Jim’s January Missive 1: Return to Palestine and MLK’s Revolutionary Radicalism

I sent this approximately monthly missive out the morning of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday to a list I have of old and new friends and family. I will be re-posting them here so others can see them, and also so we can have some discussion about them, something that is precluded when simply using the bcc field in an email. I will be asking permission from a some of the people who sent in responses and see where it goes.

I look forward to anything you have to offer (including support for my planned return to Israel/Palestine with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence in May).

Thank you for being in my life,


Dear Friends,
I keep these communiques simple and unformatted. This time I decided that instead of making you scroll down for the later items, I would break this one up into two parts. I may have to trade simplicity for formatting and employ a system so you can click on an item no matter how long the previous item is, but for now, I am separating this one into two messages. I’m sure your inbox can handle it. If I am bothering you, please do let me know.
Thanks. We really are all in this together,
  1. Follow up Trip to Palestine with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence in May under the banner: “Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue”
  2. Reclaiming MLK’s Revolutionary Radicalism – ANTI-MILITARISM

Next message:

  1. “Censored Voices” Kehilla Community Synagogue Film Series (I am a member there now and on the Middle East Peace Committee)
  2. Laughter Yoga
  3. Discussion of several voices and sources that have touched me and “felt right” about this political moment we’re in.

An important impetus to writing you now is to tell you that I intend to return to Palestine and Israel in May with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence. We’ll bring two or three times as many Jewish justice workers this time. I feel a little shy asking for support for what could seem like a re-visit, but this is about building and maintaining trust, showing commitment and continuity of purpose. I would like to visit somewhere I haven’t been, but I feel a need to return to Hebron, to Susiya, to Silwan, to Umm Il-Kheir, all communities that have seen increasing attacks (physically and administratively) since I was there last July. I need to return to my sister’s kibbutz to continue budding conversations there.


I need to decide in the next month and a half if I have the wherewithal to go. If you will support me financially for this, please respond to this e-mail with a pledge or query.
I will be setting up a donations system, but for now, I just want to know that some of you think this is a good idea and is worthy of support.
 I must say that my experiences during the July trip have given fuel and direction to my work here. I have given well over a dozen presentations about it, and the discussions are always appreciated and give people news and ideas they hadn’t thought about before. Here are just a few relevant resource links to check out. I have seen some amazing pieces also by Amira Haas, Noura Erakat, Gideon Levy, Max Blumenthal and others:

