America's law enforcement is already seen as heavily militarized, yet as human rights proponents advocate for a community-oriented approach in the face of police brutality, the United States police force continues to receive training from another country known for its militarized tactics: Israel.
According to The Intercept, Israel saw an opportunity to brand its extensive experience with military occupation as a counterterrorist force right after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In no time, U.S. law enforcement began looking to the Israeli state for opportunities that led to police exchange programs. With many of these programs being sponsored by groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, countless federal, state, and local police forces across the U.S. have had the opportunity to go to Israel to learn about the country’s policing tactics.
In recent years, Americans have started discussing police militarization more openly, questioning the U.S. government’s practice of transferring military grade equipments to local police departments as part of a broader program that has, in the past decades, made local law enforcement resemble “occupying forces.” But we seldom see any criticism targeting U.S. forces for receiving direct training from an actual occupying force.
As top American law enforcement officers participated in ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel from Sept. 5 to the 13, Washington, D.C., Councilmember David Grosso told The Intercept that “it isn’t a good idea, whether in Israel or another place, to go and train with a military or national police — in essence, learning from people who are better at the violent approach to conflict resolution.”
“We already have the FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service, we have so many national police here, heavily armed,” he continued. “We don’t need more of that, we need more of a community-based approach.”
To Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)’s Naomi Dann, it’s important to note that the very relationship between the U.S. and Israel is, in part, the reason why the Israeli state has been so successful in marketing itself as an expert.
The Jewish state has, Dann told Carbonated.TV in an email, “developed one of the largest military industries in the world, in large part due to the unmatched military aid from the United States.”
Being one of the world's top 6 global arms exporters with annual sales of up to $6.5 billion, Dann continued, Israel “[markets] technologies and weapons based on the fact that they are ‘field-proven’ and ‘battle-tested,’ turning the Israeli army and police forces' 50 years of maintaining a military occupation (and 70 years of some form of military rule over Palestinians) into expertise.”
And it’s because America sends $3.1 billion in military aid to the country yearly, Dann told us, that Israel’s defense industry has never been as successful as it is now, as it has the means to develop and purchase weapons and technology like never before.
So when discussing the exchange between the Israeli and the U.S. police forces, Dann contends, we must look at it as a mutually beneficial relationship, and as one that relies on itself to stay relevant.
In response to these police exchange programs, JVP launched a campaign to eradicate the sharing of deadly law enforcement practices that often target America and Israel's most vulnerable populations.
If America were to bring the practice of giving aid to the Jewish state to an end, perhaps this dependence on Israeli-style tactics based on its decades of military occupation would also come to an end.
As advocates for peace and understanding between peoples, anybody who takes the case for Palestinian rights seriously should also take police militarization and Israel’s extreme reliance on American aid just as seriously. And if so, we should start pushing not only for an end to the destructive exchange programs between Israel and U.S. police forces but also for an end to the financial aid Israel gets from America and that is entirely used to boost its military prowess.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Ammar Awad