Investigation: Anti-Israel Activists Falsely Blame Israel for George Floyd’s Death, Stoke Anti-Jewish Violence
The exploitation of George Floyd by anti-Israel activists is just the latest callous attempt to attack Israel and to falsely implicate Jews in the deaths of Black Americans.
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We have seen this movie before. Whenever there is a high-profile death of a Black person in the U.S. at the hands of local police, anti-Israel activists try to hijack the anger and redirect it at Israel.
The death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police is another example. We demonstrate below the background of the incitement and how it predictably has resulted in the targeting of synagogues and Jewish businesses.
Table of Contents
A. Years-Long Effort To Blame Israel For U.S. Policing
B. ‘Deadly Exchange’ Falsehoods
C. Examples of Current Incitement
- Electronic Intifada’s Nora Barrows-Friedman
- Democratic Socialist BDS
- The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald
- Electronic Intifada’s Maureen Murphy
- US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
- “BDS Movement”
- American Muslims for Palestine
- “Palestinian Lives Matter”
D. Targeting Jews Under Cover of Riots
A. Years-Long Effort To Blame Israel For U.S. Policing
For more than a decade, anti-Israel activists have argued that Israel exports its “occupation police tactics” abroad.
In recent years, anti-Israel voices have built on that theme by asserting that cases of police brutality and racism in the United States are a direct result of post-9/11 educational exchanges between Israeli and American law enforcement. The programs, we are told, militarize American police by teaching officers to target ethnic minorities at home in imitation of Israeli anti-Palestinian “oppression”.
We have covered this bizarre conspiracy theory many times. In our 2016 post Exposed: Years-long effort to blame Israel for U.S. police shootings of blacks, we documented:
There has been a multi-year effort by left-wing and Islamist anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and openly anti-Semitic activists to hijack racial tensions in the United States and redirect that anger towards Israel.
That effort has been on overdrive since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and is accomplished through a combination of false and misleading statements regarding the militarization of domestic U.S. police departments and U.S. police training in Israel.
…The intellectual rubric is “intersectionality,” by which anti-Israel activists try to forge links with minority (particularly black) activists by holding out Israel as the key link to oppression around the globe.
We documented how, in Ferguson, anti-Israel activists embedded themselves in the protest crowds and ran their own protests fomenting violence [see Intifada Missouri – Anti-Israel activists may push Ferguson over the edge]:
As much tension as there is, an underreported story is the active role of “pro-Palestinian” activists who have exploited the Ferguson riots and tension this summer and fall to push their anti-Israel agenda. That anti-Israeli agenda, which involves encouraging confrontation with police in solidarity with Palestinians, is helping provide the accelerant to an already volatile situation.
Recently, the effort to tie “systemic” American racism to Israel has coalesced into an organized campaign called “Deadly Exchange: Ending U.S.-Israel Police Exchanges, Reclaiming Safety”, spearheaded by the anti-Zionist non-Jewish group calling itself “Jewish Voice for Peace” (JVP).
We’ve written about the Deadly Exchange initiative in numerous prior posts. As we’ve previously observed, the campaign aims to exploit pre-existing and unrelated domestic racial tensions to stoke hatred of Jews—especially by blaming Israel for police violence—all in the service of building an anti-Israel coalition. Indeed, Deadly Exchange has been heavily promoted by many pro-BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) organizations based in the U.S.
B. ‘Deadly Exchange’ Falsehoods
Deadly Exchange’s conspiracy theories have no basis in fact; there is simply no evidence to suggest a causal relationship between police killings of Black Americans and American-Israeli law enforcement exchanges.
As we detailed in 2016:
It is preposterous to blame Israeli counter-terrorism training for the militarization of U.S. police, much less how a specific police officer acted in a particular situation. Only a miniscule and almost unmeasurable percentage of U.S. police are trained in Israel.
