Regarding “MLK Jr. Gala Action & Remarks”, March 7, 2024

While I agree with their intent of fighting injustice in the spirit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in many cases the authors' statements, or conspicuous absence of statements, contradict what Dr. King publicly said.

The authors labeled Israel a colonizer.  

Dr. King said in 1968 "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.”

The authors condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza, with no recognition that the invasion was in direct response to an attack on Israeli territory by an organized armed force.  

Dr. King said "Israel's right to exist as a state in security is uncontestable" and “...peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity." 

The authors condemned Israel’s actions in Gaza without mention of the horrific atrocities against Israeli civilians, and the continued holding of hostages, many of them women and children. Additionally, they did not mention how Palestinians are mistreated by their own government, which uses them as human shields, withholds food, fuel, and medical supplies, and publicly declares that the wellbeing of their citizens is not their responsibility.

The authors themselves quoted Dr. King, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it." They also quote  "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. 

The authors demanded that students who violated MIT policy have their punishment rescinded because they believed the policy was unjust.

Dr. King said "One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law."

Let’s all agree on this quote: "[Nonviolence] does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding…The end is redemption and reconciliation.”

The purpose of this letter is not to defeat or humiliate the authors of the piece.  It is to help them and their supporters recognize that the situation and history are complex, that both sides have legitimate grievances and shameful behaviors, that actions have consequences, and that calls to fight injustice should support everyone, not just those you agree with. Only when this recognition occurs, on both sides, can we start discussions about how to resolve the issues.


Steve Cohen ’88