With an Israeli Soldier’s Knee on His Neck, This 61-year-old Palestinian Remembered George Floyd

'You want to breathe and you can’t. For a few seconds I couldn’t breathe at all,' says Khairi Hanoun, a veteran anti-occupation protester who was beaten and choked by an Israeli soldier at a demonstration

An IDF soldier pins Khairi Hanoun to the ground with his knee on his neck, in Shufa.

You need to see both clips. They leave no room for doubt: An Israel Defense Forces officer brutally assaults an elderly demonstrator who is walking with a cane and carrying a Palestine flag. The officer hurls the man to the ground and hits him. The demonstrator’s keffiyeh falls off, his head is exposed – and then the officer pushes his knee down on the man’s neck and begins to suffocate him, in what appears like a replay of the image of the suffocation of George Floyd.

The officer then cuffs the man’s hands behind his back and then he and some other soldiers pick him up, shackled, and try to take him away. They jostle the elderly man this way and that, as other protesters try to free him and explain to them that he’s old, until the soldiers relent and let go.

The demonstrators free him and hustle him into a Palestinian Authority vehicle, to extricate him from the scene. But then an enraged IDF officer attacks the vehicle, smashes the front window with his rifle butt and pulls out the driver and the elderly man, all the while shouting at them.

These repulsive images, captured on September 1 in the West Bank village of Shufa, were disseminated far and wide, largely because of their resemblance to the killing of George Floyd by police in a botched arrest operation in Minneapolis this past May. In the more recent case, the suffocation did not cause death, fortunately. And naturally, no public storm ensued in Israel, where no “Palestinian lives matter” organization has ever been formed.

The victim of the violence was Khairi Hanoun, a colorful, unconventional figure in the Palestinian movement of resistance to the occupation. He greets us in the yard of his home in the West Bank town of Anabta, amid pomegranate and olive trees – not far from the village of Shufa, where the demonstration in which he was assaulted occurred. He is attired in in the traditional dress he always wears at demonstrations. Something he inherited from his father, it’s called a dimaya, or qumbaz; it has a wide leather belt or sash and it evokes the Palestinian fighters of 1948. A Palestinian flag stands in the corner of the large yard, which also contains a dovecote and a tabun, a clay oven.

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