Opinion

Israel Isn’t George Floyd, It’s the Bad Cop

Carolina Landsmann
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Protesters at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on June 6, 2020.
Protesters at a demonstration in Tel Aviv on June 6, 2020.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Carolina Landsmann

“Let me remind you that you’re from Israel.” This was the kind of comment to Gal Gadot on Instagram after her post expressing solidarity with the protests following George Floyd’s death in the United States.

Bar Refaeli also got bashed. These comments are extremely important because they show that when an event divides the world into two – an aggressor and a victim – Israelis are categorically seen as on the aggressor’s side.

That’s the image of Israelis around the world today, whether we like it or not. Unlike our image of ourselves, we can’t cheat here. All the PR abroad won’t do any good; we have no control over the way the world sees us.

In a symbolic coincidence, a few days after policemen killed the African American Floyd in Minneapolis, members of the Border Police killed the autistic Palestinian Eyad Hallaq in Jerusalem. This time the comparison preoccupied Israelis on both sides of the political map. Of course, in an op-ed last week, Gideon Levy adopted it.

In contrast, another Haaretz columnist, Nave Dromi, rejected it: “The Palestinians are not Israel’s ‘African Americans,’” she wrote. Levy, a severe critic of Israel’s occupation policy, says: You think you’re the black man being crushed under the white cop’s knee, but you’re the cop.

Dromi, on the other hand, made the comparison only to dismiss it. Reality left her no choice. Hallaq’s autism denied her the option of portraying him as a potential terrorist and undermining the extent of his victimhood. But it’s obvious that if it weren’t for the similarity of the two cases, she wouldn’t have had to point out the differences.

We seem to be in a strange moment of universal disillusionment; maybe it also has to do with the realization that Donald Trump’s revolution is aimless. Maybe he managed to expose liberal hypocrisy – he’s an expert at destroying, but he doesn’t know how to build anything. Houston’s police chief rebuked Trump last week in a great interview: “It’s time to be presidential ... and not be like you’re on ‘The Apprentice.’ This is not Hollywood ... this is real life and real lives are at risk.”

It seems that Israel, which has been led for years by a marketing man who’s strong with words and weak on action, is sobering up and realizing that the days when the marketing was everything are over. The product has something to say as well. Not Hollywood, not Eurovision, not even the Strategic Affairs Ministry will do any good here. But in the moment of disenchantment, where is Israel? Who are its friends? What team is it on?

The relations between Benjamin Netanyahu and Trump, the Israeli right’s worship of Trumpian thuggery, and the symbiosis between Israel and Trump’s America at a time when it’s no longer clear what America is are among the most interesting sociopolitical developments of our time.

The looting in America is being described as a by-product of the protest, in order to undermine its legitimacy. But maybe looting is the right word to describe what Israel is doing in the Trump era – exploiting the window of opportunity in which “the world’s policeman” is in our pocket, to steal all we can lay our hands on: an embassy, the Golan Heights, Area C in the West Bank, settlements, Jerusalem.

In the future it won’t be possible to describe or understand this period without considering Israel’s ties with Trump. This isn’t only because of the damage to Israel’s relations with the Democratic Party or the strategic repercussions, but also, and mainly, due to the effects of these ties on Israel’s character, if there is such a thing.

And also, it’s because Israel – of all the countries in the world – has benefited in every possible sense from a man like Trump being the leader of the free world.