There is no similarity between the shocking murder of George Floyd and the tragic killing of Eyad Hallaq. Despite the temptation to draw a comparison, the struggle of black people in the United States has nothing in common with the struggle of the Palestinians. No one questions the tragic nature of both of the incidents. The video that shows Floyd groaning as a Minneapolis police officer kneels on his neck is soul-shaking, and it is painful and disturbing to consider the fatal shooting by Israeli police officers of Hallaq, a 32-year-old man with severe autism, in the Old City of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, the Palestinians are not “Israel’s African Americans.”
The struggle for equality being waged by blacks in the United States is a racial one, while the Palestinians’ struggle against Jews is nationalist in character. Writing here Monday (“Palestinian, give up your life!”), Odeh Bisharat points to what the Palestinians have “give[n] up,” in his words, throughout their history, as an example of the Zionist oppression. In fact, however, the Palestinians are oppressed chiefly because they chose, time after time, to refuse in the name of the struggle against the Jews. They refused the partition plan in 1947. They refused to recognize their defeat in 1967. They refused then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s proposal in 2000. They refused to turn the Gush Katif settlement bloc, which was evacuated for their benefit in Israel’s 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, into a heaven on earth, choosing instead to create terrorist strongholds there. They chose Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Some chose, and still choose, terrorism.
Blacks are struggling for full integration into American society. Martin Luther King Jr. sought integration. The struggle of many Palestinians is aimed at dissolving the Jewish state, or at least changing its definition. The Palestinians are not and never were enslaved. They were never subject to sexual slavery, to whippings at the hands of their masters. They were never bought and sold, no one ever told them how many children to bear. The Palestinians always had, and they still have, the right to choose. They refused it.
They did so because they don’t want genuine peace, in contrast to blacks in the United States, who do seek to live in peace with their American compatriots. It’s true that we and the Palestinians do not belong to the same nation. We don’t share the same language, we weren’t raised with the same values. But does that mean that we cannot live in peace? Of course it doesn’t. But for that to happen, the Palestinians will have to recognize the state’s Jewish character and its link to Zionism.
The question of what would happen if the Palestinians ask to be “Israel’s blacks” will likely come up. In fact, such Palestinians already exist: Israeli Arabs, who enjoy full equality in terms of civil rights. Granted, they do not have full equality with regard to matters of national identity, and we must not delude them into thinking they will ever have this. The U.S. national anthem is addressed to whites and blacks alike. The Israeli national anthem is addressed to the yearning Jewish soul and it will remain that way. Nevertheless, Arab citizens are not asked to sing it, the way that American Jews sing the U.S. national anthem and French Jews sing the French national anthem, and so on. They need only to recognize that it is the national anthem of the country of which they are a part.
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I have a suspicion that even Ayman Odeh and Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint List understand this, but prefer to exploit the history of African Americans in order to give themselves the image of oppressed slaves. It’s convenient for them to exploit George Floyd’s murder and compare it to the tragic killing of Eyad Hallaq. That is regrettable. If not for the extremist worldview adopted by many Palestinians and their supporters, which seeks to change Israel’s Jewish-Zionist character, perhaps they would have their own state already.