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Knee-on-neck restraint and the Minnesota police – a clarification

ISRAELI activist Neta Golan was quoted in a Morning Star article, Minnesota Force Had Training in Israeli Brutality, published on June 2.

The Morning Star reported that “at least 100 Minnesota police officers attended a 2012 conference hosted by the Israeli consulate in Chicago,” highlighting the close links between the Israeli and US police forces.

In the piece, Ms Golan suggested that the “technique of leaning on our chests and necks” which she knew to be practised by both the Israeli and US police forces had been shared by Israeli forces when training others.

This was speculative, and she has asked that the Morning Star publish this clarification as neither she nor the Morning Star wished to suggest that the US police force is not solely responsible for the lethal violence it deploys.

As noted in the Morning Star editorial Sacking Rebecca Long Bailey is an attack on the whole left (June 26), use of the knee-on-neck restraint method with which officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd dates back many decades in the United States.

It has been suggested that the Morning Star article published on June 2 was the source for comments by actor Maxine Peake in an Independent interview which Rebecca Long Bailey retweeted, resulting in her sacking by Labour leader Keir Starmer, for example by Channel 4’s Fact Check (mstar.link/C4FactCheck).

The Morning Star stands by the view that it is important to highlight the collaboration between the Israeli and US security services which have been raised as a concern by Black Lives Matter protesters in the United States.

However, we accept that there is no evidence the training conference referred to in the June 2 report focused on restraint techniques, and have amended our report accordingly.

The suggestion that Ms Golan’s speculation in the report, based on her observations of shared behaviour by the Israeli and US police, or the Morning Star highlighting the US-Israeli training exchange amounted to an “anti-semitic conspiracy theory” is absurd, and attacks on individuals for referring to it or sharing an article in which it was incidentally mentioned are utterly deplorable and unjust.

BEN CHACKO, editor

Setting the record straight, by Neta Golan 

I WANT to apologise for a mistake I made. I stated an assumption that a tactic I personally experienced under the knees of Israeli soldiers was taught to the US police by Israeli security forces. I deeply regret making my unverified assumption public.

But now, I find that my mistake has been weaponised, labelled anti-semitic and may have been used as an excuse to sack Rebecca Long Bailey from her position in the the British Labour Party’s shadow cabinet.

I am Jewish-Israeli and an anti-zionist. I have been supporting Palestinians in their struggle for justice for over 20 years.

In Jericho in 2006, I was detained by the Israeli military. Soldiers handcuffed me, threw me to the ground and forcefully knelt upon my upper body.

As an Ashkenazi woman, the violence I face when struggling alongside Palestinians for their rights is but a fraction of what Palestinians face.

And yet I had been beaten and arrested several times by both the Israeli military and police.

But this was the first time I was held and leaned upon in this way. When the footage of the murder of  George Floyd was released, I was triggered; it brought that episode back to me.

Israel does capitalise on its oppression of Palestinians. The industrialisation of security is a highly profitable export.

Weapons used on Palestinian protests are sold as “battle-tested,” and Israeli forces train security forces around the world, including the Minneapolis police. 

This is fact. I assumed that the kneeling-in on handcuffed detainees that I experienced was one of the tactics they shared.

I have since learned that choke-holds have been systematically practised by the US police long before I experienced them in the West Bank.

My assumption that US police were taught this tactic by others was because I was ill-informed about the level of the institutionalised use of lethal violent tactics by the US police against black Americans, that goes back to before Israel was established.

My assumption that this tactic was taught by the Israeli security forces, as opposed to any other police forces the US police have trained with, was absolutely not due to the fact that most members of the Israeli police force are Jewish.

Rather, it was due to both the nature of the relationship between the US and Israeli police, and the fact that they both practise choke-holds and racially targeted excessive force. It had nothing to do with Jewishness.

I am proud to be part of the Palestinian struggle for liberation, in particular the BDS movement, that is outspoken about, and does not tolerate, any form of bigotry — including anti-semitism.

It is essential to listen and learn from oppressed people when they protest against their treatment on a personal and political level. For this purpose, a distinction between criticism of zionism and Israeli crimes, and anti-semitism must be drawn.

Bigotry and discrimination cannot be divorced from the power structure in which they occur. There is a huge difference between a black person stating that they experience racism and the same statement made by a white person. Or a woman talking about experiencing sexism and a man making the same complaint. The difference is in the power structure.

When accusations of anti-semitism are about statements and actions against Jews or Judaism they need to be examined via the prism of the power structure between Jewish minorities and the societies that they are a part of. 

These accusations, like any other form of racism, need to be addressed. And when accusations of anti-semitism are aimed at a critique of Israel they need to be examined through the lens of the structural power that exists between Israelis and Palestinians.

The power structure between Israelis and Palestinians is similar to that of any colonial society with the indigenous colonised people.  

Historically, the majority of residents of Palestine, where Israel established itself, were Palestinians. In 1948, the majority of the population was expelled by the Israeli military and militias or left their homes in an attempt to protect their families.

The newly declared state of Israel took control of their property and continues to deny these refugees the right to return to their homeland.

Those Palestinians who remained and were issued Israeli citizenship face systematic and social discrimination that includes much of their land being confiscated by the state.

Since the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank in 1967, Israel controls key aspects of the lives of the Palestinian population through its military occupation. 

This includes control over the population registry and over the movement of goods and people.

In the West Bank, Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian land.

And yet Israel claims that resistance, or even objection to these conditions, by Palestinians or their supporters, is due to anti-semitism!

When Sir Keir Starmer justified his sacking of Rebecca Long Bailey, stating that he wanted to “rebuild trust with the Jewish community,” he painted all Jews with one stroke of the same brush.

This denies the existence of many Jews who, like me, oppose Israeli apartheid, including many Jewish members of the Labour Party, and a growing number of young anti-zionist Jews who also represent and are part of the Jewish community.

Jews are not a homogeneous group with the same views — far from it. The assumption that Israel represents Jews and that all Jews are zionists is in itself a false, anti-Jewish assumption.

Jews and Israel are not the same thing. By conflating the two, Sir Keir Starmer is not standing up for an oppressed minority.

Accusations of anti-semitism made against critics of Israel serve to intimidate us from speaking out on Israel’s discriminatory practices.

But we will not be silenced. Calling out Israel for its disregard for international law and UN resolutions is urgent. It is a matter of life or death.

Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are being strangled by the Israeli-imposed siege. Gazan patients cannot leave to receive life-saving medical care. Bombs dropped on Gaza, again, earlier this week went largely unnoticed outside of Gaza.

Palestinians in the West Bank, which is already carved up by illegal Israeli settlements, the illegal apartheid wall and illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem, now face another round of massive land theft and annexation while the world watches.

Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are facing increasing institutional discrimination. And millions of Palestinian refugees are still denied the right to return to their homeland.

We need to speak out and work together with Palestinians to achieve freedom and justice. Silence is complicity and it is not an option.

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