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Claims by left-wing activists that Floyd murder is linked to Israel appear tenuous

4 min read
9 June 2020 | UK NEWS

A prominent left-wing commentator appeared to link the death of George Floyd to techniques alleged to be used by the Israeli Defence Force during a Stop the War webinar on Saturday afternoon.

Footage released by the Daily Express over the weekend showed far-left academic and activist Tariq Ali claiming there was a connection between the technique used in the killing of George Floyd and the State of Israel. Former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has faced anti-Semitism allegations in the past, and author Arundhati Roy formed a panel for a debate hosted by the Stop the War Coalition on Saturday.

During the call, Mr Ali said: “I would now like to come to another part of the world which ironically links the knee on the neck of George Floyd to this region, because a lot of the American police forces have been trained in Israel.

“Not just the Americans, but many from right-wing countries in South America. And the method in dealing with protests or ordinary citizens is virtually the same. You can find lots of photos of Israelis – when these people are brave enough to take photographs – with their knees on the neck of Palestinians.”

He continued: “This is another subject which has virtually been downgraded compared to even five or six years ago, because people have got frightened about this campaign which alleges everyone is anti-Semitic except those who support Israel.

“That’s basically the campaign that was waged by Israeli Embassies everywhere, of which one of the central targets was Jeremy Corbyn. But this has been waged in many other parts of the world.

“Interestingly, young Americans of Jewish origin are resisting it better than almost any other country in the world, and especially Europe.”

Corbyn did not explicitly respond to the claims made by Mr Ali. However, he did also note on the call that anti-Semitism was “evil” and “wrong”, to which Mr Ali responded by agreeing but also adding that: “We have to be equally tough sometimes when the charge of anti-Semitism is used to stop us speaking about Palestine.”

Similar claims linking Israel to the murder of George Floyd have also been made by a profusion of predominantly left-wing outlets over the course of the past week in particular, including the Morning Star.

The BDS and Palestinian Solidarity working group within the Democratic Socialists of America also said on Twitter: “The police violence happening tonight in Minneapolis is straight out of the IDF playbook. How many times have we seen uprisings in Gaza met w/ a storm of tear gas? How many times are Palestinians in the West Bank doused w/ skunk water during a protest? US cops train in Israel.”

These claims, specifically in connection with the Minneapolis police force, appear to be centred on a conference in 2012 hosted by the Israeli Consulate in Chicago. This, reportedly, was a half-day course aimed at counter-terrorism responses, held in conjunction with the FBI. It is reported that around one hundred officers attended the course, but it is unknown whether the police officers who caused Floyd to lose his life were also at the event.

There is also a general police collaboration between the two countries provided by Israel, known as “The Police Unity Tour”. Every year, roughly fifty US officers from all around the country go to Israel. The trip is seen as a show of unity for the most part, rather than a defensive training exercise. Here is one US police officer’s account of the tour.

All further collaboration between the two countries is noted here.

In all the cases mentioned, the focus of Israeli assistance was in the area of counter-terrorism, focused on prevention and response to acts of terror and not day-to-day policing.

In addition, in none of the cases was there any evidence that the Israeli services demonstrated or recommended the specific ‘knee on neck’ technique used to kill George Floyd.

Israeli Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld has come out on Twitter to deny the allegations that the police in Israel use the ‘knee on neck’ technique on suspects at all. He wrote: “There is no procedure that allows an officer of the Israel police dept to carry out an arrest by placing a knee on the neck of a suspect.”

According to the American news network NBC, “the particular tactic Chauvin used – kneeling on a suspect’s neck – is neither taught nor sanctioned by any police agency”. A Minneapolis city official also told NBC News that: “Chauvin’s tactic is not permitted by the Minneapolis police department. For most major police departments, variations of neck restraints, known as chokeholds, are highly restricted – if not banned outright.”

It seems that, even if the Israeli forces had passed on a recommendation regarding this hold, the Minneapolis forces did not take it up as official police policy.

It would therefore appear that the connection alleged by Mr Ali and various other outlets is tenuous at best. Their rationale for making it remains, of course, a matter of interpretation.

We will continue to investigate this story.

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