Big shoes to fill

Martin Luther King Jr.’s son promotes nonviolent conflict resolution in Jaffa.

NMartin Luther King III 311 (photo credit: NMohamad Babai)
NMartin Luther King III 311
(photo credit: NMohamad Babai)
Martin Luther King III, the son of murdered civil rights activistMartin Luther King Jr., concluded a three-day visit to the Middle Eastwith a speech at the Peres Center for Peace in Jaffa last week.
In an exclusive interview with Metro, King spokeabout his visit to Ramallah, his father’s legacy and the possibility ofKingian nonviolent conflict resolution aiding in ending theIsraeli-Palestinian conflict.
King, the second child of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta ScottKing, serves as the founding president of Realizing the Dream Inc., anonprofit organization aimed at carrying on his father’s work. While inthe region, he participated in two back-to-back conferences, one inRamallah on Wednesday and the other in Jaffa on Thursday.
“Our objective was to bring together Palestinians and Israelis, inseparate settings, to talk about the use of nonviolence to bring aboutpeace in this region of the world. Yesterday we had about 260Palestinians who came to the conference and several speakers who allwere talking about achieving peace through the nonviolent method,” saidKing.
According to King, most of the participants in the Ramallah conference were representatives of non-government organizations.
“There were students from universities and colleges, and even fromlocal high schools. I don’t believe there were any elected officialsthat were directly involved,” said King.
“During the dialogue, everyone spoke about their personal experiencesof how they utilize nonviolence. In my remarks, I shared a perspectiveof how the modern civil rights movement that my father led usednonviolence to bring about change in the United States. While no onefrom another country or place can tell Israelis and Palestinians howthey can conduct themselves, what we can all share is our own personalexperiences and how they were used. I believe that when it is operatingon its optimum level, nonviolence is transformative,” said King.
“Nonviolence is a tool that can be used in any arena,” he continued.“The world has not learned the message of nonviolence yet. We stilloperate based on fears. Certainly in this part of the world, when youhave Israelis, and all around the borders there are Arabs, there areprobably legitimate fears, real fears. Incidents that have occurredfrom time to time create a realistic fear, and as a result Israel hasfelt it had to take various steps in protecting itself – and in doingso, it impacts many Palestinians in a way that in their perspective isoppressive.”
But, he stated, “I believe that even though it is a very complex issue,there has to be a way for Israelis and Palestinians to coexist.”
When asked how nonviolence could be introduced in a region whereextremists often controlled the levels of the flames, King said he wascompelled to see positive change on the horizon.
“I have to believe that change is imminent, because otherwise the workwe are involved in is futile, and I just can’t believe that,” he said.“I really believe that there is a far greater majority that don’tparticipate, who believe in the methods of nonviolence. The reason wehear the extremists is because they scream the loudest.”
King said his greatest concern was the lack of engagement between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership.
“When people can sit down together and have dialogue, that is when atleast you move in a more positive direction,” said King. “Theinternational community can pressure the sides, and perhaps tripartitetalks are the way to go, but the primary solution must be betweenIsraelis and the Palestinians.”
The son of a clergyman, King said that the religious leaders of the region should play a greater role in achieving peace.
“They talk to their congregants every week and have significantinfluence. The question is, are they truly using their abilities tomaximize it? And I would probably have to say that they are not, or notyet,” he said. “They should perform at a higher level, and we shouldhold them to a higher standard.”
King’s speech was the summit of conference titled “ConstructiveNonviolent Action – A Chance for a Breakthrough,” organized byRealizing the Dream and the Peres Center. Other speakers at theconference were Peres Center director Ron Pundak; former CivilianAdministration chief Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Ilan Paz; Prof. Galia Golan fromthe Lauder School of Governance; and Nancy Sadiq, CEO of the Center forthe Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development.