Reclaiming MLK’s Revolutionary Radicalism –

Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday is here. In Oakland, the Bay Area and all over there will be a week of resistance and consciousness raising mixed with crying out against the looming political landscape ahead. Not that we were in a great political place before, but there is a lot of political backsliding now that is as offensive and delusional as it is scary. jim_jessica_mlksigns2017-3We’re all threatened. Some are closer to a bullet point than others, but we are all threatened, if not already under attack. MLK said, “A threat to justice anywhere threatens justice everywhere.” I usually re-phrase it to be, “Injustice anywhere DIMINISHES justice everywhere.” The problem is in the present, not the future.
I listen to a lot of MLK and have read a number of his writings. Even among people who raise his image up these days, most people don’t.  There is a lot of ignorance about what he said and where he saw our work needing to head. I just found a new, favorite MLK speech! In July of 1967, King spoke in Chicago at the National Conference for New Politics.  It is stunningly relevant to our situation today even though it is 50 years old. It speaks more clearly across time than his April 4 address at Riverside Church which anti-war activists usually try to bring to people’s attention.
If we want to reclaim MLK’s revolutionary radicalism. Let us march and meet and organize, but we must also study what he meant when he spoke of a “radical revolution of values” As he said, “”Our only hope lies in our ability to go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring our eternal opposition to racism, materialism and militarism.” and in the same speech, “The issue of civil rights cannot be separated from the issue of peace.”
Too often, I find today’s radicals wanting to deal with the economic and racist problems in society but choosing not to mention militarism’s role in denying freedom and justice. Maybe wars abroad seem too removed to have import in the face of local onslaughts of militarized authorities and attitudes.
By 1967, King was speaking out against war in general and the war in Vietnam particularly in direct and historic ways. He called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” and now we actually sell as many weapons to the world as the rest of the world combined. He connected the challenges of local and global racism, greed and violence, wanting us to see what he saw increasingly clearly. People need to read and listen to King’s sermons, not just watch a few seconds of him marching or listen to a few minutes of the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Even as I extol the value of this recently unearthed speech, I want to mention a few others of his presentations you can easily find online to read or hear:
“The Drum Major Instinct”  in which he wrote his own eulogy and (sadly, unused) epitaph. He also makes the important distinction for us between necessary self-promotion and delusional self-aggrandizement.
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” People need to listen to the entire speech from the night before he was assassinated in Memphis (“Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness.) The last few minutes are often shown for their prescience, but this was also a serious and powerful call to action.
“On Love and Forgiveness” (not to be confused with another, earlier sermon “Loving Your Enemies”) in which he calls on people to be intelligent, not only kind. “They weren’t BAD men. They were STUPID men.”
“Letter from a Birmingham Jail” which should be essential reading and discussion material for all activists whether or not you consider nonviolence a strategy, tactic or way of life. People have heard of it, but usually not read much if any of it.
“Christmas sermon, 1967”
Great talks evolve and are adapted for different audiences, and I have an amazing recording of a similar sermon he gave later that month at Ebenezer Baptist Church that was based on the “Beyond Vietnam” theme and has this passage which also appears in “Drum Major Instinct”.

“Don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as His divine, messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgement, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America, ‘You’re too arrogant, and if you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I’ll place it in the hands of a nation that doesn’t even know My Name. Be still, and know that I’m God.'”

In 1958 Martin Luther King Jr. decried the “inseparable twin of racial injustice: economic injustice.” But by 1967 and until he was assassinated, he was uncompromising in his insistence that there was a third tine to this “triple prong sickness”: MILITARISM. King said, “The issue of civil rights cannot be separated from the issue of peace,” and in the same talk, “Our only hope lies in our ability to go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring our eternal opposition to racism, materialism and militarism.”

In the August 1967 speech, he was less focused on the history of Vietnam and more on political change that was needed. He mentioned good programs being unfunded for political reasons. He mentioned poverty that went ignored. He mentioned strange lies that seemed to win the day in the face of truth.

He spoke of truth being made to stand on its head like we are seeing today. He spoke about the “radical revolution of values” our nation must undergo for the sake of all humanity if not more. The Lying, racist, materialist, violent Donald Trump gets to shut up the opposition party (and to some extent the mainstream media as well) in this country because it has also failed on all those counts. Just as King calls Communism a judgement on the west not following through on the revolutionary spirit it inspired, Trumpism is a judgement on the Democratic Party for leaving behind the very people it was supposed to champion.

I think militarism is often pushed aside as inconvenient or as a seeming distraction when most domestic justice movements address the other two, in particular in connection with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. If we are truly to celebrate and reflect on his radical, revolutionary legacy, we must include all three prongs in our discussions, analysis and actions. Otherwise we do his memory a disservice, lessen the possibilities of his legacy, and participate in reducing him to an icon. For one example, let me just point out that the United States has made it it’s unique business to sell weapons to the world. The United States sells fully 50% of the weapons in the world according to a recent Congressional study. We foment and promote more bloodshed than any other country and profit from it, even as we denounce and further threaten others for the selfsame inhumanity.

So, this year I encourage you to listen to, think on and discuss this particular Martin Luther King speech.

Solidaritally yours,
This entry was posted in Anti-Racism, Jim's Approximately Monthly MIssives, Nonviolence, Palestine Israel Zionism Isalmophobia Antisemitism, Peacemaking, Strategy and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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