In many cities around the country the image of the friendly cop on the beat has been replaced by intimidating, fully armed military-style troops. This is not some chance happenstance.
In Israeli and Palestinian Voices: A Dialogue with Both Sides, I reported that since 2002, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs have been sending police chiefs, assistant chiefs and captains on fully paid trips to Israel and the Palestinian occupied territories to observe the Israeli Border Patrol and the country’s intelligence services in action. Tax documents from the Jewish Institute show that in 2012 alone that organization spent $36,857 on such trips.
According to investigative journalist Max Blumenthal, writing about American police training alongside Israeli security forces, “Having been schooled in Israeli tactics perfected during a 63 year experience of controlling, dispossessing and occupying an indigenous population, local police forces have adapted these same techniques to monitor Muslim and immigrant neighborhoods in US cities. Also, former Israeli military officers have been hired to spearhead security operations at American airports and suburban shopping malls, leading to a wave of disturbing incidents of racial profiling, intimidation and FBI interrogations of innocent, unsuspecting people.
Why does any of this matter? Israel doesn’t have a domestic civilian policing model but instead applies a counter-insurgency policing model intended for a population under military occupation. Karen Greenberg, director of Fordham School of Law’s Center on National Security, told Blumenthal that after 9/11 the US reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture. The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. “There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and we’re spreading that into the fabric of everyday American life.”
A cursory investigation shows that Israel maintains an extensive network of relations with US law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels. It is no coincidence that the chief of the St. Louis County Police Department, which was responsible for some of the heavy-handed tactics employed against protesters in Ferguson, received training in Israel. Just a sampling of US cities and institutions that have trained or are training in Israeli methods are Atlanta, Boston, Tennessee, California, Maryland, Florida, NY City, Seattle, Connecticut and Michigan. These bilateral relationships were reinforced by arrangements put in place by high-level officials like the memorandum of understanding signed by former Israeli Minister Dichter and former US Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff in 2007.
Over the years, thousands of US personnel at all levels of law enforcement and hundreds of senior managers from local police chiefs to FBI detectives, have taken counterterrorism training in Israel or attended conferences sponsored by the Israeli government with no scrutiny for their role in the militarization of our police forces.
And this continues even though the Israeli occupation has been repeatedly declared illegal under international law. Such training by Israeli security and occupation forces is analogous to, and merits the same condemnation as a US city sending its officials to receive “police” training from Soviet security police who maintained military occupation of Eastern Europe in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s.
Of course, one killing, or two or three by a US police officer, does not mean that illegal military occupation tactics are being practiced in US cities, or does it?
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