US and Israeli Police Are Sharing Violent and Repressive Tactics

In communities throughout the United States, law enforcement agencies are choosing to send officers to Israel on exchange programs to share violent practices of surveillance and repression. But as communities learn of these trips and their content, they are quickly backing out. Just last week, the Vermont State Police and Northampton Massachusetts Police Department pulled officers from a recent trip sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a self-proclaimed “civil rights” organization. Yet, in the face of community outrage and criticism, the ADL continues to stand by these deadly exchanges.

Since 9/11, US law enforcement agencies — including state and local police departments, as well as federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement — have participated in exchange programs with Israeli military and police forces. These programs facilitate a show-and-tell of worst practices, and the effects have been felt immediately here and in Palestine. In 2003, the New York Police Department (NYPD) established a “Demographics Unit” that infiltrated mosques, spied on Muslim student groups and tracked Muslim scholars. CIA officer Lawrence Sanchez, who helped to establish the program, told his colleagues that the idea came from Israeli methods of controlling the West Bank. Meanwhile, in 2016, Israeli police instituted the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk strategy, to harass and search young Palestinian men without probable cause.

These exchanges, while disastrous for US communities of color and Palestinians, may not be surprising. The US and Israel have long held tight military and economic ties. But what may be surprising is that many of these exchange programs are organized, facilitated, and funded by the ADL, whose stated mission is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Why would the ADL be in the business of training two of…

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