There are several hundred police training academies in the U.S. training tens of thousands of police in the U.S., compared to a few hundred (at most) police who participate in Israeli counter-terrorism training. That Israeli training is focused on counter-terrorism, and usually involves police chiefs who visit Israel for a week of combined seminars and tourism.
A total of 648 state and local law enforcement training academies were providing basic training to entry-level recruits at year end 2006, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, announced today. An estimated 57,000 recruits entered basic training at these academies during 2005. Eighty-six percent of recruits successfully completed training and graduated from the academy.
The average cost of operating a training academy totaled $1.3 million during 2005. Academies spent an estimated $16,000 per successful recruit.
Nearly all academies trained recruits for careers as local police officers (92 percent), and many academies trained recruits who were hired as sheriffs’ deputies (70 percent) or campus police officers (50 percent). Some academies also trained recruits for careers as state police officers (21 percent), constables (16 percent), tribal police officers (15 percent), natural resources officers (15 percent), or transportation police officers (14 percent).
Those numbers do not even include training by the federal government (pdf.)
So the likelihood is somewhere close to zero that any cop who is involved in a shooting (much less an unjustified shooting) was trained in Israel and the Israeli training contributed to the shooting.
In 2001, shortly after 9/11, I wrote a column asking, “We’re all Israelis now?” That question resonated with U.S. law enforcement agencies, which see Israel as the vanguard of the fight against Muslim terrorism. But as with the argument that Israel’s lobby determines U.S. foreign policy priorities, Israel usually follows the parameters set by U.S. political and strategic elites, not the other way around. For example, the U.S. did not need Israel to reallocate tens of billions of dollars toward domestic defense. Similarly, the half a billion dollars in military weapons given to local police forces through the Department of Defense’s 1033 grants program — a surplus the army was happy to be rid of — was not a result of Israel’s lobbying. It was a natural extension of local law enforcement’s decades-long relationship with the military.
Rather than comparing Ferguson to Israel’s heavy-handed conduct in Gaza and the West Bank, Americans should instead examine their own country’s history of militarized policing. In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. military-industrial complex has done pretty well on its own to capitalize on the so-called war on terrorism. As the American Civil Liberties Union described in a 2012 report and again this June, these synergies are part of the dangerous precedents that brought “the war [on terrorism] home.” ….
In fact, the roots of the police violence seen in Ferguson go well beyond the Israel-Palestinian conflict. They lie in Vietnam, inner-cities and the farmlands of California’s Central Valley. The militarization of police and the concomitant view that treats minority communities as enemies needing to be pacified rather than citizens to be served professionally began in the 1960s with the confluence of four factors.
First, the assertiveness of the civil rights movement, particularly the shift toward black militancy after urban riots in several black neighborhoods such as Watts, led major urban police departments to search for more powerful tools to control and pacify potentially insurgent populations. Second, the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency tactics employed in Vietnam were brought to bear on the “urban jungles” and the growing anti-war movement, which was considered a major threat to the ongoing prosecution of the war. Third, the government felt the need to police the growing movement for labor rights, as epitomized by the response to the United Farm Workers Union (UFW) strikes in Delano, California, in 1965.
In fact, a special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team was used for the very first time against the Cesar Chavez–led UFW strike of 1965. The deployment inspired Darryl Gates, then an inspector at the Los Angeles Police Department, to push for making SWAT a major part of his unit. It laid a solid foundation for the rise of militarized policing in the United States.
Fourth, the war on drugs, which was launched in 1971 by president Richard Nixon and focused on communities that were already targeted by SWAT teams; the law and order ethos of the Reagan era, which led to the (increasingly privatized) prison industrial complex; and the militarization of the U.S. southern border with the rise of anti-immigrant hysteria exacerbated militarized policing, with truly damaging results for American society. The concept gained even more momentum after 9/11. In 1985 only one quarter of cities with more than 25,000 inhabitants had SWAT teams. By 2005 this number had grown to more than 80 percent, conducting more than 50,000 annual raids, in part because the federal government requires the military equipment given to municipal police departments be used within one year or returned.
