'I love Israel and the Jewish people'

Visiting legendary boxing promoter Don King: Blacks should learn from Jews.

don king in israel 224.88 (photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
don king in israel 224.88
(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
The African American community should learn from the way Jews appreciate their historical struggles, legendary boxing promoter Don King said in Tel Aviv on Monday. Sporting a sparkling, studded denim jacket and his trademark hairstyle, which is now a little shorter and greyer, the flamboyant King is here as a guest speaker at the Peres Center for Peace's 10th anniversary event. The world's most successful boxing promoter told The Jerusalem Post he had attended many Seder nights and had always been impressed by the way Jewish communities connected to their past. "I love Israel and I love the Jewish people. I think that their struggle has a great commonality with our struggle," said King, who rose to fame and notoriety when promoting big names such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and even Michael Jackson in the 1970s and 80s. "I tell many of the blacks they should try to emulate and imitate the saga of the Jewish struggle. They should go to the Seder and ask the Four Questions, not forgetting from where you come from. "You have to bring [the memory of] slavery back. Let them know what it is. Don't make slavery a badge of dishonor, make slavery a badge of honor and say never again." King is making his first trip to Israel. Although he has always been a staunch vocal supporter of current US President George Bush, the enigmatic 76-year-old revealed that he has changed tack and is now backing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, whom he described as "the man with the plan." King said he appreciated both candidates and believed McCain would also support Israel, but he stressed that with regards to the Iranian threat: "I think far-reaching Obama will be the man… he has a demeanor about him of speaking soft yet carrying the big stick." As a stark civil rights activist, King was pleased to see an African American make such inroads. "It's remarkably gratifying from an ethnic pride [point of view]. I say pride, but he's qualified. He would be just tremendous." King was happy to share his insights at the conference and had nothing but high praise for Peres and the Center for Peace, which runs dozens of programs around the country bringing Jewish and Palestinian youngsters together through sports and other means. "It's a remarkable thing. [Peres] is doing a great undertaking and it's revolutionary," King said. Commenting on the difficulties of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added: "The problem here is a problem that is worldwide for one reason or another in different varieties. Governments can't make peace. People make peace. "So you need both the government and the people. You need the people to be able to work toward that end and that's a very difficult thing to do that's much easier said than done." Monday's Peres Center anniversary events included a one and a half hour-long sports forum where King spoke alongside Real Madrid soccer club president Ramon Calderon, Olympic gold medalist hurdler Edwin Moses and FIFA president Sepp Blatter. The forum addressed the issue of overcoming hurdles through sports and was followed by a ceremony where Calderon signed a partnership agreement with the Peres Center. The full interview with Don King will be published in Friday's edition of The Jerusalem Post.