Durham official headed to Israel on government-sponsored visit of Black leaders

A member of Durham’s City Council is traveling to Israel as part of a delegation of African American leaders.

Durham Mayor Pro Tem Mark-Anthony Middleton is set to arrive in Tel Aviv on Sunday for the weeklong trip.

I plan, Madam Mayor and colleagues, to make it very clear that Durham embraces all people and calls for justice and liberty for all people, particularly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) people around the world,” Middleton said at the last city council meeting.

Middleton, a Christian minister, told The N&O in light of rising antisemitism, he hopes the trip will foster communication in Durham when he returns home.

“Insofar that this was a high level delegation invited by the government and that I would have an opportunity to talk to not only Jewish members of society, but Palestinians as well, I thought this would be a good trip,” Middleton said.

Mark-Anthony Middleton
Mark-Anthony Middleton

The itinerary includes tours of holy sites in Jerusalem; a visit to the Yad Vashem, Israel’s largest Holocaust memorial; meetings in the Knesset, the Israeli parliament; and briefings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“This is a delegation cosponsored by the America-Israel Friendship League and the government of Israel,” Ruby Shamir, AIFL’s executive director, said in an email.

The AIFL’s mission is “to increase Americans’ understanding of the contemporary Israel story.”

Shamir declined to share the full list of participants before getting their permission.

In 2018, Middleton met with local Jewish leaders across the political spectrum after the City Council sparked controversy through a statement against militarized police training that mentioned Israel.

Middleton told The Herald-Sun that his vote in favor of the statement “was based upon Ferguson, not Israel.” Ferguson is the Missouri city whose policing practices the Department of Justice found were racist and aggressively enforced after a police officer shot and killed Michael Brown, a young Black man.