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‘Palestinian Lives Matter’ trope resurfaces amid George Floyd protests

Online outcry in the aftermath of the killing of an unarmed black man by a Minneapolis police officer has seen a smattering of protesters comparing American police brutality to the killings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers — a return to rhetoric common in the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Singer and model Dua Lipa shared an Instagram post yesterday that compared police killings of unarmed black men to the killings of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers.

The post, originally written by American director Vin Arfuso and reposted by Lipa, said in part, “While everybody’s in the mood to talk about human rights, this is what happens EVERYDAY in Palestine, paid for by our taxpayer dollars.” The post has since been deleted but showed a photo of Israeli Defense Soldiers next to a blindfolded young man, presumably Palestinian.

When the Black Lives Matter movement emerged from protests in Ferguson, Mo., after a police officer killed an unarmed black resident there in 2015, one leading organization’s platform espoused the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

“It was Palestinian activists who noticed not only the militarization of the Ferguson police but the similarities of some of the weapons used in Ferguson with some of the weapons used in occupied Palestine,” said activist, author, and UC Santa Cruz professor emerita Angela Davis when she hosted a talk called “Racism, Militarism, and Poverty: From Ferguson to Palestine.”

Indeed, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has emerged as a flashpoint for progressive activists that has divided several groups, including the feminists of the Women’s March and Bernie Sanders supporters, and spurred the creation of Zioness, a liberal Zionist organization.

On Monday, however, Jewish organizations across denominational and political lines focused not on the issue of Israel, but on the injustice of Floyd’s death and on expressions of solidarity with the African-American community.

The Anti-Defamation League, which opposes BDS, issued a statement which characterized the “system” as “racist and unjust.” The subject line of the Conservative Movement’s email read “George Floyd z”l,” using the acronym for the Hebrew phrase used when beloved people die — may his memory be for a blessing. And the liberal advocacy group Bend the Arc issued a call for the Jewish community, “especially white Jews,” to rise up for Black lives and police accountability.

The associations between George’s death and those of Palestinians at the hands of the Israeli military appeared mainly online, although a synagogue in Los Angeles was vandalized with graffiti expressing a similar sentiment. Some activists on the left see the problems of the Palestinians as inseparable from those of Black and Indigenous people, citing the concept of “intersectionality,” or the ways in which different forms of discrimination can overlap and reinforce each other.

Some users have focused on the fact that the manufacturer of teargas canisters used by police during demonstrations also makes military tools for the IDF, and that the IDF trains American police.

Police departments in cities like Boston, Baltimore, New York and Chicago have engaged in law enforcement exchanges with Israeli police officers since the 1990s.

Combined Tactical Systems does make military tools for Israel, but it also manufactures them for Tunisia, Yemen, Germany, Netherlands, India, East Timor, Hong Kong, Argentina, Chile, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Cameroon, Egypt and Sierra Leone, according to anti-war groups.

Critics of the Israeli military’s treatment of Palestinians also used Israeli actor Gal Gadot, to make their point, accusing her of hypocrisy because she demanded justice for black Americans despite her own record of service in the Israeli military.

Molly Boigon is an investigative reporter at the Forward. Contact her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @MollyBoigon

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