When American police raided a Louisville, Kentucky, home last year, searching for evidence in a drug case, a 26-year-old woman was killed. The plain-clothes police officers were searching for the ex-boyfriend of the victim, Breonna Taylor, but instead found her with a new boyfriend and feared they were being attacked. The new boyfriend fired at the intruders, not knowing they were police officers, and the police fired back, killing Taylor.
Police initially fudged the report, but there was public outrage, with the raid denounced as a civil rights violation and another example of police brutality.
In America, the news media, activists and general public pay close attention to such violent incidents. Sometimes the police are wrong and sometimes their actions are justified. But the public always gets the facts. That is the true basis of a democracy. However, that is not the case in another country that also claims to be a democracy: Israel.
Last week, Israeli soldiers entered the Palestinian village of Beita near Nablus after the shooting of an Israeli settler. The Israeli police had already arrested someone for the shooting, a Palestinian from nearby Turmus Aya. As armed soldiers entered the village, Palestinians protested and the Israelis killed a 16-year-old boy, Saeed Yusuf Mohammed Odeh.
Tensions were already high as Israeli settlers had been burning Palestinian farms, olive groves and property in an escalation of attacks against the Muslims and few Christians who remain in the West Bank.
American policing is under siege, with controversial killings being placed under a microscope. In some cases, the evidence shows that officers used excessive force and illegally killed their victims, as in the widely publicized case of George Floyd. The police are held accountable and scrutinized by an unrelenting news media that puts pressure on the authorities to find the truth.
The Israeli police and military, meanwhile, are not under siege at all. Palestinians are killed all the time, yet nobody is held accountable. And instead of condemning Israel’s violence against civilian targets, the US government, whether controlled by a Republican or a Democratic president, prefers to turn its back on such controversies and hope they go away.
While the media might treat the cases of Taylor and Odeh differently, they are actually exactly the same. Palestinian activists who have gone out of their way to support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement need to make greater demands that BLM expands to include Palestinian lives. Some BLM leaders, such as the conscientious and responsible Hawk Newsome, have expressed outrage over the unjust killings of Ethiopians by the Houthis in Yemen. But one man’s moral courage is not enough.
Palestinians and Arabs have been hugely supportive of the American civil rights movement, standing up for victims in instances of unjust police violence. So they have a right to demand that American society stands with them.
The injustices carried out against Arabs and especially Palestinians are too often downplayed by sections of the mainstream US news media, which are politicized by pressure from Israel’s massive public relations spin campaigns. The media and the public have too often been silent in cases involving Arab victims, including on American soil. For example, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, nearly a dozen Arabs or people who looked Arab were murdered by Americans who later confessed they were angered by Al-Qaeda’s terrorism. And yet those victims have never been acknowledged as victims of Sept. 11.
Justice, the rule of law, morality and the fundamental principles of civil and human rights need to be applied consistently.
Every week in Israel — a country that receives massive funding from American taxpayers — Palestinians are injured or killed by police and soldiers who are never held accountable. Such incidents are barely reported on or noted. Justice, the rule of law, morality and the fundamental principles of civil and human rights need to be applied consistently.
Someone should be held accountable for the murder of Odeh. But, given Israel’s political clout and the history of silence among American politicians of all affiliations, nothing will be done. That’s not just an injustice for Palestinians and Arabs; it is an injustice for anyone who believes in civil rights, democracy and fairness.