Millions of people in the U.S. and around the world have viewed the videos of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a white police officer and three additional white police officers aiding in the killing.
It has sparked outrage that the officer with his knee on the neck of George Floyd, who pleaded that he could not breathe, was not originally arrested and the consequences for the other three are yet to be determined. Seeing this happen in South Minneapolis is hard because I used to live there.
Traveling to Palestine/Israel on a delegation in 2017, when I returned to the States I viewed race relations here at home with a sharper lens by seeing parallels to Palestine.
This is not an arbitrary comparison. American taxpayers are Israel’s largest contributor, sending $10.5 million per day to fund the Israeli military. Israel trains U.S. police departments to learn militaristic-styled policing techniques. From Palestine to Black America, violence continues against black and brown bodies within the two countries.
In both countries, this is a systemic problem. Activists say that “Black Lives Matter” because our society treats them as if they do not.
In Palestine/Israel, Palestinians demonstrated to mourn the loss of both Eyad al-Hallaq, a Palestinian with autism who was killed by the Israeli Police in Jerusalem because they suspected that his cellphone was a gun; and George Floyd, an African American who was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill.
Palestinians and African Americans have been building bridges to create a social movement, without borders, to fight systemic racism. As part of international protests, in Palestine/Israel signs read “Justice for Eyad. Justice for George.” Another says, “Black lives MATTER. Palestinian lives MATTER.” Another “From the Old City to the Twin Cities.”
In the recent past, protest signs in Palestine/Israel have read “From Ferguson to Palestine” in reference to killing innocent civilians of color. In the U.S. protest signs have read “From Flint, Michigan, to Palestine” in regard to the lack of access to clean drinking water as a human right that minority communities face as a direct result of governmental policy that systemically extracts resources from them.
While I was in Palestine/Israel, a Palestinian was killed by a white Israeli settler. As is typical, there were no charges by the police. If the roles were reversed, the legal outcome would be reversed. In fact, Israeli soldiers are allowed to be violent toward Palestinians if they feel threatened, a law that leaves it wide open to interpretation and de facto racial prejudice. The killing of Palestinians is condoned by the government, a tacit agreement that it is against the law but there will never be any arrests or charges.
The only exception for this is when the U.S. media is paying attention. As the U.S. provides Israel with $3.8 billion dollars per year in military aid, the country will do everything it can to avoid upsetting its income source. In such cases, Israelis are arrested and then quietly released after the U.S. media has moved on and forgotten about it.
Besides the condoned killing of people of color, there is another parallel: media treatment.
Occurrences of white police officers killing black civilians happen regularly; there just aren’t always cameras around.
Likewise, every day Palestinians are struggling for their rights, but it only makes the news when there is a major event, such as on May 14, 2018, when Israeli forces killed 58 Palestinians and injured 2,700 in a single day. Nearby the Trump administration was inaugurating the U.S. embassy, moving it from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The media was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ outrage over moving the embassy, a move that condoned Israel’s annexation ambitions, but questioned why Gazans would try to cross the fence that separates Israel and Gaza. The media made it seem like an event divorced from every other day.
But violating Palestinians’ rights wasn’t an event. It was an everyday occurrence.
Some people ask why African Americans get so upset about the police killing people of color that they would protest and ignore city curfews. But this is only the culmination of being oppressed every day in a racist, unjust society.
Whether it is Palestinians being oppressed by the Israelis, African Americans being oppressed by the dominant white culture, or undocumented workers and refugees being oppressed by America’s imperialistic interventions in Central America causing mass migration in the first place, it must stop.
These recent incidents of police brutality are a direct and expected outcome of legislation.
If what happened upsets us, we can’t simply sit and silently watch such events happen again. We need to act.
That means voting in November. That means holding politicians accountable. That means that speaking in abstractions needs to translate into specific policies. This includes reparations, ending for-profit prisons, de-criminalizing marijuana, better schools, free college, enforced non-discrimination in employment, raising the minimum wage, Universal Basic Income, single-payer healthcare, and ending military aid to Israel for a start.
If these policies were implemented, it wouldn’t be a panacea. However, it would go a long way in creating a more egalitarian society.
The wall in Palestine/Israel needs to go. The U.S.-Mexico border wall needs to go. The invisible wall that continues to segregate African Americans and white people as a legacy of redlining needs to go.
We don’t need walls to protect white people, because people of color are not a threat. Walls are almost exclusively erected because those on the inside stole something from the people they want to keep out. Whether that be the land of the Palestinians, the labor of African Americans, or the sovereignty of U.S. client states in Central America.
Let’s live up to the American values we haven’t lived up to yet.
It’s been 400 years. Things have changed for the better, but when a man gets killed when he doesn’t resist arrest and pleads, “I can’t breathe,” it makes it apparent that things are not getting better on their own.
It’s up to us.
This post was originally published by Medium on June 5, 2020 and is reprinted with permission.