On June 4, 2015, attorney Andrew Branca wrote an essay titled, “VIDEO: Shooting of Tamir Rice by Police Goes to Grand Jury”, (Legal Insurrection). His essay discussed a shooting incident in Cleveland, Ohio in which a 12-year old boy was shot to death by police. This incident is instructive. It teaches us to take a fresh look at similar incidents in Israel, in which Israel police and/or IDF (Israel Defense Force) soldiers kill Arab youth.
The Cleveland, Ohio incident had taken place in November, 2014. For some, it was yet another example of a senseless-but-predictable white-police-kill-black-youth story (Shuan King, “Tamir Rice: The story behind the senseless killing, character assassination, and resulting cover-up”, Daily Kos, December 2, 2014).
For many blacks, what had happened in that incident seemed clear: the youth, Tamir Rice, was shot and killed by Cleveland police for the ‘crime’ of playing with a toy gun, and being black and male (Chauncey Devega, “What Does the Police Killing of Tamir Rice Tell Us About Colorblind Racism and the Gun Right?”, Alternet, December 4, 2014). The 12-year old had died for a reason: the white society in which he lived has ‘niggerized’ blacks (ibid). Whites have debased black humanity (ibid). The boy died because white racial paranoia and incompetence saw a 12-year-old with a toy gun as a grown man” (ibid).
Less ideologically-charged descriptions were just as damning: “Tamir Rice was throwing snowballs and playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park on November 22 when a police car rolled into the snowy field and, within two seconds of getting out of his squad car, officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed the black 12-year-old” (German Lopez, “Cleveland officials conclude investigation into police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice”, Vox, June 3, 2015).
Attorney Branca (above, ibid) doesn’t agree. According to his account of CCTV footage—and 911 emergency-response phone tapes—released by the police to the public, here’s what happened: a 911 call came in that there was ‘a guy with a pistol’ walking around a park in Cleveland. The police responded with a cruiser which stopped within 20 feet of the ‘guy’. This ‘guy’, police later reported, was 5’7”, 190 pounds. As soon as the cruiser arrived on the scene, the ‘guy’ immediately reached for a gun in his waistband. At that point, police “engaged him with defensive fire” (ibid), killing him.
The gun, upon examination, turned out to be a pellet or ‘airsoft’ gun.
Attorney Branca—a specialist is the law of self-defense—makes the following observation: “a police officer (and anyone else acting in self-defense) is permitted by law to respond to the reasonable perception of an object as a deadly weapon, and it matters not if the weapon later turns out to be unloaded or incapable of firing or a pellet gun or a toy”.
For their part, Cleveland police believe that their investigation, now just completed, shows a “lack of evidence to support that a crime was committed in the shooting of Tamir Rice” (ibid). Many in the city disagree. They want criminal charges brought against the officer whose bullet killed the boy.
Compare this Cleveland incident with one that took place in Israel in April, 2015 (Daniel K Eisenbud, Khaled Abu Toameh, “Terrorist shot dead after stabbing Border Policeman in Hebron”, Jerusalem Post, April 25, 2015). This Israel story involves 2 incidents on the same day during which 2 Arabs were killed by Israeli police.
In the first incident, in Hebron, a 20-year old Arab was shot dead by Israeli border police after he had stabbed a police officer in the head and chest. In a second incident near Ma’ale Adumim, a 17- year old Arab youth attacked a border policeman with a cleaver and had fled; a short while later in a nearby location, the same Arab youth charged other police with a knife. He ignored warning shots to stop. He was then shot and killed.
The reaction of the Palestinian Authority to these incidents is reminiscent of the more ‘ideologically charged’ black community reactions in Cleveland (Devega, above). The PA condemned the killings. It said, there was no justification for killing these victims (ibid). The killings were ugly crimes (ibid). They have occurred “more than once under various pretexts” (ibid). These attacks are aimed at the ‘Palestinian’ people (ibid). They are examples of the occupation (ibid). The killings are a crime against humanity (ibid). They are killings that will be added to the “Israeli war crimes that would be brought before the International Criminal Court” (ibid).
Compare the two incidents. Compare how the victims died. Compare the ideological content of the responses. Compare how that black youth was ‘niggerized’ by white society and how the Arab youth were ‘victimized’ by Israeli 'occupation'.
There is a war here. It’s a war not limited to Israel. It’s a war between chaos and civilization.
Which side are you on? Which side will you support?