Today Isaac Herzog, a leading Israeli “left” leader and head of the Jewish Agency, suggested that it was antisemitic to liken Israel’s treatment of Palestinans to American racism.
In a webinar, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee asked Herzog, once a leading Labor Party rival to Netanyahu, “What is the role of the Jewish Agency in trying to confront the issue of antisemitism around the world?”
Herzog responded by saying that the Jewish Agency’s approach to antisemitism includes sending young Israeli “Fellows” to U.S. campuses to promote the country, and pivoted to George Floyd’s killing.
They’re just doing great work. And you hear also what’s going on on the ground, you realize that there is a whole onslaught against Israel with terrible things– I’ve seen even in the last few days people comparing what’s going on in the streets in America to the Israeli challenges and confrontations with the Palestinans. It’s totally different circumstances and totally different story. But it’s become like a political blame game.
Many on the left have linked the problem of police violence here, notably the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 27, to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, including the killing of Eyad al-Halaq on May 30 in occupied Jerusalem.
Even the liberal Zionist group J Street issued a statement yesterday saying it felt “agony” over al-Halaq’s killing. J Street linked that killing to George Floyd’s killing.
We express our solidarity with non-violent protesters in Israel and the Palestinian territory who took to the streets to demand justice for el-Hallak, many carrying “Palestinian Lives Matter” signs and drawing parallels to the killing of George Floyd.
While the two incidents are distinct, the connections cannot be ignored.
The J Street statement is exceptional. A great number of mainstream American Jewish groups that advocate for Israel have condemned the killing of George Floyd and addressed the issue of structural racism in the U.S. but have had nothing to say about the killing of Eyad al-Halaq and been silent on the parallels to Israeli treatment of Palestinians.
For instance, Jonathan Greenblatt of the pro-Israel group the Anti-Defamation League called for “systemic change” now:
We stand in solidarity with the Black community as they yet again are subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system…. As an organization committed to fighting all forms of hate, we know that this brutal death follows an explosion of racist murders and hate crimes across the U.S…
In short, systemic injustice and inequality calls for systemic change. Now.
Sheila Katz of the National Council of Jewish Women, another pro-Israel organization, also addressed “systemic racism.”
Mr. Floyd was murdered by multiple police officers who held him down with their knees, however, the underlying cause of his death is systemic racism. It is both unacceptable and exhausting that in 2020, we still need to insist over and over again: Black Lives Matter….
Americans for Peace Now, which advocates for Israel, said:
We stand with our brothers and sisters in the African-American community in the struggle against racism and injustice.
The Israel lobby group Democratic Majority for Israel issued a statement naming many victims of police violence in the U.S. and decrying racism. “We renew our commitment to work toward a more just and inclusive society.”
Jewish Federations of North America, another pro-Israel organization, said yesterday: “We will not stop fighting for a world free of racism and bigotry in all of its forms.”
Again, none of these organizations has cited Palestinians’ absence of rights. Though the liberal Zionist group New Israel Fund did link Floyd’s death to Palestinian conditions implicitly: “At New Israel Fund, we work to combat racism and to advance equality every day in Israel. Today we stand with communities of color here in the United States too and say: Black Lives Matter.”
Even the J Street statement that connects the two police killings suggests that the U.S. has a more profound problem. The Floyd killing exposes deeply-entrenched structural racism. While Palestinians suffer from a deeply-entrenched occupation.
The all-too-frequent instances of police brutality and the regular absence of police accountability in the United States are features of a deeply entrenched system of structural racism….
Within Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, the all-too-frequent instances of violence, arbitrary detention and harassment of Palestinians by security forces and police are a feature of a deeply entrenched occupation…
J Street suggests the American remedy will have to be more far-reaching. “[T]rue justice in the long run requires dismantling the systemic racism that led to these killings in the first place.”
The problem is not that deep in Israel:
And similarly, while today we call for justice in the killing of Iyad el-Hallak, we recognize that, in the long run, achieving true justice means ending the occupation.