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5 février 2009 / 06h40
- Conference on "Fighting for Civil Rights in USA"

Martin Luther King and Abraham Heschel: two great thinkers Paris City Hall, Wednesday February 4, 2009, 8-11 pm
This symposium, organized by the Black-Jewish Alliance of Friendship, in cooperation with the CRIF (French Jewish Board of Deputies), the CRAN (French NAACP), Bnai Brith, and Capdiv , Club Millennium, held in the great hall of the City Hall of Paris, under the sponsorship of Mrs Anne Hidalgo, First Deputy Mayor of Paris.
Three hundred people had attended this important event.
Upon entry, they were greeted by a wonderful photographic exhibition of Frédéric Chiche on the Jews of Ethiopia, souvenir of the trip he had made a year ago with the Jewish Agency. Moreover, one could contemplate snapshots where Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Heschel were side by side, Heschel holding in his arms the rolls of the Torah.

At the outset the tone was given by a heartfelt speech by Yamina Benguigui, representing the Mayor of Paris, on the urgency of a citizen dialogue between different communities in order to avoid tensions and divisions within our society. Then, the relationship between Luther King and Heschel was presented in different views:
- Literary and philosophical, by Professor Edward K. U.S. Kaplan,
- History, by Professor André Kaspi, a professor emeritus at the Sorbonne University,
- Religious, by Rabbi Rivon Krygier, conservative movement (massorti),
- Sociocultural and Citizenship, by Marie-Roger Biloa, editor in chief of the journal Africa International. She insisted on all countries in which Jewish men and women stood up to fight together and put an end to racism and bullying against Blacks, in the United States, with Heschel, but also in South Africa, with Johnny Clegg.

Madame George Pau-Langevin, MP of Paris, then delivered a speech very moving, including the need for a common struggle against extremism of all sides: of all religions and all skin colors.

But the most poignant of the evening was when the Black Jewish Rabbi Capers Funny, Head of the Ethiopian Jewish community Beth Shalom Bnai Zaken in Chicago, cousin of Michelle Obama, spoke. His tone of dignity and its evocation of the role of Pastor King raising awareness of Blacks in America, that they should now fight peacefully but without concessions to enforce their civil rights. He was almost in tears when he read the last words of King, the day before his assassination:
"We must face difficult times. But it is not important for me now. Because I was on the top of the mountain. Like everyone, I want to live a long life. I would have the right to live long. But I do not think about it now. I just want to follow the will of God. And it allowed me to climb the mountain. I saw the Promised Land. But I shall not enter it with you. But I want you to know tonight that we as a people, we will enter the Promised Land. "
His hope and his dream "I have a dream" shared by Rabbi Heschel, will become reality some fifty years later, with the election of Barack Obama.

The last speakers, more political, were also acclaimed. The Chairman of CRAN, Patrick Lozes, denounced those who profit from the podium of theaters to declaim their anti-Semitism[French actor Dieudonné], or even those who in rue des Rosiers parade so provocative [racist group of Black Neo-Nazis]. According to him, to offer an hand and to open dialogue are much better, especially as the racist anti-black and anti-Semites are often the same people. The President of CRIF, Richard Prasquier insisted especially on the open-mindedness and vision of Doctor Luther King, who had a speech so prophetic when he said:
"... You declare, my friend, that you do not hate Jews, you are just anti-Zionist. To this I say that truth rings from the top of the mountain, its echoes resound in the green valleys of the land of God: When people criticize Zionism, they think of Jews, and this is the truth of God.

"Antisemitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of humanity. We fully agree on this point. So know also this: anti-Zionist means inherently anti-Semitic and always will be.

Why is this so? You know that Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people to return to live on his own land. The Jewish people, the Scriptures tell us, lived in union thriving on the Holy Land, his homeland. They were expelled by the tyrant of Rome, the same Romans who so cruelly murdered Our Lord. Driven from their homeland, their nation in ashes, the Jewish people was forced to wander around the globe. Again and again, the Jewish people suffered at the hands of every tyrant who came to rule over him.

"The black people, know, my friend, what it means to suffer the torment of tyranny under a yoke that was not chosen. Our brothers in Africa have begged, pleaded, requested, requires the recognition and realization their natural right to live in peace under their own sovereignty in their own country.

For anyone who cherishes this inalienable right of all mankind, it should be easy to understand, support the right of the Jewish people to live in the ancient Land of Israel. All men of good will rejoice in the realization of God's promise that his people back in joy on earth that has been stolen. This is Zionism, nothing more, nothing less.

And what anti-Zionism? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we rightly call for the people of Africa and freely accord to all nations of the earth. This is discrimination against Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In a word, it's anti-Semitism.

The anti welcomes every opportunity to express his malice. The time has rendered unpopular in the West, to proclaim openly his hatred of Jews. That being the case, the anti-Semitic every time must invent new forms and forums for his poison. How much to rejoice in the new masquerade! He does not hate Jews, it is only anti-Zionist.

My friend, I do not t'accuse deliberate antisemitism. I know you feel as I do, a deep love for truth and justice and a revulsion for racism, prejudice, discrimination. But I know that you were wrong, as others were, you believe that you could be anti-Zionist, while remaining faithful to the principles that we share you and me from the heart. Let my words ring in the depths of your soul: When people criticize Zionism, do you wrong, they think the Jews. "

The evening was closed by the President of the Jewish and Black Alliance of Friendship, which ended on a note of humor: Who would have thought that he, Cheik Doukoure, a French Muslim born in French Guinea from the tribe of Bani Israel, would become a major leader of the dialogue between Jews and Blacks?

Haut de page article written by Y.M - Source : AJN

- Michelle Obama Has a Rabbi in Her Family
Capers Funnye, Leading Black Israelite, Is Aspiring First Lady’s Cousin. By Anthony Weiss, Tue. Sep 02, 2008

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