Interestingly, the LeVine article was edited to correct that false statement spread by Khalek and others about the alleged Israeli training of Ferguson police:
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated without evidence that Ferguson police officers had received training in Israel. The text has been amended. We regret the error.
C. Examples of Current Incitement
Naturally, the evidence contradicting Deadly Exchange-type propaganda has not stopped anti-Israel voices from hijacking the continuing struggle for Black civil rights and blaming Israel for the killing of George Floyd.
In their rush to exploit legitimate Black grievances to justify Palestinian terrorism, these activists ignore that much of the violence and looting has reportedly been committed by opportunistic criminals perpetuating and then hiding behind chaos in order to steal merchandise; that Black independent business owners were also victimized by wanton looting; and that the violence—especially that perpetrated by extraneous thugs rioting for fun or profit—has now eclipsed and discredited the warranted outrage and peaceful protesters. Instead, they lump all the violence together, attributing it uniformly to the valid protest movement, and thus unwittingly smear its legitimate activists as criminals.
Though quick to hijack legitimate Black struggles for their own political agenda, anti-Israel actors frequently object when mainstream Jewish groups issue their own public statements of support for Black Americans. By blaming Israel for police brutality, anti-Zionists attempt to discredit Jewish efforts to build on a long tradition of friendship between Black and Jewish communities in the United States.
Here are some examples.
1. Electronic Intifada’s Nora Barrows-Friedman
Here, Nora Barrows-Friedman, associate editor of the anti-Israel blog Electronic Intifada, manufactures a connection between Israeli counterterrorism and homeland security studies and the killing of George Floyd.
Interestingly, Barrows-Friedman does not mention that the very article she used in her tweet reports that Sherrif [sic] Stuart’s program focused on “preventing terrorism…and human trafficking”—enterprises that specifically target Black Americans and other Black communities around the world to this day. Nor does Barrows-Friedman mention that the article specifies that “only a few hundred” American law enforcement officials (of many thousands) have taken part in the training since its post-9/11 inception.
These key omissions are par for the course for Barrows-Friedman, who is a long-time anti-Israel agitator. She has spent years as a contributor to multiple anti-Israel publications and published a 2014 book glorifying the work of radical nationwide campus group Students for Justice in Palestine.
2. Democratic Socialist BDS
Others, including the Democratic Socialist BDS cadre, are content to offer even less evidence for similar assertions, preferring to issue only vague comparisons between last week’s clashes between police, rioters, and protesters and Israeli against “violence” Palestinians.
3. The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald
Below, Glenn Greenwald makes a similar statement, but also justifies Palestinian terrorism as “return violence” and even endorses the violence in Minneapolis as “way overdue.”
4. Electronic Intifada’s Maureen Murphy
Maureen Murphy, another editor at Electronic Intifada, ironically insinuates that the Anti-Defamation League’s sponsorship of counterterrorism exchange seminars renders its statement of solidarity in the wake of George Floyd’s death disingenuous.
5. US Campaign for Palestinian Rights
The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (with the help of an old Amnesty International article that blames Israel for police violence in Baltimore) elaborates. Here, USCPR alleges that Israeli training is responsible for the “racialized, systematized violence” that killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery—all Black Americans killed by current or former police officers within the last three months. Indeed, Ahmaud Arbery’s tragic murder is being investigated as an anti-Black hate crime).
6. “BDS Movement”
In a similar example, another umbrella BDS group uses the heartbreaking hashtag #icantbreathe (which George Floyd reportedly struggled to communicate as he was forcibly restrained and his neck pressured) to proclaim “Palestinian solidarity” with the same three victims.
7. American Muslims for Palestine
In a recent mailing entitled “Justice for George Floyd, solidarity with Black people,” American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) declares,
Centuries of institutional oppression against Blacks have been bolstered in recent decades by thousands of US law enforcement personnel being trained in Israel. They are trained by and share “lessons learned” with Israeli counterparts to implement practices of control, surveillance, discrimination, restrictions of movement, repression of social and political movements, torture, and police violence.
