed with having said, "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-Semitism," in response to a student who had attacked Zionism during a dinner event with Dr. King in 1968.
In early May 1967, Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol invited Dr. King to Israel, the formal invitation a realization of years of efforts by Jewish groups, including elements within Israel's government, to host the civil rights leader in the Jewish State and honor his committment to Israel.
Unfortunately, Dr. King's untimely death did not allow him to realize would have been a momentous trip to Israel.
While it remains unclear when the efforts at bringing Dr. King to Israel began, the first evidence of the correspondence is an August 1962 letter from then-Israeli consul in Atlanta, Zeev Dover, to the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.
Listed below are a series of letters released in 2013 by Israel's State Archives that document some of the correspondence between Dr. King and members of the Jewish and Israeli leadership who were instrumental in the quest to bring him to Israel during the 1960's:
Israel State Archives (2013);
I. L. Kenen, Israel's Defense Line, Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY: 1981, 266.
Seymour Martin Lipset, “The Socialism of Fools—The Left, the Jews and Israel,” Encounter, (December 1969), p. 24.