At Award Ceremony, Clarence Jones Recalls Dr. King's Strong Relations With Israel

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Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, right, presents the 23rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Award to Dr. Clarence B. JonesPhoto credit:  Shahar Arzan

On Thursday, February 27, in celebration of Black History month and to commemorate the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the State of Israel, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the Jewish National Fund honored Dr. Clarence B. Jones, co-author of Dr. King’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech, and Reverend Dr.  Jesse T. Williams Jr., Senior Pastor of the Convent Avenue Baptist Church of Harlem, with the 23rd Annual "Martin Luther King, Jr. Award."

Ambassador Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, Rabbi Michael S. Miller, CEO and Executive VP of JCRC-NY and Natalie Lazaroff, JNF, officially presented the award during a ceremony at the Convent Avenue Baptist Church of Harlem. 

In his remarks, Dr. Jones expressed concern over the campaign to delegitimize Israel, and said that even if Israel has made some mistakes, it “doesn't mean that gives you carte blanche to say 'Israel is an Apartheid state' or 'Israel is a racist state.'" He also expressed disbelief when hearing of people who misinterpret Dr. King’s legacy by alleging that the great civil rights leader would not support the State of Israel today.

“I am always a little taken aback,” Dr. Jones said. “I am seeing people quoting [Dr. King] frequently out of context to develop a thesis, an argument, that he would not be in support of the State of Israel. That is absolutely insane.”

Dr. Jones stressed the steady bond that Dr. King had with Israel and the Jewish community and the importance of today’s Jewish and African-American communities making an effort to restore the close-knit ties they had during the Civil Rights Movement.

"No African-American leader of national stature was more passionate, privately and publicly, than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in fostering a 24/7 working coalition with the Jewish community and his support for the State of Israel,” Dr. Jones said.

Dr. Jones closed his remarks by recalling Dr. King’s definition of a “wintertime soldier,” quoting Dr. King as saying, “’anybody can stand with you in the warm summer sunlight of an August summer. But only a winter soldier stands with you at midnight in the alpine chill of winter.’”

“From the standpoint of someone who has represented the great legacy of this extraordinary man, Martin Luther King Jr.,” Dr. Jones continued. ”I say to my African American brothers and sisters, speaking of the standpoint of the derivative relationship I had with Martin Luther King Jr., the time is now for every African American person, every person of stature in the African American community, to come forward and stand with Israel in the alpine chill of winter, to show that we are wintertime soldiers.”

Ambassador Aharoni also acknowledged the high value of the relationship between the Jewish and African-American communities, and praised both Dr. Jones and Pastor Williams for their efforts in spreading compassion and uniting communities of all backgrounds.

“Israel is the only nation outside of the United States to officially celebrate Martin Luther King Day, and we take pride knowing that Dr. King was a great friend to Israel and valued the precious nature of the friendship between the African-American and Jewish communities—who both share the goal of fighting racism, hatred and prejudice,” Ambassador Aharoni said. “Dr. Clarence B. Jones has staunchly served as an ambassador for human rights, diversity and tolerance, and his influence on the American people and civil rights is invaluable. Reverend Dr. Jesse T. Williams Jr. has devoted his life to serving his community and fighting for justice. Both of these esteemed individuals have carried on the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and are well deserving of this distinguished award.”

Pastor Williams called for the African-American and Jewish communities to lead the way in embarking, “upon a new relationship that encompasses the principles of love, justice, and shalom; where the worth and dignity of every human being is valued.” He went on to say, "I am very honored and humbled to be the recipient of this prestigious award. We at Convent Avenue Baptist Church remain committed to being Social Justice Advocates in keeping with the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr."

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Award has been presented by the Consulate General of Israel in New York for the past 23 years to individuals and organizations who promote ethnic and cultural understanding. To commemorate this great visionary, the State of Israel, together with JCRC-NY and JNF, annually honor those whose work reflects and spreads Dr. King's legacy of hope and peace.

Said Rabbi Miller: "For over two decades we have had the privilege of recognizing leaders whose lives and work embody the spirit of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our honorees this year, Rev. Dr. Jesse T. Williams, Jr. and Dr. Clarence B. Jones, truly exemplify Rev. King’s values and are most worthy recipients of this accolade."    

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