However, like many who’ve proclaimed Palestinian solidarity with Black communities in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, AMP’s “solidarity” soliloquy ignores reports that the individual who summoned the police on Floyd in the first place is himself a Palestinian. The man in question has expressed regret for the initial call, reportedly “called police on the police” when he learned of their abuse of Floyd, and has offered his support to Floyd’s family.
Yet few “solidarity” groups have been willing to acknowledge his involvement at all; perhaps because doing so might mean admitting that people of “marginalized” identities can still harbor racism against one another.
8. “Palestinian Lives Matter”
Comparisons between the plight of Black Americans and Palestinians have become even more pointed since May 30, when Israeli police in Jerusalem’s Old City mistakenly shot dead an autistic Palestinian man named Iyad Halak, thinking he had a gun. The Times of Israel reports,
Police claimed he had appeared to be holding a gun and ordered him to halt and be searched. Halak seemed not to understand.
“He didn’t even know what a police officer was,” Halak’s cousin, Hatem Awiwi, told the Haaretz newspaper.
Halak fled with two police officers in pursuit. He tried to hide and was shot. The suspicious item he was carrying — which police officers thought was a gun — is reported to have been his phone.
The two policemen involved were questioned under caution on Saturday. One officer was placed under house arrest and his commander was released from custody under restrictive conditions.
Public Security Minister Amir Ohana told the Halak family that he “shared their pain,” but urged refraining from a rush to judgment against the police officers who killed him, saying they “are required to make life and death decisions in seconds, in an area that has seen numerous terrorist attacks, and are frequently in mortal danger.” Defense Minister Benny Gantz expressed sorrow over the incident, which he said would be promptly investigated.
In the United States, Palestinian solidarity activists released statements directly comparing the two killings.
“When Palestinians see George Floyd, we see Eyad al-Halak,” said Palestinian-American comedian Amer Zahr in a post on his Facebook page.
On Instagram another user published illustrations comparing the two cases, under the headline “Two countries, similar system.”
The Palestinian Authority has sought to exploit popular antipathy to police brutality in the United States to advance its message about the conduct of Israeli security forces in the West Bank.
Halak’s killing was “a crime that will be met with impunity unless the world stops treating Israel as a state above the law &@IntlCrimCourt fulfills its mandate #ICantBreath #PalestineWillBeFree,” Saeb Erakat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, said in a tweet.
The hashtag #ICantBreath was a reference to the dying words of both Floyd and Eric Garner, a black man and resident of New York City who died in July 2017 after police officers placed him in a chokehold. The officers involved in the latter case were never indicted or faced federal charges. The slogan became a central theme of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United States, which seeks to advance black civil rights and opposes police violence against African Americans.
The campaign on Twitter has gained its own hashtag — #PalestinianLivesMatter — a reference to #BlackLivesMatter. The hashtag has gained thousands of mentions on Twitter and Instagram since Halak was killed on Saturday.
“The teargas shot at us in Minneapolis, Palestine or Israel will never change the fact that #blacklivesmatter and #palestinianlivesmatter,” wrote Ayman Odeh, chairman of Israel’s Joint List Knesset alliance of predominantly Arab parties.
…The official Fatah Facebook page uploaded numerous photos of Israeli soldiers pinning down Palestinians, often with the soldiers’ legs on their necks. The Palestine Liberation Organization official newspaper al-Hayat al-Jadida published a cartoon showing an Israeli soldier and an American cop kneeling on the necks of a Palestinian and a black man, respectively. The two soldiers support each other bodily, while the Israeli soldier has his gun pointed in the black man’s face. [See featured image]
The cartoon is by Al-Hayat Al-Jadida cartoonist Mohammed Saba`aneh, who has complained about being accused of “((hate speech))” since posting the drawing.
