Don’t blame George Floyd’s death on a Palestinian shopkeeper

“The New York Times” compares the store owner in the George Floyd case to Jews. They didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Protesters gather outside of the Cup Foods store in Minneapolis, near the site where George Floyd, 46, was killed at the hands of a police officer, May 26, 2020. Credit: Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons.
Protesters gather outside of the Cup Foods store in Minneapolis, near the site where George Floyd, 46, was killed at the hands of a police officer, May 26, 2020. Credit: Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

Was the killing of George Floyd partly the fault of Muslim racism and the desire of immigrant shopkeepers to uphold the rule of law? According to an article published in The New York Times, which also denigrated those small-business owners by comparing them to Jews, the answer is yes.

The callous murder of Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, by a Minneapolis policeman wasn’t just a tragedy. It was the spark that lit up the whole country as Americans have become transfixed by the debate about how to combat racism and police misconduct. Unfortunately, it has also led to a less laudable impulse to shame, shun and silence people. That happens even if they agree that black lives matter, but dissent from any part of the official movement’s radical ideology about the United States being an incorrigibly racist country, the need to defund or abolish the police, or simply say or write the word “matter” in any context but after the words “black lives.”

The search for scapegoats for Floyd’s killing has mostly focused on police, who have been demonized to the point where some otherwise sober people have now endorsed the thoroughly insane idea that society would be better off without them. That’s especially true about minority communities who suffer most from the lack of protection that their absence would create.

But that wasn’t enough for the Times, which bows to no one in their wokeness and ardent desire to spread the shame for America’s sins. More than two weeks after Floyd’s death, they paused in their attacks on the police long enough to publish an article that pointed to different scapegoats: a Palestinian shopkeeper, Muslim racism against blacks and the idea that ordinary citizens should support law enforcement.

The article by Moustafa Bayoumi, an English professor at Brooklyn College, chooses to focus on one of the lesser known personages in the Floyd drama: Mahmoud Abumayyaleh, the Palestinian-American who owns Cup Foods, the convenience store where Floyd tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.

As a different Times article related, Abumayyaleh has been “bombarded with hate messages.” Though his store has been a fixture in the neighborhood for 30 years, he is fearful of a backlash against him, even though he is not responsible for Floyd’s death. That’s why he has condemned what happened and, bowing to public anger, said he would stop calling the police “until the police stop killing innocent people.”

Bayoumi endorses the false assumption that an innocent person being killed is the normal and inevitable result of calling the police. But the point of his piece is to direct reader anger at some other targets.

His opposition to cooperation with the police is not just motivated by the fallacious claim that all police are at war with all African-Americans. It also rests on the notion that the “broken windows” philosophy of law enforcement is a form of racial prejudice. “Broken windows” was the formula employed by Rudy Giuliani’s administration of New York City in the 1990s and that of Michael Bloomberg, who followed him as mayor. It calls for the police to enforce all laws, even minor ones, so as to demonstrate intolerance for lawlessness, which inevitably leads to a decline in serious crimes.

While the main beneficiaries of lower crime rates are residents of minority communities, in Bayoumi’s telling, it’s a form of oppression. Efforts to persuade storeowners to cooperate with the cops are therefore the moral equivalent of collaboration with a foreign occupier. He depicts the Palestinian shopkeeper, a small businessman working hard for his share of the American dream, as complicit with oppression.

In order to put it in a context to make it clear how awful the store owner’s role in all of this is, Bayoumi then quotes a passage from an 1967 essay by author James Baldwin published by the Times with the anachronistic title “Negroes are Anti-Semitic Because They’re Anti-White.” In it, Baldwin seethes with bitterness about Jewish storekeepers operating shops in Harlem, whom he wrongly blames for complicity in the suffering of their black customers.

In Bayoumi’s view, a Palestinian who owns a shop patronized by blacks is behaving like those Jewish shopkeepers. Nor does it occur to him that by passing a counterfeit bill—an offense for which no one deserves to die, but which was still a felony involving jail time—Floyd was stealing from the store and its owner and contributing to the problems of the community.

Not content with insulting Abumayyaleh by comparing him to Jews—at least in the view of his Times’s audience—and labeling him a police collaborator, Bayoumi then calls him and other Muslim Americans out for racism against blacks. Yet he presents no evidence—other than the fact that one of his employees called the cops when Floyd wouldn’t return the goods he fraudulently obtained—to back up that charge.

About one-third of American Muslims are black, a figure that includes membership in extremist Islamist factions like Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam, one of the country’s leading purveyors of Jew-hatred. But Bayoumi claims that they are not made to feel welcome by other non-black Muslims.

What’s fascinating about that observation is that the Times and other liberal outlets are quick to claim that anyone who pays attention to the prevalence of anti-Semitic attitudes among Palestinians, and other Arab and Muslim populations, is engaging in Islamophobia. And they tend to express surprise if not resentment when Jews object to those who treat Farrakhan as a respected community leader as opposed to a hatemonger.

But in the aftermath of the Floyd killing, Muslims like this one Palestinian-American, have, in Bayoumi’s account, become the moral equivalent of Jews who are reviled for their whiteness, rather than appreciated for their support for civil rights.

Contrary to this assertion, crime prevention is not merely a way to pit Jews and Arabs against blacks, by which the former profits by the travails of the latter. The rule of law is not prejudice. It is the engine by which minorities and the poor can better themselves. It is deeply wrong to blame hardworking immigrants—whether the Jews of an earlier era or a Palestinian-American today—for racism or police brutality.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that a mob of woke employees forced the Times to declare that publishing an op-ed by a U.S. senator about restoring order after riots and looting was irresponsible and endangered people. But now they have published a piece that both engages in anti-Semitic stereotyping and makes wild, unsubstantiated charges about Muslim racism being partly to blame for the death of Floyd. The paper’s insatiable hunger for scapegoats for that crime is bad enough. However, to buy into efforts not merely to trash the rule of law, but to pit Jews and Arabs against blacks, is reprehensible.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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