[Quand j'étais webmaster de www.chretiens-et-juifs.org, j'ignorais que cette lettre fût apocryphe et j'en avais mis en ligne une traduction française. Malheureusement, ce site est en panne technique depuis 2002 et je n'ai pu, de ce fait, enlever ce texte litigieux. Que l'on veuille bien m'en excuser. M. Macina].Note from jewish-history.com:
We searched the archive of Saturday Review
where this letter allegedly was published. This periodical is a weekly, not a monthly, so there were four issues published during the month of August, 1967. Of these four issues, two contained 76 or more pages. On p. 76 of one issue, were classified ads, on p. 76 of the other issue, a review of the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There were no articles by Dr. King on Zionism or any other topic. Nor is there any anthology of Martin Luther King entitled 'This I Believe'.
Dear jewish-history.com visitor:
We received the following message from the media watchdog group CAMERA:
'We are sorry to inform you that the "Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend" allegedly written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is apparently a hoax. Although, the basic message of the letter was indeed, without question, spoken by Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1968 appearance at Harvard, where he said: "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews, You are talking anti-Semitism." [From "The Socialism of Fools: The Left, the Jews and Israel, by Seymour Martin Lipset; in Encounter magazine
, December 1969, p. 24.]
We were initially doubtful of the authenticity of the "Letter to an anti-Zionist Friend because the language in the first paragraph seemed almost a parody of language used in Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech. And it was an odd coincidence that the "Letter" was listed as being published in one of the few magazines whose archives are not able to be checked online. Additionally, we could find no reference to the "letter" prior to 1999, which was odd because the text is such a dramatic denunciation of anti-Zionism-one that would have been cited widely.
However, we then found the "letter" in a reputable 1999 book ("Shared Dreams," by Rabbi Marc Shneier) whose preface was written by Martin Luther King III. Since the King family is known to be extremely careful with Dr. King's legacy, we assumed they must have verified the accuracy of the book before endorsing it.
Additionally, we found that quotations from the "letter" were used on July 31, 2001, by the Anti-Defamation League's Michael Salberg in testimony before the U.S. House of Representative's International Relations Committee's Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights. The same "source" (Saturday Review
, August 1967) for the "letter" that was mentioned in the Schneier book was also cited in the testimony. Since many in the Anti-Defamation League had actually worked with Martin Luther King, Jr in the civil rights struggle, we assumed again they would be very knowledgeable about King's work and would have thoroughly checked anything they chose to read before Congress. Based on the apparent verification of the "letter" by the King family and the ADL, we sent the "letter" to you on MLK Day.
However, because we do not ordinarily rely on anyone else's research, we decided to double-check, by searching back issues of Saturday Review* (Rabbi Shneier's book had referenced the "letter" as being published in the August 67 Saturday Review). Lo and behold, there is no such letter in any of the August issues, nor do the page and volume numbers cited conform to those actually used by that publication.
CAMERA also checked with Boston University, where Dr. King's work is archived. The archivists too were unable to locate any such letter. We can only conclude that no such letter was written by Dr. King. (Please note we are not implying that the apparently bogus "letter" originated with Rabbi Schneier.)
Since the message of the letter (Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism) was one Martin Luther King, Jr. had indeed articulated, we can understand why the King family and the ADL did not feel the need to verify the "Letter to an anti-Zionist friend."
We at CAMERA apologize, though, for not looking past their endorsement when we had initial doubts about it. This episode is a reminder of the importance of verifying the authenticity and accuracy of sources, even when they appear to be solid.
In a January 21, 2002 op-ed U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who worked closely with Dr. King., shares Dr. King's views on Israel, views which stressed Israel's democratic nature and Israel's need for security. And he also relates that Dr. King said, "When people criticize Zionists they mean Jews, you are talking anti-Semitism.
This quotation has been confirmed, so you should feel assured that you can use the quotation in letters. Just be sure to mention that it came from Dr. King's 1968 Harvard University appearance, so that no one will think it is from the debunked "letter.
The op-ed by Congressman Lewis is available at: "Martin Luther King Jr.'s special bond with Israel"
With our sincerest apologies,
Director, National Letter-Writing Group
My thanks to Berel Lerner who made me aware of the hoax.