His fellow anti-Israel cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, 2nd place finisher in an Iranian Holocaust cartoon contest and who regularly publishdea at the anti-Zionist Mondoweiss blog, responded to Saba’aneh’s complaint with his own cartoon in the same vein.
D. Targeting Jews Under Cover of Riots
The same anti-Israel forces that enthusiastically hijack legitimate Black civil rights grievances likely helped escalate violent attacks against Jews that were carried out under cover of those riots.
As blogger Elder of Ziyon documented, one seasoned anti-Israel activist and self-identified “human rights lawyer” was caught on camera preparing to hurl a Molotov cocktail during the riots in New York City.
Wearing a keffiyeh? ✔
Throwing Molotov cocktails? ✔
Anti-Israel activist? ✔
Violently targets the police? ✔
"Human rights lawyer"? ✔
— Elder of Ziyon 🇮🇱 (@elderofziyon) June 1, 2020
On June 1, the Elder posted:
She’s wearing a Palestinian keffiyeh. She’s holding a Molotov cocktail. And she’s ready to firebomb – a NYPD police car.
From the New York Daily News:
One of the two Brooklyn lawyers accused trying to torch an NYPD cruiser in Brooklyn used a Bud Light bottle stuffed with a rag as a Molotov cocktail, according to a photo obtained Sunday by the Daily News.
Urooj Rahman, 31, was snapped in a picture holding a black and white striped scarf close to her face with one hand and the potentially fiery bottle with another as she prepared to toss it out of the passenger-side window of a van.
Rahman and Colinford Mattis, 32, a corporate lawyer and member of Community Board 5 in East New York, were charged with the attempted attack Saturday night on an empty police cruiser parked outside the 88th Precinct station house in Fort Greene.
Rahman hurled the bottle, which was filled with gasoline, into the cruiser. But the Bud Light Molotov cocktail failed to ignite, law enforcement sources said.
Cops gave chase and stopped Mattis’ van nearby on Willoughby St. They found the makings of another Molotov cocktail in the back seat along with a gasoline container, authorities say.
But Urooj Rahman is not just a lawyer. She’s a human rights lawyer.
And she’s not just wearing a keffiyeh for fashion. She’s an anti-Israel activist. She spent a summer interning for an anti-Israel NGO and she wrote an article for Fordham’s human rights newsletter accusing Israel of “apartheid.”
Meanwhile, rioters in Los Angeles targeted Jewish businesses and houses of worship. On Sunday May 31, the Algemeiner reported,
A synagogue was defaced with antisemitic graffiti in Los Angeles over the weekend as the city faced violent riots and looting following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Congregation Beth Israel in the Fairfax District of the city was spray-painted with the phrases “F*** Israel” and “Free Palestine,” local NBC affiliate Channel 4 reported on Saturday.
In the same report, The Algemeiner also noted,
In a video from Saturday night circulating on social media and verified by The Algemeiner, a member of the Jewish volunteer security group Magen Am described fending off vandals intent on defacing another synagogue, Shaarei Tefila in Fairfax.
“They were spray-painting this whole area,” he said, but were unable to damage the synagogue before “I sent them off.”
Noting that several nearby stores had been “pillaged” and the area “had tear gas galore,” he nonetheless noted, “We defended Shaarei Tefila today.”
Also on June 1, the Forward reported that while Los Angeles protests began peacefully in the historically Jewish Fairfax-La Brea area near the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, they soon devolved into violence:
Hearing that an Orthodox neighborhood in LA has been hit hard by looting. "Every store destroyed. Things are on fire all over," a friend with family there tells me. This is video of Syd's Pharmacy & Kosher Vitamins on Beverly Blvd. #laprotest pic.twitter.com/pf9SfkQ9ec
— Johnny Kunza (@johnkunza) May 31, 2020
Video circulating on WhatsApp Saturday evening showed Ariel Glatt Kosher Market, a grocery on La Brea Boulevard, with its windows smashed in, several shelves emptied, and wares dumped across the floor. “All the liquor gone,” a person can be heard saying.
