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A Martin Luther King (Day) Message: To My Palestinian-Israeli Historical Cousins

I write as an American Jew, the member of a People exiled and persecuted and blessed by circumstance to be a citizen of the United States. 

Nothing amazes me more about the African American experience in the United States than the African Americans, our Black, Brown, mixed-race, slave historied fellow citizens whose sojourn here long before most of my own People, the Jews, found our way to these shores (though there were Hebrew communities, for sure, in Colonial times), who suffered the excruciating loss of their dignity, their families, the liberty to expand their minds, the equation of their very existence measured by dollars on an auction block and were vested with an inventory value equivalent to 3/5ths a human being in the United States Constitution. Yes, I am amazed, that with memories seared-in by great grandmothers who lived through such villainy ended only a century and three-score years past (as Lincoln might have counted it), these citizens of the United States love this country, have fought for it–even when segregated as they were before Dwight Eisenhower ended that military legacy of the inferior-race stereotype–and now dare the rest of non-colored America to just try and hold them back from achieving their full and remarkable potential to guide and lead this country to new vistas.

What does this have to do with you, my Palestinian-Israeli cousins? You know, it was not easy for your People (and I fully accept the homogeneity of the population living in the region. Palestinians are not Jordanians or Syrians or Egyptians) to accept vast numbers of Jews showing up after the First World War. We Jews were returning home, but you saw it as an invasion. I would venture to say that attitude grew over the decades of  post-WWII, culminating with the UN voting Israel into existence. Zionism (which today bears no resemblance to what it was at its inception, having become a fanatical religious movement, justifying the takeover of the West Bank), had been divided philosophically: Should a Jewish state rule indigenous Arabs–or should they rule themselves? The War of Independence, resulting in the often inexcusable cruelties of mass murder and forced village dislocations, labeled by Arabs the NAKBA (“catastrophe”), hardened the separateness of Palestinians and Jews into “Invaders and Inhabitants.” 

We Jews arrived with our own prejudice: Ours would be a State governed by the “Chosen People.” Who was it that “Chose” us? And what did that mean, exactly? You actually have to search the Torah to find the answer. In the days of the idol worshippers, God had picked us, because we were His “Am segulah,” treasured for appreciating life. Those were the days when you offered your youngest son as a burnt offering to Molech…like Abraham almost did…and no wonder God hoped we could be a bit better.

But leave it to us to build another Tower of Babel (Netanyah-Ben-Gvir-Smotrich) and let our Palestinian fellow citizens know they are not going to get away with thinking of us as “Invaders” when we, after all, are “Chosen,” to be high above them.

All the more surprising, when you compare the plight manifest in the two historic journeys, the African Americans, which has and continues to claim full partnership in the nation’s bounty and future prosperity, to the Palestinian Israelis who demur from protesting their current government-orchestrated alienation from the status of legal citizenship to which they are entitled.  

MLK would have given the Palestinian Israelis this advice. Get off your butts! Israel is just as much your country as it is a country of the Jews. Stop thinking of them as invaders. Start talking about it as “our country.”Maybe you should be thinking about reparations for the NAKBA. The time for that will come. Right now, JOIN THE G-DAM PROTEST!! STAND NEXT TO YOUR FELLOW ISRAELIS AND LET THEM KNOW ISRAEL IS YOUR COUNTRY TOO! 

That’s what the African Americans did. After what they went through, if they can love America, and half of Israel is with you, that’s a helluva start to turning things around!

Palestinian-Israeli lives matter. Show up and say so!

About the Author
Abram Epstein, a New Yorker, has served as Director of Education for several synagogues and actively participated in the Manhattan Educators’ Council. His graduate studies at New York University’s Hagop Kevorkian Center focused on ancient Near Eastern religion and Biblical Judaism. He is a recipient of the university’s prestigious Founders’ Award for Academic Accomplishment and has a screen credit as Historical Consultant for "The Seventh Sign" starring Demi Moore. His other books include, "The Historical Haggadah," "The Matthias Scroll," "A Documented Biography of Jesus Before Christianity," and most recently, "The Matthias Scroll–Select Second Edition." Abram invites communication on his FB page: "Abram Epstein" or "Abram's Historical Writing."