The Black Lives Matter Uprising led to the cancellation of joint US-Israel police trainings
A recently leaked Anti-Defamation League memo (ADL) reveals that the organization has suspended its controversial US police law enforcement trainings with Israeli military and police forces in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. It shows the power of the movement – which resonates years after its greatest mobilizations, and beyond the borders of this country.
It wasn’t long ago — less than two years ago in the summer of 2020 — that people moved by the cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others took part in protests across the United States- United despite the naked white supremacy of the Trump administration, mass protests in the streets have sparked a conversation about systemic racism and violent policing.
This black-led wave of protest has accomplished so much. He faced deep-seated commitments to police and prisons, huge local budgets for police departments seen as untouchable, well-organized police unions and a White House calling for the deployment of troops to crack down. marches and rallies. The revolt has shaped an urgent conversation that has overcome these obstacles – and it has made concrete gains.
And the victories went beyond the black community. Washington’s NFL and Cleveland’s MLB teams have removed and replaced racist mascots that caricature Indigenous peoples after facing years of campaigns demanding such action. The list continues.
One of the victories that speaks to how the struggle for black freedom is linked to the freedom of other communities is the suspension of collaboration between American police and Israeli forces.
These trainings are complete. It is no exaggeration to say that every large urban police department in the country undertakes exchanges with Israel. Many smaller police departments also participate in these exchanges. The ADL is the lead organization facilitating these exchanges. In coordination with law enforcement, the ADL mediates between US police and Israel, and provides funds to support travel.
The results have been disastrous for victims of US and Israeli police violence. The Israeli army and police have shared tactics they honed while policing Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal military rule in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem with US police – practices that the world has seen in the police brutality against the 2020 protests. Israel has also shared its weapons, such as the “skunk truck” – a vehicle that sprays a putrid liquid that is difficult to wash off at protesters – that the police in St. Louis bought after the Ferguson uprising in 2014. Indeed, in May last year, when Israeli police in East Jerusalem violently expelled Palestinian worshipers from the Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan and attacked Palestinian residents of the town targeted by Israel to be expelled from their homes, their methods sounded very familiar to observers here in the US
Mobilizations affirming that Black Lives Matter have forced countless people and institutions to answer the question: whose side are you on – of Black people demanding justice, or of the police who perpetrate violence in our communities every day? and suppress the demonstrations?
The ADL claims to be a civil rights organization. Yet its core practices include attacking Palestinians and critics of Israel. The ADL presented itself as a counterterrorism expert and advised law enforcement on “war on terror” surveillance programs — which led to serious civil rights abuses — especially Muslims and people of Middle Eastern descent. The very police departments with which the ADL works so closely have been at the forefront of attacks on the civil rights of Black and Indigenous people, and other people of color. The conflict between the ADL’s stated mission and its actual practice is clear.
This tension led to a internal evaluation of police training with Israel: How could the ADL sustain them as more and more people speak out against racist policing and Israeli violence against Palestinians?
the ADL internal memo leaked shows he’s taken a break from his workouts – quietly – in hopes that no one will notice. However, the fight is not over. Although the ADL suspended the training program, it did not end it. The ADL has been forced to acknowledge how its work is out of step with the public outpouring of solidarity with the targets of police violence – albeit in private. Ultimately, it is up to the public to demand a complete shutdown of these programs.
The 2020 uprisings pushed the goal of suspending police training to the finish line, but activists have worked for years to do community education and protest to draw attention to themselves. Campaign work like Deadly Exchange and organizations such as Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, BYP 100 and the Movement for Black Lives have laid the groundwork for a questioning of police exchanges which have found new vitality in the proliferation of mobilizations.
As we demand a total end to the programs, we can follow the example of Durham, North Carolina, whose city council banned police swaps in 2018. Activists there have formed a multiracial and multifaith coalition that has drawn attention to police training with Israel and Israeli brutality. against the Palestinians in particular, and defined the rights of the Palestinians in the broader context of the promotion of human rights. The coalition won a City Council resolution which ‘opposes international trade with any country in which Durham officers receive military-type training’.
The work of the Black Lives Matter movement is far from done. Justice must include the wholeness of our communities, and it must also reach beyond our local communities. Indeed, and our reach for racial justice must extend beyond this country. Events and institutions that may seem distant are, in fact, intimately linked to our communities. There are ties that bind us across borders: from US military aid and weapons sent to abuse our loved ones in Palestine and around the world, and ties between Israeli security forces and US police. Ending exchanges between police officers will help build a world where our bonds are made of cooperation, solidarity and the common pursuit of justice, rather than racism, violence and repression.