In his 1968 speech to the Rabbinical Assembly, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said “peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel as 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.” Less than two weeks after giving that speech, Dr. King was assassinated.

Unfortunately, since Dr. King’s passing, some high-profile African-American individuals have embraced anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism. Rather than building upon the strong ties forged between Jews and African-Americans during the struggle for civil rights, some African-American leaders have damaged both communities with their demagoguery.

This was not Dr. King’s dream.

Dr. King saw that like African-Americans, the Children of Israel have suffered at the hands of hostile neighbors filled with hate and bigotry. He knew that “Peace for Israel means security and that security must be a reality.” But somewhere along the way, too many of our leaders forgot what he preached.

African-Americans are among the country’s most religious demographics. We go to church in greater numbers than any other racial group. We read our Bibles.

Since I believe that this Bible is a Zionist document, I also believe that African- Americans should be among Israel’s greatest supporters in America. This is the message that I and Christians United for Israel (CUFI) are bringing to historically black churches across this country and around the world. We are determined to return my community to the Christian Zionism Dr. King embraced.

The time is long overdue for African- Americans and Jews to once again join hands and march together.

Our support for Israel starts with the Bible and the clear connection detailed therein between the people of Israel and the land of Israel. We have studied our Christian history and theology – from Genesis to Revelation. Our Messiah, his apostles, and the prophets are all from the House of Israel; we condemn the efforts of some Palestinian propagandists to sever Christianity from its Jewish roots.

But for us the Bible is merely a starting point. We’re also learning – and teaching – the justice of the modern state of Israel and its struggle for survival. In recent months, I’ve traveled with more than 50 leading African-American pastors on CUFI trips to the Holy Land. We have met with African Israelis who have been brought home to Israel from an ancient exile in Ethiopia. We have met with Arab Israelis who are thriving in the freest country in the Middle East. And we have met with brave Palestinians who share with us the persecution they face as Christians living under Muslim rule.

We have seen the diversity and equality of all Israelis. As African-Americans who understand the true evil of apartheid, we find the use of this term to describe the situation in Israel as deeply offensive – not only towards Israelis, but also to all Africans who suffered under that evil system. How dare the Israel haters cheapen the evil of apartheid by applying it to a country that exemplifies Dr. King’s dream of color blindness.

50 years ago, the Jewish people stood with us during our hour of need, not because they wanted something in return, but because God and human reason compelled them to do so. Now is the Jewish state’s hour of need. Israel is under assault by terrorists seeking to kill her people and propagandists seeking to undermine her legitimacy. But one by one, African-American leaders are beginning to stand up for the Jewish state, not because we want anything in return, but because God and human reason compel us to do so.

The author is the African-American Outreach Coordinator for Christians United for Israel and the author of We Too Stand: A call for the African-American church to support the Jewish State (Frontline Publishing, 2013)

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