Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian. Photo: Wikimedia Commons Israeli soldiers arresting a Palestinian. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Pointing out the link between US police brutality and Israel’s barbaric tactics against Palestinians is no conspiracy theory, argues Shabbir Lakha

In an interview with the Independent covering a range of things, Maxine Peake said:

“Systemic racism is a global issue. The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”

This was immediately labelled as an antisemitic conspiracy theory. The Independent added a denial from a spokesperson for the Israeli police next to the quote and issued a clarification at the bottom of the article that includes “While it is true that US law enforcement officials have travelled to Israel for training, there has been no suggestion that this training involved the tactics referred to in the article”. Rebecca Long-Bailey who retweeted Maxine Peake’s article was sacked by Keir Starmer within hours.

It is established fact that US police forces – including the Minneapolis police who killed George Floyd – have undergone training with Israeli military, security services or police officials. It is widely documented that the same Israeli forces have committed human rights abuses against Palestinians and used tactics that include restraining using knees on necks.

The Israeli military and police violently arrest and detain Palestinians on a daily basis and routinely kill Palestinians. Just two days ago Ahmed Erakat was shot in cold blood at an Israeli checkpoint and left to bleed to death. The Palestinian prisoner rights organisation Addameer documented at least 6,500 arrests in 2018 of which at least 1,080 were children. Protesters, medics and journalists in Gaza were shot by Israeli snipers on a weekly basis for over a year.

Whether or not the specific officers who killed George Floyd were trained by Israel and whether that specific training included using the knee-on-neck tactic is at best a flimsy excuse to claim a conspiracy theory. The connection between the state-sanctioned militarisation of the US police and the violence they perpetrate against black Americans with Israel’s military occupation of Palestinians and the violence that it carries out is clear to see. From training US police to “battle-tested” military and surveillance equipment to a shared culture of racist state repression, the US and Israeli states are completely intertwined on this question.

It is even more absurd that to say this has been labelled an antisemitic conspiracy theory simply because of the mention of Israel. The cynical manipulation of the definition of antisemitism to include any criticism of the Israeli state is clear to see in this instance. It is wholly unacceptable to conflate criticism of Israel with antisemitism – especially at a moment when Israel is due to begin its annexation of large parts of the West Bank in violation of international law.

The demonisation of Jeremy Corbyn and the suspension of left wing Labour members on spurious grounds – which has accelerated since Starmer became leader – was always about attacking the left and the Palestine solidarity movement. Attacking Maxine Peake and sacking Rebecca Long-Bailey is a part of this witch-hunt and it must be opposed.

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Shabbir Lakha

Shabbir Lakha is a Stop the War officer, a People's Assembly activist and a member of Counterfire.