When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism!” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
Aptly quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. is a common way to make a point or win an argument, and it’s no surprise that his new memorial in Washington includes an “Inscription Wall” of quotes carved in stone. It’s also no surprise that the quote about critics of Zionists didn’t make the cut for inclusion in the memorial. Still, it’s been put to use on many an occasion, most recently by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year, in his address to the Knesset on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. A few years back it even cropped up in a State Department report on antisemitism. So I was perplexed to see it categorized as “disputed” on the extensive page of King quotes at Wikiquote—for better or worse, the go-to place to verify quotes. Indeed, as of this writing, it’s the only King quote so listed.
The attempt to discredit the quote has been driven by politics. In particular, it’s the work of Palestinians and their sympathizers, who resent the stigmatizing of anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism. Just what sort of anti-Zionism crosses that fine line is a question beyond my scope here. But what of the quote itself? How was it first circulated? What is the evidence against it? And might some additional evidence resolve the question of its authenticity?