Sparks from Black Lives Matter protest have jumped U.S. borders and caught fire elsewhere in the world, from Paris to Zurich to Sydney — and Palestine, where Floyd’s murder has struck a special chord.
Consider one pointed parallel. Iyad Halak was killed only five days after George Floyd. And his story is all too familiar.
Halak was autistic, and on his way to school. Just 100 yards from the institution he walked to every day, Israeli Border Police yelled at him to stop. He didn’t understand. He kept walking, and the police chased him. They began firing.
Terrified, he hid in a garbage room at the school. The police shot him dead.
Police claimed Halak was “holding a suspicious object that appeared to be a gun.” But Halak didn’t have a gun — it was a cellphone. “We tell him every morning to keep his phone in his hand,” Halak’s father said, “so we can be in contact with him and make sure he has safely arrived” at school.
As in black America, violent policing is part of daily life for Palestinians living under Israeli rule. And in Israel, as in the U.S., our own tax dollars are funding the militarization of police.
Israel’s Border Police are a kind of military-police hybrid. They operate alongside and often as part of the Israeli armed forces, which receives billions in assistance from the United States. Halak may have even been killed with U.S.-supplied weapons, though we don’t know for sure.
We do know that the U.S. gives $3.8 billion worth of weapons and equipment to the Israeli military every year — regardless of the needs at home for health care, housing or unemployment assistance for the tens of millions of Americans unemployed by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession.
We also know that Israeli and U.S. police cooperate, collaborate and train together. Local and state police in the U.S. head to Israel for training in things like dealing with mass protests, in programs primarily organized and funded by the Anti-Defamation League.
Like police here do after such incidents, Israeli police moved quickly to defend Halak’s killers, calling such uses of lethal force “rare.” Official criticism was limited to calling the killing “not our way,” as one opposition politician put it, echoing the official U.S. refrain that it’s just “bad apples” responsible for so many killings.
But in both countries, police violence is rooted in long legacies of racism.
In the United States, it was slave patrols, Jim Crow segregation, and mass incarceration primarily targeting black Americans. In the Middle East, it goes back to the dispossession and expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians — three-fourths of the indigenous population — when Israel was created in 1947-48.
Both legacies live on today. In fact, Israel is currently attempting to officially annex part of the Palestinian West Bank, which it illegally occupies. The Trump administration enthusiastically supports the move.
It is this joint legacy of racism and conquest that forms the real basis of the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship.”
“We’ve never known a time when police officers went into white communities and put their knees on the necks of sons and fathers and brothers, and felt the life seep out of them,” said African-American MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee. But “that’s routine in black America. We’ve never not known that kind of policing in our country.”
Neither have Palestinians in theirs, since the occupation and settlement of their land.
As we move to shift U.S. tax dollars away from policing in favor of funding people’s needs here at home, we should also demand a shift away from funding Israeli violence.
(Source: NY Daily News)