An Israeli soldier was documented violently arresting a Palestinian protester, putting his knee on the man’s neck during a demonstration in the West Bank Tuesday and drawing comparisons to the killing of George Floyd in the US.
Khairi Hannoun, 65, told the official Palestinian Authority WAFA news agency that he was protesting attempts by Israeli settlers to expropriate land near the Palestinian village of Shufa outside of Tulkarem when he was grabbed by a soldier and knelt on. The Israeli military denied wrongdoing, but said the incident would be reviewed in the coming days.
In video shot from the scene, Hannoun is seen standing and holding his arms out in front of soldiers when one officer suddenly grabs him and wrestles him to the ground.
The soldier and Hannoun, who is holding a Palestinian flag, struggle for a few moments as other troops point their rifles at gathered news photographers and yell at them to move back.
The soldier eventually pushes Hannoun into a prone position on the ground and is seen placing his knee on Hannoun’s neck for a full minute while handcuffing him.
“What the occupation soldier did to me was the height of criminality… He didn’t care about my advanced age, he pressed his leg with all his might against my head and neck,” Hannoun told Wafa.
While Hannoun told WAFA he had been peacefully protesting, the former security prisoner and father of five from the village of Anabta told the Associated Press that the scuffle began when he pushed a soldier who had aimed his rifle at the protesters.
“The Israeli soldiers hit me hard and one of them pressed his knee against my neck for a few minutes,” he said. “I stayed still to avoid more pressure on my neck, but people pulled me out.”
Hannoun said he suffered bruising but no serious injuries.
The Israel Defense Forces said that Hanoun, an activist in the Popular Committee to Resist The Wall and Settlements, was “well-known as a central instigator and participant in many violations of public order in Judea and Samaria.” The Popular Committee is responsible for several protests across the West Bank, including a weekly protest at Kufr Quddum, which regularly ends in violent clashes between protesters and Israeli soldiers.
“[Hanoun] pushed the force commander several times in an attempt to create a provocation. The commander showed restraint and was forced to arrest the suspect after he continued attacking the forces and to violate order… after his arrest, the suspect was given medical treatment,” the IDF said in a statement.
The IDF said that the videos were “selective and partial, without reflecting the violation of order and violence with preceded the arrest.”
A spokesperson said the the incident will nonetheless be reviewed by the soldiers’ commanders in the coming days.
The picture of the officer’s leg on Hannoun’s neck quickly raced through Palestinian social media, with many comparing the incident to the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after a police officer in Minneapolis put his knee on his neck for over nine minutes during an arrest.
Floyd’s death has led to mass protests against anti-black racism across the United States and around the world, including in Israel.
#Apartheid and racial discrimination are the same everywhere and everytime.
Hannoun also made the comparison in an interview with Palestinian media.
“I tried to resist [the soldier], but in a moment I felt that the earth was turning, and I immediately remembered what happened with the American George Floyd, who was killed in the same way by a spiteful American policeman,” Hannoun said.