The slow, agonizing death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the torturous murder of Iyad Halak in Jerusalem have a great deal in common. Testimony I heard from a member of Iyad’s family who wished not to be identified is chilling. That testimony doesn’t make up for the video footage that Israeli police refuse to release that show the moments he was executed in Jerusalem, but they do provide a chilling dimension to the murder.
Iyad had an identity card on him that identified him as a person with special needs and had a caretaker with him that told the police that Iyad has special needs. After they shot him the first time and he lay wounded on the ground next to a garbage can, his caretaker begged the police to leave him alone. One of the officers decided to execute the helpless Palestinian and shot him several more times until this gentle man, who had never hurt a soul, was dead.
George Floyd was strangled for eight minutes and forty-six seconds under the knee of another man. It was filmed, people made comments, and yet even though the slow suffocation of Floyd could have been stopped at any moment during that time, it was not stopped until he was dead. After seeing and hearing about these two ruthless executions, no one should ever talk about Black violence or Palestinian terrorism. Whatever resistance took place by Blacks in America, whatever protests were held, whatever crimes may or may not have been committed, none come close to this execution. None except for the initial crime, the mother of all sins, slavery, and the execution of George Floyd stems from that same cold-blooded racism.
In both cases, there were bloodthirsty men, armed and in uniform, representing the “state,” executing a helpless, innocent victim in broad daylight. In both cases, the “state” presents itself as a democracy in which cold-blooded executions of innocent citizens by official agents are not permissible. Yet two men were brutally executed in broad daylight, and the executioners felt they had no reason to fear or hide their actions.
People of color in America, and particularly Black men, are hunted down by the authorities all the time. Palestinians are hunted down by Israeli authorities on a regular basis, and in both cases, it is so prevalent that it is hardly news. The name of one victim is forgotten as soon as the next is killed.
Predators and prey
As hard as it may be to believe, in Israeli society, there is less regard for the life and civil rights of Palestinians than there is regard for people of color in the U.S. Israeli society has accepted that Palestinians are the enemy, and therefore killing them is by and large acceptable. Even if it is done mistakenly, the mistake is always viewed in the larger context of Israel’s fight for survival and is therefore understandable. Even Israelis who have family members with special needs and who view the murder of Iyad Halak as a tragedy, comment that under such “difficult” circumstances where the officers never know who the enemy in a crowd might be, this is understandable. But is it?
The problem is not finding out who the enemies are, or which Palestinian is carrying a knife, the problem is that the Old City of Jerusalem is militarized to a point that no Palestinian is safe in the city. Between the regular police, the border police, the military, the secret police in plain clothes, and the private security contractors, Palestinians are constantly looked at by trigger happy, armed Israelis who view all Palestinians as suspected terrorists.
There are those who will say the same about police in cities across America who have to deal with “dangerous” populations, like the Black population for example. They must be alert at all times and, people will claim, mistakes do happen. After all, we are all human. Perhaps we are all human but clearly not equal in our rights as humans. Some humans are predators with a license to kill while others are prey to be watched, suspected, and killed when there is doubt.
If we are indeed all human, then where was that humanity when George Floyd was helplessly restrained on the ground begging for his life? Where was humanity when Iyad Halak’s caretaker screamed at the top of her lungs that he had special needs, and showed the police an identity card that was displayed stating his condition? Where was humanity when Iyad lay on the ground by a dumpster, already wounded by a shot to the leg and helpless before he shot again and executed?
Perhaps it would be easier to understand and accept this if we stop pretending that the United States and Israel are actual democracies. Perhaps it is time to refer to both Israel and the U.S. as two violent, racist, genocidal, settler-colonial enterprises who could care less for the rights of people.
While hatred and cruelty can be found everywhere, one can expect things to be worse when a state suffers from systemic racism and has violent tendencies. The United States and Israel suffer from systemic racism and violent tendencies and unless they are cured of these two maladies, there will be more grotesque killers like those that killed George Floyd and Iyad Halak.