More video from last night in LA. Police rolling into an Orthodox neighborhood to cheers after a long night of looting which left several Jewish owned stores looted and synagogues vandalized. pic.twitter.com/PDYq1SCqYh
— Johnny Kunza (@johnkunza) May 31, 2020
…Rabbi Moshe Pinto was on his way to the Baba Sale shul on Fairfax Avenue Saturday afternoon with several of his students for mincha services. Shavuot, the Jewish holiday which began May 28, marked the first time Baba Sale had hosted prayer services since the statewide shelter-in-place order was instituted in March.
But Rabbi Pinto was unable to see as far as the building, let alone make it to the door, as the group was blocked by a mass of civilians and police that were fighting for control of the street. Fairfax Avenue, which also abuts the Grove shopping mall, appeared to be the epicenter of looting activity.
Some of the civilians, he said, hurled epithets at the group, and one person threw a stick at one of his students.
“It was like looking at antisemitism, but in a time of rage,” Pinto said.
The group spent the rest of the evening locked in one of the students’ homes, waiting out the unrest.
On June 1, the Times of Israel published further reports of attacks on synagogues, noting,
Several synagogues in Los Angeles were vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti over Saturday, including Kehillas Yaakov, a storefront shul, Hamodia reported.
…video posted on Twitter by a college journalist showed a brick thrown by a protester through the window of Congregation Beth Ahabah, a more than 200-year-old Reform congregation in Richmond, during Saturday night protests.
And on June 2, JTA reported,
A statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, was smeared with anti-Semitic slogans.
Along with the synagogues, Jewish-owned buildings and stores were defaced, in several cases also with anti-Semitic graffiti. The businesses were looted, too.
This city’s Fairfax district, a heavily Jewish area that has been continuously represented by a Jewish city councilman since 1953, was hit particularly hard by the kind of vandalism that has struck major cities following the killing of George Floyd in police custody.
“The attack on our community last night was vicious and criminal,” Paul Koretz, the district’s current city councilman, said in a statement Sunday. “As we watched the fires and looting, what we didn’t get covered were the anti-Semitic hate crimes and incidents. Under the guise of protests, some advanced their anti-Semitic agenda.”
Across the street from Beth El, the Kosher Mensch Bakery and Kitchen and the Jewish-owned clothing store Go Couture were destroyed. Stores on the fashionable Melrose Avenue, on the district’s northern border, also were damaged, as were multiple Jewish institutions in the area: Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Tivereth Avi/Morasha Educational Centre, Shaarei Tefilah synagogue and the Shalhevet school for girls, according to Aram Goldberg, vice president of the Jewish Federation Council.
But, JTA continued,
Untouched in the mayhem was Canter’s deli, a hardy cultural landmark that has survived since 1931. The 24-hour eatery, famed for its prize-winning waffles and Jewish deli sandwiches, was spared any damage thanks to a strategy honed by owner Marc Canter and his staff during the 1992 Rodney King riots.
In an interview with the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Canter explained that he and his employees posted a sign expressing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Perhaps even more persuasive, the deli offered free bottles of water to both protesters and police, to the tune of 25 cases. In addition, the deli allowed the protesters to use its restrooms and order food.
“We support free speech and anything that’s peaceful,” Canter said. “There are people coming out of the woodwork that are trying to blend in with the real protesters that are just troublemakers looking to take advantage of the situation and not very interested in what is being protested.”
The exploitation of George Floyd by anti-Israel activists is just the latest callous attempt to attack Israel and to falsely implicate Jews in the deaths of Black Americans. That exploitation has consequences, including helping stoke hatred against the Jewish community, as recent events prove.
Samantha Mandeles is Senior Researcher and Outreach Director at the Legal Insurrection Foundation.DONATE
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