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The Cost of Indifference
By Imam Khalid Fattah Griggs
On May 25, 2020, the attention of much of the world was riveted watching the slow agonizing murder of George Floyd by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Darnella Frazier, a 17-year-old teenage girl, courageously captured on her cell phone video camera convicted murderer Chauvin pressing his knees to the neck and back of George Floyd for 9 minutes and 29seconds until Floyd’s handcuffed body was lifeless, face down in the street. After years of public outcry over police officers across the country killing unarmed African Americans with impunity, the Floyd murder was a tipping point. For the first time in modern United States history, massive demonstrations were continuously held in multiple cities in all 50 states, including Hawaii and Alaska. Protests were also held in countries around the world. Unlike demonstrations in the United States against police brutality in the past, these demonstrations included an unprecedented number of Whites and Latinos. Bills were introduced in federal, state, and local legislatures, often for the first time, calling for the repeal of qualified immunity, the legal principle that grants police officers and other designated government officials immunity from civil suits when their actions occur during the performance of their jobs. In the US House of Representatives, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act is under consideration. The bill increases accountability for law enforcement misconduct, restricts the use of certain policing practices, enhances transparency and data collection, and establishes best practices and training requirements. City Councils and County Commissions across the country held hearings with some agreeing to compensate African Americans for centuries of unpaid labor.
Approximately one year later, in a land half the globe away and similarly troubled by apartheid-era supremacist policing practices against an oppressed marginalized population, Israeli policeviolated the sanctity of the third most sacred site in Islam, Al Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem,during Islam’s holiest month, Ramadan, within the last 10 most revered days of the month. On May 7, Israeli police invaded the sanctuary of Al-Aqsa Mosque using excessive force to dislodge a few protestors who had non-violently demonstrated their opposition to Israeli plans to evict Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem. Violent hordes of Israeli extremists had stormed through the neighborhood forcibly removing and assaulting the residents.The police entered Al-Aqsa firing stun guns, tear gas grenades, and what are euphemistically referred to as rubber bullets but more accurately described as relatively large metal pellets thinly encased in rubber. It was reported that at least six people were permanently blinded during the assaults. In the resulting melee, 330 Muslim worshippers were injured, centuries old windows and wooden doors were damaged or destroyed. Renovations from a fire deliberately set in Al-Aqsa Mosque on August 21, 1969 by Denis Michael Rohan, an Australian Christian Zionist, are still yet to be completed. Recent increased tensions in the area surrounding the mosque have been fueled by Israeli police allowing radical Israeli settlers to storm into Al-Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock Mosque, with their shoes on interrupting Muslim worshippers in prayer and contemplation while loudly chanting slogans and taunts. Violations of UNESCO (United NationsEducational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) prohibitions on allowing non-Muslim’saccess to worship inside the historic mosques have been increasingly violated the years with the cooperation of Israeli police.
The similarities between Israeli and US occupation style of policing rather than protect and servepractices are not coincidental. Top law enforcement officials in major police departments across the United States have gone to Israel for training in occupation techniques and methods. Afternumerous public demonstrations and successful political mobilizations, the city of Durham, NCis one and maybe the only municipality where police officers are prohibited from training in Israel. Police departments across the United States have secured military grade weapons including armed personnel carriers, tanks, predator drones and other weapons of mass destruction in preparation for containment of any civil unrest particularly in African American and other non-White communities. Police departments and military units in the US have not routinely unleashed deadly force on entire neighborhoods as Israelis have done most recently in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. On May 13, 1985, though, Philadelphia Mayor Wilson Goode authorized the use of a helicopter delivered firebomb on the roof of house in a middle-class Philadelphia African American neighborhood. The house was occupied by members of MOVE, an alternative lifestyle African American group. The fire was then allowed to burn completely out of control destroying 61 homes in a two-block radius. Five children and six adults died in the fire.
Seventy-three years ago, Palestinians experienced what they refer to as a “Nakba” (Catastrophe, Disaster). The specific reference is to the destruction of 400-600 Palestinian villages, over 300,000 men women and children forced by terrorist gangs like Irgun and Haganah into refugee camps in neighboring Muslim majority Arab countries, into virtual concentration camps in the West Bank and Gaza, or to countries that would accept them. Christian Palestinians, whilediscriminated against by the policies of the Israeli government, are not forced to live in resource-starved camps like their Muslim counterparts under the watchful and intimidating eyes of the Israeli military. At the end of the 1947-49 Palestine War, the United Nations adopted Resolution 194 that resolved that (Palestinian) refugees who had been forcibly driven from their homes had the right to return to their properties and live at peace with their (Settler) neighbors at the earliest possible time and should be given compensation for those choosing not to return. The government of Israel has defied this UN Resolution and many others for over 70 years while giving Palestinian homes and property to American and European settlers. After the 2006election of the Palestinian resistance group Hamas as the governing authority for Gaza, Israel imposed a land, air, and sea blockade over the area, one of the most densely populated areas in the world. Two million Gazans have been unable to secure life-sustaining food, baby formula, medicine, concrete for rebuilding structures destroyed by Israeli rockets or bulldozers, or other essential items. Gaza is often referred to as the world’s largest outdoor prison due to the restrictions imposed on its citizens. In the camps, water is unnecessarily and indiscriminately shut off by the Israeli government. Gazans are having their daily caloric intake monitored and controlled so that they have just enough food and water to barely survive.
The State of Palestine is recognized by 137 nations. Sadly, the world is witnessing Nakba 2021for the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank. It is not the first time that the Israeli military has relentlessly attacked Gaza, but it is the most destructive and deadly. The military assaults being carried out by the Israeli military in Gaza are nothing short of genocide. Civilian housing is being targeted and destroyed by sophisticated missiles, most of which were supplied by the United States. In the short span of less than two weeks, more than 200 Palestinians have been killed, more than 60 children, more than 35 women, three of whom were pregnant. Roads leading to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City have been targeted by missiles making it virtually impossible to get to the hospital for treatment. Palestinian doctors and other health professionals are being targeted for murder. Critical infrastructure, housing, and markets have been destroyedcomplicating an already subsistence existence. Since the start of vaccinations for the Covid-19 global pandemic, Israel has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world. Yet, Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank have had only 1 percent of their population receiving protection.
With notable exceptions, most Muslim-majority nations have entered pacts and alliances with Israel that seem to preclude their assisting or even condemning Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. Ironically, some of these same nations appear to have little compunction in acting treacherously or even warring against other Muslims. The Black Freedom Struggle in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s recognized the intersectionality of the liberation struggles of all peoples against oppression, including Palestinians. For this reason, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, formerly H Rap Brown, Kwame Ture, formerly Stokely Carmichael, Muhammad Ahmad, formerly Max Stanford, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Dhoruba bin Wahad other leaders of the Black Panther Party, SNCC and other organizations embraced the struggle of the Palestinian people in their struggle against genocidal assaults of the Israeli government. Leaders of some African nations during this same period identified with and wholeheartedly supported the struggles of the Palestinian people. Leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Sekou Toure, Patrice Lumumba and many others supported the Palestinian cause.
The images of young Palestinians smiling during their violent arrests by Israeli police for simple protesting and their demonstrating a willingness to confront their heavily armed opposition Goliaths with stones are encouraging reminders that Believers must put our trust in Allah the Most High and be patient. Prophet Muhammad has reminded us that Allah is on the side of the oppressed and that there is no barrier between the supplications of the oppressed and Allah. The next Nakba is on the doorstep of those who are too weak or afraid to take a stand for justice. Pray for Palestine and work to liberate it from the oppression that weakens it.