A Tale of Two Cities

o-FERGUSON-facebook Two grand juries issued their decisions this week. In Jerusalem an Israeli border guard was indicted for firing live ammunition on a crowd of young Palestinian protesters and killing a 17-year-old. In Ferguson, Missouri, another grand jury decided not to indict the police officer who fired six shots into the body of an unarmed 18-year-old. One victim was Palestinian, the other African-American. Both lived in regions where escalating violence and racism are a part of daily life. Both lived under systems that justify police violence against unarmed civilians. In both countries indictments of police officers are extremely rare. What made the difference ?

In the case of Nadim Nuwara, the Palestinian teenager, whom the officer accused of throwing rocks as part of a protest, the incident happened in front of a private home where four security cameras captured the shooting. The Israeli guard’s story could not hold up in the face of such testimony. In addition, forensic evidence determined that Nadim was killed by a live bullet fired from the officer’s gun. Israeli border police are required to use rubber bullets when dispersing crowds.

None of us knows what really happened between Darren Wilson and Michael Brown that night. But would the officer have acted differently if cameras were rolling ? (Some U.S. police forces are now requiring all their officers to wear body cameras.) Clearly, with each week delivering fresh headlines of new police shootings of unarmed black youth, American citizens need some way to keep our peace officers accountable. Requiring body cameras is one way to do just that, especially given the recent and ongoing militarization of local constabularies, where more money seems to be pumped into weaponizing than training.

Still, one has to ask why the escalating violence ? Why now ? Certainly, such incidents are not rare in the racially charged United States of America, with our long history of violence and injustice against people of color. But the recent almost daily reoccurrence of this kind of violence is alarming. Why is it happening ?

Perhaps it is not surprising given the rising tide of violence worldwide. Syria. Ukraine. Iraq. Afghanistan. Nigeria. Kenya. Gaza. Human life seems to be growing cheaper by the day. Racism, too, is enjoying a comeback, brought to us courtesy of right-wing regimes everywhere. In the U.S., with the help of radio shock jocks and media outlets like Fox News, it has become almost respectable again to be a white supremacist. White people here are afraid, the demographics are tilting, and it would seem, for some, that genocide is their only recourse.

But I would lay the bulk of the growing violence on a lack of global leadership. The U.S., in its unswerving commitment to blind foreign policies and failed military strategies and its backing of repressive regimes worldwide, has long abdicated its once vaunted role as peacebroker. When so much of your economy is based on the manufacturing of hammers, then of course everything looks like a nail. Our drone program, designed to save American lives, kills far more innocent civilians than it cares to admit. Such strikes are about as surgical as a potato-masher, they are racist to the core, and they are responsible for recruiting more jihadists than even bin-Ladin on a good day.

When the Nobel-Peace-Prize-winning Leader of the Free World continues to justify war after war, even the assassination of American citizens, how can we expect local law enforcement not to behave like Genghis Khan on crack. Now there is one arena where the trickle-down effect actually exists !

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