Ferguson is Not Gaza: Clarity Not Confusion Through Identifying the Problem

Ferguson is Not Gaza:
Clarity Not Confusion Through Identifying the Problem


Leonard Zwelling


         As this article shows, there are those who would equate the
violence in response to the police shooting of the unarmed Michael Brown in
Ferguson to violence in the Middle East that may be a harbinger of a new intifada.
There seems to be some collective rationalization or justification in the
conflation of these two tragedies.

is no doubt that the plight of Black Americans, especially young black men who
come in contact with the criminal justice system, deserves some immediate
scrutiny and a meaningful national discussion and response because what we have
now is clearly not working. America still has not gotten over its racial

         Indeed, the plight of the Arabs who live or whose families
have lived in or who trace their family roots to the land that was formerly the
British Mandate of Palestine and is today modern day Israel is also a serious
problem about which I have written frequently. I have not addressed race
relations in America for a very good reason. I am not very knowledgeable and do
not pretend to be able to put myself in the shoes of a young Black American
male or someone who lives in a town like Ferguson. While it may be true that I
have an opinion on everything, there are some opinions that are better kept to
myself for even I don’t believe they have a great deal of validity and are too
tinged with life experience to add clarity.

         However, I can surely say that these two problems, one of
which flows in my blood and the other of which I can only observe from afar,
have absolutely nothing to do with one another. Those who would use one problem
to perpetuate violence surrounding the other are doing no one, Black, White,
Jew or Arab, any favors and themselves the grave disservice of trying to make
two complicated situations simple. They are not. At a time we most need
clarity, those conflating the two issues are sowing the seeds of confusion if
not doing even worse.

         The Middle East is a mess, just as it has been for years. It
is likely that it will stay that way until the principals on the ground in the former
BMP or the made-up countries in the area like Iraq, Lebanon, Syria or Jordan
decide to find a way to live together. And let us be honest, Israel was just as
made up in 1948 it just ran with it a lot better, although here come new elections
again because Mr. Netanyahu cannot seem to get along with anyone less bellicose
than he. The United States supports Israel as the lone democracy in the area
having had a long, but difficult alliance with the Jewish state. This
relationship may well be at its all time low or at least as low as it was
during the Suez Canal crisis or the blood-letting in Lebanon.

is unlikely that the current American posture towards ISIS will really
eliminate that group as a threat to peace. I really cannot see the Iranians
making peace with the US after the last 30+ years of bad blood between the two
countries even if they are taking turns with us bombing ISIS positions. I have no idea
what to do with Gaza, but the rockets and tunnels suggest that simply removing
Jews from land and turning it over to the Arabs will not create peace. The
behavior of Hamas has done more to move the Israelis away from a land for peace
swap than ever and may well have ended any chance for a two-state solution in
the near future. None of this has anything to do with Ferguson.

         Over militarized police forces, the violence against and
between young Black Americans, and the torching of many Black-owned businesses in
response to the “no-bill” grand jury verdict in the Michael Brown case have
destabilized the fragile peace in race relations in America. The absolute mess
the local authorities made of the case by not indicting the police officer on
probable cause and presenting the evidence in the open to a real jury instead
of having an entire trial in secret before a grand jury escapes my
understanding. (Announcing the decision after dark borders on the irresponsible
if not the insane.) Process matters and this process was hopelessly flawed if
the goal of the process was to gain peace and closure in Ferguson under
horrible circumstances in a which a young man was killed by police gun fire,
regardless of whether or not lethal force was warranted. That is for a jury to
decide in court not a grand jury behind closed doors.

         It is always tempting to link big stories with big ideas
that explain the nuances and the consequences of both stories in a linked
fashion. I do it all the time and perhaps too frequently.  That is not possible here. The Middle East is
unique in all the world as a place of contention and strife which has escaped
resolution for 66 years, my whole life, as I was born shortly after Israel was.
Equating the situation on the ground in Israel with that in Ferguson is

         But, those events in America, which are not limited to
Ferguson, are anything but ludicrous. They demonstrate that we still have long
way to go six years after the election of the first Black President to heal the
damage caused when a whole population of future Americans was brought to these
shores for economic purposes and to be enslaved without the consent of the population. Nothing can correct that wrong, but a good start would be admitting
that we still have a problem requiring a meaningful American dialogue about
race and how to move the discussion forward without burning any more buildings
or killing any more young people.

         I am the first one to try to find the big picture meaning in
seemingly unrelated events. Not this time. The Middle East is what it is and
has been. It is up to those who live there to change it if they wish to. The
racial discussion in our country needs addressing too, right now. We cannot
allow this latest outrage, and I don’t mean just the killing of Mr. Brown, but
the entire way in which the authorities handled the killing’s aftermath, to
prevent a meaningful discussion that ought to be led by the President in a town
hall in, oh let’s say, Ferguson. How about on Christmas Eve? Talk about a gift
to the American people!

         It is bad enough that we don’t trust the government,
lawyers, medicine, the educational system, or the Supreme Court. Those
judgments by Americans according to recent polls may be justified. Fortunately,
we still trust the military and that is trust well placed. The police are our
daily protectors on the domestic front as the military are on the foreign one.
We need to give the police our support and they in turn need to work double
hard to earn it.

         If we can all agree on that, we can go a lot farther a lot
faster in America than they can in the land that was once the British Mandate
of Palestine.

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