Hijacking the cause of George Floyd US protests

While racism must be exposed, condemned and rooted out in the US, many of those criticizing the US from abroad are acting in bad faith.

Protest at the 3rd precinct in Minneapolis for the murder of George Floyd by four police officers. (photo credit: JENNY SALITA/FLICKR)
Protest at the 3rd precinct in Minneapolis for the murder of George Floyd by four police officers.
(photo credit: JENNY SALITA/FLICKR)
It’s been an intense week with violent riots erupting in multiple locations around the world following the killing of George Floyd. Race tensions in the US have skyrocketed as a result of the police brutality that disproportionately targets black Americans. This is a discussion that’s long overdue in the US, but instead of allowing that discussion to take place in a peaceful and productive manner, interested parties on seemingly all sides are doing everything they can to hijack the cause.
Almost immediately after the disturbing video of George Floyd’s killing was released, anti-Israel BDS groups began posting on social media – falsely – about how Minneapolis police are “trained” by the IDF. Similarly, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights posted about how numerous US police departments are trained in Israel by the IDF. In a social media post they claimed, “The Israeli military trains US police in racist and repressive policing tactics, which systematically targets black and brown bodies.” The Democratic Socialists of America’s BDS group claimed the Minneapolis police brutality is “straight out of the IDF playbook.”
The tweets and posts came from both BDS organization accounts, and individual activists, particularly from far-left groups like IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, who have targeted Israeli counter-terrorism training programs conducted in Israel for various police departments. Students at the University of California schools have also launched a petition calling for the UC system to divest from Israel and implying Israel is responsible for the death of George Floyd. The petition explicitly stated, “the knee-to-neck choke-hold that Chauvin used to murder George Floyd has been used and perfected to torture Palestinians by Israeli occupation forces through 72 years of ethnic cleansing and dispossession.”
Aside from the fact that these counter-terrorism training programs focus on terrorism and not domestic police issues or tactics, and that the Minneapolis police never had such training with the IDF or any state body of Israel, no one’s response to the killing of George Floyd should be attacking Jews, Israel, or any other entity they happen to disagree with for political reasons. This attempt to do so is yet another modern manifestation of a blood libel, not to mention the fact that it distracts from the true culprit for the crime against George Floyd – the ugly racism that still exists in the hearts of so many individuals.
Not to be outdone, the Palestinian Authority was also quick to jump on the anti-Israel train, sharing photos on Fatah’s social media of Israeli soldiers pinning down Palestinian terrorists in a comparison to the killing of George Floyd. A PLO newspaper also published a cartoon depicting an Israeli soldier on a Palestinian’s neck and the US policeman on George Floyd’s neck. This is an unconscionable demonization of Israel, but also of George Floyd. It’s far from the first time the Palestinian Authority has latched on to recent events, however. For weeks the PA and others in the Arabic world have been sharing antisemitic cartoons and content comparing Israel to the COVID-19 virus. It seems there isn’t any event in the world that the Palestinian Authority can’t twist to make themselves the center of attention.
BEYOND ISRAEL, multiple state actors latched on to the tragedy to promote their own agendas as well: Turkey, China, North Korea and Iran, especially on social media, did all they could to add fuel to the fire and incite against the US. China, despite their inhumane treatment of Hong Kong protesters and widespread human rights violations, condemned the US response to rioters. Similarly, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif, and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have all shared content supporting Black Lives Matter, and demonizing the US for racism against blacks.
Zarif sent out a tweet criticizing US treatment of protesters, using the Black Lives Matter hashtag, and Khamenei tweeted, “If you’re dark-skinned, walking in the US, you can’t be sure you’ll be alive in the next few minutes. #CantBreathe #BlackLivesMatter” Stepping away from the fact the Ayatollah regularly uses his Twitter account to call for the destruction of the Jewish state, Iran has a well documented and recent track record of murdering protesters, torturing and imprisoning journalists, executing LGTBQ and other “undesirables,” murdering and persecuting ethnic minorities including Bahais and other wide scale human rights violations. The irony of regimes like China and Iran – which don’t even allow their own citizens to have social media with which they use to demonize the US – is mind boggling.
While racism must be exposed, condemned and rooted out in the US – especially by those with the legal power to exert force on others – many of those criticizing the US from abroad are acting in bad faith. The fact that protests in France, UK, even Israel, are arising to condemn racism in the US isn’t necessarily a bad thing in principle, but it does demonstrate another form of racism in that it demonstrates a (primarily) white, Western-centric form of selective outrage.
Where were the protests against the human rights violations in China? Where were the strikes against Turkey’s imprisonment of journalists? Where were the riots against Russia’s treatment of LGTBQ? Or Iran’s phony elections, targeting of minorities, and ongoing abuse of its own people? This is why we see human rights abusing regimes gleefully tweeting about racism in the US. If you only see racism as a problem in the West that’s worth protesting, you are still contributing to a racist system that refuses to see that black and brown lives matter outside the Western world as well – something states like China and Iran would like you to forget.
Racism anywhere should be confronted, and Americans are right to protest, but hijacking that cause for your own purpose – be it a state agenda or an antisemitic blood libel – is unacceptable.
The writer is the CEO of Social Lite Creative.