State violence, discrimination, oppression, colonialism, capitalism… all tie in together weaving the unsurmountable suffering people experience. With Palestinians receiving solitude across the world and its recent growing awareness, we hope more initiatives start to focus on the variety of rooted problems in the US. Our (United States) policing is a small but great manifestation of fear we have over our neighbors. And so we want to take a look at what that looks like in a technical and abstract view, so that we may become the society we’re destined to be.
We are currently looking at the exchanges between US law enforcement and Israeli Security Forces as part of the challenging state violence and discrimination lying in both countries.
Since the early 2000s, thousands of U.S. police officers, sheriffs, border patrol agents, ICE officers, and FBI agents have trained with Israeli military and police forces. We want to stop these exchanges for a few key reasons:
Holding up Israel’s use of military technology, lethal force, mass surveillance, and racial profiling as a global gold standard serves to legitimize, reinforce and deepen Israeli Occupation and apartheid.
According to the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) US-Israel law enforcement program, David C. Friedman, the goal of their delegations is for US cops “to learn lessons from Israel in terms of tactics and strategies and the evolution of terrorism, but also examples of leadership”. The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) similarly markets their program as a way for US law enforcement to learn from Israeli expertise in surveillance and countering “Islamic fundamentalism,” developed in the context of military occupation.
These programs transform Israel’s 70 years of dispossession and 50 years of Occupation into a marketing brochure for “successful” policing. We want to end Israel’s human rights abuse, not valorize them.
We want to boycott and divest from the brutality of policing by both the US and Israeli governments
Policing in both the US and Israel is deeply rooted in discrimination and violence. As has been well-documented by human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Israel’s security, military, and policing systems maintain the occupation through extrajudicial killings, torture, and collective punishment. In the US, the movement for Black Lives has brought renewed attention to the killings of Black people, as a critical part of a long legacy of violence against communities of color, beginning with slavery. Likewise, immigration rights activists have been fighting the massive growth of the world’s biggest detention and deportation machine! and Native communities in the US fight for accountability in the face of the nation’s highest rate of police murder. Boycott, divestment, and sanctions are powerful tools to demonstrate our values and bring about change.
By demonstrating these programs end, er are asking elected leaders and nongovernmental organizations to withdraw funds and moral support from both these dangerous institutions and policies.
These programs are worst practices exchange that bring paramilitary tactics to US policing and broken windows discrimination to Israeli policing.
These exchange programs are one example of a wider shift in policing over the last two decades in the US. The programs grew out of the post-9/11 trend to bring counter-terrorism logics, technology, and tactics into policing and immigration policy in the US. This can be seen in the increasing criminalization of everyday life in communities of color, intrusive surveillance particularly in Muslim communities, violent repression of Indigenous-led movements, the importation of military tactics, technologies, and weapons from the war on terror into domestic policing, and unprecedented deportation fueled by the intertwining of immigration and counterterrorism policies. Under the banner of Israeli counterterrorism expertise, law enforcement exchange programs contribute to these deadly trends by encouraging an even deeper application of counterterror and counterinsurgency models into domestic policing, immigration, and surveillance policies and practices.
Conversely, in recent years, and owing to the great degree of collaboration with U.S. police, Israeli police have started adopting a broken windows approach to policing, following the idea that constant policing of low-level disorder–which takes the form of constant police surveillance, harassment, and arrests in communities of color–will deter serious criminal activity. The Knesset’s adoption of a Stop and Frisk law and the Israeli police adopting the Compstat program used by the NYPD to implement and track their broken windows approach to community policing are examples of how Israeli police are adding new layers of discriminatory policing and detention to the paramilitary and spying practices they’ve always used. In 2013, as the NYPD was embroiled in federal civil rights lawsuits for their harassment of communities of color, top Israeli police were traveling to NY to study the program. Donna Lieberman, ED of the NYCLU wrote “Israel is showing an incredible lack of concern for community relations if they’re trying to emulate broken windows policing and out of control stop-and-frisk practices.”
This dangerous two-way street means that US and Israeli officials are learning the worst possible lessons from one another.
 For detailed analysis of the content of the exchange programs and the worst practices they promote, please see three additional resources: 1) Annotated Police Exchange Program Itinerary, 2) In Their Own Words, 3) Expose on U.S.-Israel Policing Partnerships: The Cases of NYC, LA, and Ferguson
We must start somewhere.
We are under no illusion that ending these programs will end police violence or deportations in the U.S., abolish Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, or terminate all security collusion between the U.S. and Israel. But we believe strongly that working to end these programs will challenge state violence and human rights violations in the U.S., in Israel/Palestine, and beyond. Successful organizing is about seeing where we can slow, stall, or chip away at the big systems hurting us, our communities, and our neighbors.
We have the power to stop these police exchange programs, and we think it’s a critical way to move towards justice for all people.
We think it’s time to reimagine what safety means.
Central to the philosophy of these exchange programs is the assumption that state policies of violence, surveillance, occupation and deportation targeting some communities can create “safety” for other communities. In Israel, this harms not only Palestinians but also Ethiopian and Eritrean Jews, Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews, other Jews of Color, and African migrants, while in the US, it means targeting Black people, indigenous people, other communities of color, immigrants and refugees, and Muslims. Policing in both places sees only some communities as worthy of protection while criminalizing, occupying, imprisoning, deporting, and killing people in other communities. We believe that real safety grows through the ways we protect and defend each other, and that no one is made safer through state violence.
The notion that violent policing fosters safety is a myth, and we want to reimagine with our communities how real safety should look and feel.