Most folk outside the United States – and until this month, most Americans – won’t have heard of Michelle Alexander. She’s a civil rights lawyer and academic and has written a book called The New Jim Crow, and a few months ago The New York Times took her on as a regular columnist. Like millions of black – and white – Americans, she’s a devotee of Martin Luther King Jr.
And last week, she began her op-ed in the Old Gray Lady of record and one-time conservatism with a long and admiring tribute to the black, Christian, nonviolent civil rights campaigner who, just a year before his 1968 assassination, decided he must speak out about the disaster of the Vietnam war.
He had been told to soft-pedal the conflict which had by then cost the lives of 10,000 Americans, but which was still supported by the political establishment. So even though he would be falsely accused of being a communist, he chose to break his silence.
So far, so good. But last week, Alexander chose to “break” her own silence. Not about racism in the US or about second-class citizenship or Trump, but about the Palestinians.
For not only did she reiterate King’s belief that Israel must return parts of its then newly conquered territories – East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and Golan – but she launched into a long, eloquent, rather patronising, self-indulgent but courageous condemnation of Israel’s outrageous treatment of the Palestinians.
Like King, she had been…