Knesset Marks King’s Birthday

The Knesset yesterday commemorated the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a special session, attended by President Chaim Herzog, members of the diplomatic community and other guests.

Shlomo Hillel, the Knesset Speaker, said that the life of the slain civil rights leader was devoted to fighting racism and for the human rights of his Black brethren in the United States.

“As a people who have continuously been subject to racism, suffering , and exile, and lack of tolerance, we feel deep appreciation for this exceptional fighter who has turned into one of the symbols of the American nation,” said Hillel.

Yaacov Tzur, Minister of Absorption, who spoke on behalf of the government, said the educational force of King was in his rare ability to put the contents of the fight in “plain and human terms” and to make them a unified force. Tzur also expressed concern over expressions of racism in Israeli society.

But Knesset members Mohammad Miari and Matityahu Peled, both representatives of the Progressive List For Peace, were unimpressed. They said the special Knesset session was hypocritical, since, for the past 18 years, the Palestinian people have been under an oppressive regime, and for the past 38 years, the Arabs of Israel have been discriminated against.

In recognition of the new American federal holiday honoring King, Israel celebrated January 20, 1986 as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In addition, schools and universities marked the day with special programs which took note of King’s life and works. The Jerusalem municipality also named a street after King.

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