News from May 26 to May 31

Palestinian special needs student killed in Jerusalem, George Floyd protests, and Twitter policy

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Israeli police shoot and kill unarmed special needs Palestinian man in Jerusalem:

What happened? On Saturday, Israeli police shot and killed Iyad al-Halak, a Palestinian special needs student, in Jerusalem as he headed to school. According to the Israeli police, officers noticed he was holding a suspicious object and asked him to stop, but he attempted to flee the scene. Two border policemen pursued al-Halak, eventually shooting him after he reached a dead end. The border policemen, who were not the initial officers who asked al-Halak to stop, claimed that the police informed them it was a terror incident. Both border policemen are being investigated, and the Israeli police placed one of the officers on house arrest. Israeli police have not found the suspicious object, which al-Halak’s father believes was his cell phone. 

What has the reaction been? Politicians from across the Israeli political spectrum weighed in:

Mk Omer Cassif of the predominantly Israeli-Arab Joint List described the killing as “murder by police.”

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh said, “We must fight against the expected whitewashing of the case and make sure the cops sit in jail, while at the same time remembering that they only pulled the trigger, but the occupation loaded their weapon.”

Israel’s leader of the opposition Yair Lapid, whose daughter is autistic, described al-Hayak’s death as “heartbreaking.”

The Israeli police said in a Hebrew post that the killing was a “rare incident” and that “the roles and missions of the police forces in Jerusalem, and especially in the Old City, are particularly complex and often involve [making] complex decisions, sacrifices and life endangerment.”

Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz apologized for al-Halak’s death, saying, “We apologize for the shooting, we will investigate the incident” and that “I am sure that the subject will be investigated quickly and conclusions will be reached.”

Further reading:https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-05-30/israeli-forces-kill-unarmed-autistic-palestinian-man

American Jewish communities react to the killing of George Floyd:

As you probably know, cities all over America have been grappling with protests over police brutality following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. While there is obviously lots to say about what’s happening right now, this newsletter will only focus on how it relates to Jews. If you want more information on the protests themselves, here are a variety of resources written by reporters and commentators focused on them.

How have the protests affected Jews? Unfortunately, some of the protests have been co-opted by vandals and looters who have been targeting local businesses and places of worship. Two Jewish communities in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, California, and Richmond, Virginia, were affected by incidents of vandalism during the protests. In Los Angeles, several synagogues, including Congregation Beth Israel and the Kehilas Yaakov shul, were defaced with anti-semitic graffiti. Jewish pharmacies and grocery stores were also reportedly looted. In Richmond, a protestor threw a brick through a window of the Beth Ahabah synagogue.

How have Jewish leaders reacted to the protests? In response to a tweet referencing the graffiti on the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue, the Los Angeles Anti-Defamation League said, “Vandalism is never ok. Antisemitism is never ok. The answer to hate and bigotry is not more hate. We are better than this Los Angeles.”

Many Jewish leaders have also issued statements on the broader situation:

The CEO of the national Anti-Defamation League, Jonathan Greenblatt, said, “We stand in solidarity with the Black community as they yet again are subject to pain and suffering at the hands of a racist and unjust system. While it is a necessary first step in the pathway towards justice that former Officer Derek Chauvin was taken into custody yesterday, it is simply not enough. Based on the horrifying cell phone footage that has rightfully outraged Americans across the country, it is clear that the three other former officers who participated in Mr. Floyd’s death need to be held responsible for their actions to the fullest extent of our legal system. The Hennepin County District Attorney and local investigators must do everything in their power to ensure the wheels of justice turn swiftly. As an organization committed to fighting all forms of hate, we know that this brutal death follows an explosion of racist murders and hate crimes across the U.S. As an agency that has stood for justice and fair treatment to all since our founding in 1913, we know that this has occurred at a time when communities of color have been reeling from the disproportionate health impacts and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

In short, systemic injustice and inequality calls for systemic change. Now.”

The Jewish Federation of North America said, “This week has reminded us yet again that we have a long way to go in our work towards a more just society for all. We will not stop fighting for a world free of racism and bigotry in all of its forms.”

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs said, “JCPA condemns the killings of Black Americans by law enforcement. We stand in solidarity and will do everything in our power to see through systemic changes in law enforcement and in our criminal justice system. We agree with Rep Lewis that all protests should be nonviolent.”

For more statements from Jewish organizations and officials, check out this JTA piece.

Further reading: https://forward.com/news/national/447677/minnesota-jewish-leaders-speak-out-on-death-of-george-floyd/

Israel asks Twitter to issue warnings on Iranian leader’s tweets:

What happened? This week, Twitter controversially labeled two of President Trump’s tweets about voter fraud with links to mail-in voting resources. President Trump responded by signing an executive order which targeted Twitter by limiting its legal protections. He argued that by inconsistently choosing which posts to label with disclaimers, Twitter morphed from a neutral platform to an editorialized publication. Later in the week, Twitter labeled one of President Trump’s tweets as having violated Twitter’s rules on glorifying violence.

What does this have to do with Jews? The Trump Administration and Israeli politicians pointed to Twitter’s refusal to ban Iran’s Ayatollah Khameini as evidence that Twitter’s policy was politically motivated. They argue that Khomeini’s belligerent tweets about Israel should be subject to Twitter scrutiny. Here’s an example of a recent Khameini tweet:

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen sent Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey a letter calling for the immediate suspension of Khameini’s account. The White House also criticized Twitter for allowing “terrorists, dictators, and foreign propagandists to abuse its platform.”

Further reading: https://www.jpost.com/middle-east/iran-news/twitter-censors-trump-for-glorifying-violence-lets-iran-threaten-israel-629671

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