I thought I had seen it all when it comes to politicizing George Floyd’s death at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, but this is a new and particularly contemptible one: Floyd’s death was Israel’s fault. That is, according to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the body to which, unfortunately, my own congregation belongs.
The ELCA is a relentlessly left-wing organization that survives because few Lutherans pay any attention to it. But this is hard to ignore. The context is a letter by the ELCA opposing Israel’s annexation plan:
A week earlier [ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth] Eaton joined 26 other U.S. Christian leaders in a letter to Congress asking it “to wield its power of the purse and not allow any United States funds provided to Israel to be used for the recognition, facilitation or support of annexation, or for denial of Palestinian rights and violation of international law, including continuing occupation.” …
The Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director of ELCA Global Mission, said that one should be aware of the connection between the Israeli government’s repressive tactics against Palestinians and those taking place against people of color in a number of localities around the United States.
“As it has been reported, the kind of police tactics used to kill George Floyd are among those taught to a number of police departments that have taken part in training by Israeli police and military forces,” Malpica Padilla said. “For example, 100 Minneapolis police officers received counterterrorism training from Israelis at a conference held in 2012.”
This is painfully dumb. First of all, is there any reason to think that Derek Chauvin participated in the referenced training event? The ELCA’s director of Global Mission can’t even read his own link. The Minnesota Public Radio story says that the 2012 training session was attended by 100 Minnesota police officers, not members of the Minneapolis department. In fact, the MPR story doesn’t say that any of the 100 were from Minneapolis. Moreover, there are around 800 officers in the Minneapolis Police Department, so even if some of the 100 who participated came from Minneapolis, in all probability Chauvin wasn’t one of them.
More important, what did the training session consist of? Lessons in how to kneel on the necks of arrestees? Of course not. The ELCA’s own linked article explains:
About 100 Minnesota law enforcement officers attended a counter-terrorism training conference in Minneapolis Monday.
The conference was put on by the Israeli consulate in Chicago, the FBI and Minnetonka police.
Deputy Consul Shahar Arieli said Israeli law enforcement officers shared techniques to prevent terrorist acts, such as suicide bombings.
“We have a police commander who is speaking from the point of view of the police chief,” Arieli said. “And we have a bomb tech specialist who is actually speaking about the techniques and the improvised explosive devices that were used by the terrorists.”
The idea that a one-day training session on counterterrorism that was co-sponsored by the FBI, and which Derek Chauvin in all probability didn’t attend, had something to do with the death of George Floyd, is insane, and can only be explained by a vicious desire to link Israel, however irrationally, with anything bad that happens in the world.
The ELCA’s letter ends with a ritual attempt to disassociate the organization from anti-Semitism:
Consistent with its “Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine” and “Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community,” the ELCA draws a clear distinction between critiquing unjust government policies and its commitment to defend against anti-Semitism.
An unbiased observer might suggest that unfounded attempts to blame Israel for events with which it has zero connection are not how one “defend[s] against anti-Semitism,” but rather can only be explained by the anti-Semitism of many of those who run the ELCA.