FYI to the Obama Administration; Reverends Shapton & Jackson; the NAACP, etc. While today's Black liberals are either suspiciously silent about Muslim terror or worse, defend it, here's an article high lighting when old school Black liberals considered Israel a major human rights priority!
For many in the American Jewish community, Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday is an occasion to recall the important role that Jews played in the civil rights movement of the 1950s-1960s. But few remember the earlier alliance between Jews and prominent blacks, in the 1940s, on the issues of rescuing Jews from the Holocaust and creating a Jewish state.
This forgotten black-Jewish alliance was connected to an activist group led by Peter Bergson, a Zionist emissary from Jerusalem. During 1941-1942, Bergson's group lobbied for creation of a Jewish army to fight alongside the Allies against the Nazis. Black labor union leader A. Philip Randolph and W.E.B. DuBois, the leading black intellectual of his era, backed Bergson's effort.
Eventually, the British agreed to establish the 5,000-man force, known as the Jewish Brigade. It fought with distinction in Europe in 1945, and many of its veterans took part in Israel's 1948 War of Independence.
When news of the mass murder of Europe's Jews reached the West in 1942-1943, Bergson created the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, to press the Roosevelt administration to rescue Jewish refugees. The committee sponsored more than 200 full-page newspaper ads, a dramatic pageant at Madison Square Garden called "We Will Never Die," a march by more than 400 rabbis to the White House, and a Congressional resolution urging creation of a U.S. government agency to rescue refugees. These efforts embarrassed the administration and compelled FDR to establish the War Refugee Board, which helped save more than 200,000 Jews during the final 15 months of the Holocaust.
The famous black singer, actor, and political activist Paul Robeson supported Bergson's rescue campaign. He was one of the stars of a Madison Square Garden "Show of Shows" in 1944 to raise money for the effort.
Two of the most famous black authors of that period, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston, were sponsors of one of Bergson's key events, the July 1943 Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe, held in New York City. The conference challenged the administration's claim that rescuing Jews from Hitler was impossible. More than 1,500 delegates listened to panels of experts on transportation, relief methods, military affairs, and other fields, discussing practical ways to save Jewish refugees. One of the speakers was Walter White, executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
After the war, Bergson focused the cause of creating a Jewish national homeland.
He established the Hebrew Committee of National Liberation and the American League for a Free Palestine, which helped mobilize American public support for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Canada Lee, one of the most prominent black actors of the 1940s, and Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., of Harlem - the first black to represent New York in the U.S. House of Representatives - supported this campaign. As part of this effort, Bergson and famed screenwriter Ben Hecht produced a Broadway play called "A Flag is Born." On the eve of the staging of "Flag" at the Maryland Theater in Baltimore, Bergson's group and the NAACP joined hands to pressure theater management to abandon its policy of restricting blacks to less-desirable seats. It was "a tradition-shattering victory," the NAACP said.
A decade before the famous black-Jewish alliance in the civil rights movement, prominent blacks and Jews joined hands to support the Bergson group's campaigns to create a Jewish army, rescue Holocaust refugees, and establish a Jewish state - and, in the process, helped defeat segregation in Baltimore.
On the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, that early collaboration between Jewish Americans and blacks is worth remembering.
Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.