Written by Scott A. Shay
With yet another terror attack this past week, some commentators are comparing Israeli and American police brutality. This comparison is now constant. The 2014 the hashtag Ferguson is Gaza has won over a large number progressive movements in America. It is shorthand for the idea that Israel is the center of a global movement to oppress people of color. The problem is, it is a conspiracy theory with a long history that will do nothing to solve police brutality.
The idea that Ferguson is Gaza is based on a few specific points. Angela Davis, a living idol for many on the far left, devoted a whole book to this comparison in 2016 that unselfconsciously shows it is a concocted fantasy. She writes "The militarization of the police leads us to think about Israel and the militarization of the police there-if only the images of the police and not the demonstrators had been shown, one might have assumed that Ferguson was Gaza.” This comparison of images, for which she gives no actual basis, is apparently sensible to her and her acolytes. She and her supporters also argue without any evidence that Israel is the center for training the police to oppress people of color. They also claim, again not bothering to back up their argument, that the blockade on Gaza is a deliberate effort to model and inspire the incarceration of a whole society based on race. Israel is in other words a white supremacist state that is the leader for other white supremacists worldwide, starting with the US, in their oppression of people of color. Hence Ferguson is Gaza.
Aside from not adhering to basic standard of evidence to prove her comparison, the is another problem. Even the most cursory look at the two locations show that Ferguson and Gaza have almost nothing in common other than both being on the planet Earth.
First let's look at the historical context. The demonstrators in Ferguson were for the most part African Americans, descendants from Africans who white Americans enslaved and brought over to the Americas, and after abolition, oppressed legally, politically, and economically. The American police are a domestic armed force, which has a history of violence against African Americans since its inception. It has white majority, though people of color are also represented. In contrast, the Gazan protestors are descendants of Arabs who conquered the entire Middle East and North Africa and ruled it for many centuries, oppressing non-Muslim and non-Arab populations. Since 2006 they have been governed by Hamas, which is sworn to the destruction of Israel. The Israeli army is a national army. It is composed of Israeli citizens who are descendants of Jews who once lived in the land of Israel before it was conquered by various empires including the Arab one. Many Israelis are also descendants of diaspora Jews expelled by the countries in the Arab League that have been at war with Israel from 1948 onward.
Now let's looks at the present conflicts. The demonstrators in Ferguson were unarmed, and unfunded, seeking primarily to protest against police violence against their community. The local Ferguson police were on all sides in this domestic situation. In contrast, protests and armed conflict in Gaza since 2006 have been organized by the Hamas government, who not only authorize incendiary balloons and kites, but have used armed rockets and heavy weapons. Hamas spends tens of millions of dollars on the building of tunnels to invade Israel sovereign territory and to carry out murder and kidnappings of Israelis. Hamas is also well funded by Qatar and
Iran who like Hamas seek the destruction of Israel and the ethnic cleansing of its Jewish citizens. In short, Gazans are part of wider regional armed conflict between multiple parties and states against Israel, whereas Ferguson pits a minority population against a police force and other systemic social forces.
Finally, let's look at the police. Israel along with many other countries has conducted some joint training with American police forces. In the case of Israel, these sessions have focused on counter terrorism, not physical tactics.
In other words, nothing about the slogan "Ferguson is Gaza" is true. Rather it is a conspiracy theory revamping the old Soviet Canard that Zionism is the heart an international conspiracy to harm the Soviet Union and all national liberation movements. Angela Davis, who joined the American Communist Party in the late 1960s and continues to call herself a communist even is a direct link between these older Soviet theories and new updated versions.
The consequence of tying a genuine political concern with a conspiracy theory is a dangerous distraction and a indication that the movement is being manipulated by actors with very different goals. It is indeed a very bad sign when a generation of young people who genuinely want to address police brutality in the US can't differentiate between policing in America and an unrelated political conflict on the other side of the world. Something is wrong with our education system and our media if young people don't know to ask the basic questions about politics and society or to demand basic standards of evidence to back up accusations regardless of whether we agree on political objectives.