Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed rejected a call by anti-Israel campaigners to stop local law enforcement officials from training with their Israeli counterparts during a press conference on Monday.
“There was a demand that I stop allowing the Atlanta police department to train with the Israeli Police department,” Reed said. “I’m not going to do that. I happen to believe that the Israeli police department has some of the best counter-terrorism techniques in the world, and it benefits our police department from our long-standing relationship.”
The demand to cut ties came from ALTisREADY, a group associated with Black Lives Matter, and was delivered to Reed ahead of his closed-door meeting with community leaders earlier that day. The first item on the group’s list of demands reads: “We demand a termination to APD’s involvement in the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, that trains our officers in Apartheid Israel (sic).”
This is not the first time that anti-Israel campaigners claimed that instances of police violence in the U.S. stemmed in part from cooperation between American and Israeli police departments, even though training between the two focuses on counter-terrorism techniques and responding to mass-casualty incidents. (Fifty retired military leaders wrote to President Barack Obama in May 2010 that “American police and law enforcement officials have reaped the benefit of close cooperation with Israeli professionals in the areas of domestic counter-terrorism practices and first response to terrorist attacks.” Their comments echoed those of multiple law enforcement officials who participated in such programs.)
After the police killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, New York University’s chapter of the group Students for Justice in Palestine blamed their deaths on a connection between American police departments and the Israeli military. “We must remember that many of the same many US police departments train with the #IsraeliDefenseForces,” NYU SJP wrote in a Facebook post. “The same forces behind the genocide of black people in America are behind the genocide of Palestinians.”
The comments sparked widespread criticism online, with the majority of the more than 600 responses to the Facebook post lambasting SJP’s comparison. In a blog post on Tablet, Yair Rosenberg explained:
The irony of critiquing racism in American society through the bigoted displacement of responsibility for it to Jews in the Middle East was apparently lost on SJP. As was the fact that the sordid history of American violence towards black people far predates the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. (And let’s not even get into the libelous and offensive allegation of Israeli genocide, for whose refutation one need only consult the official Palestinian Bureau of Statistics, which records the Palestinian population’s exponential growth since Israel’s creation.)
What’s particularly pernicious about the posting is that by erasing the American history of predatory conduct towards blacks and instead exporting culpability to a scapegoat, SJP short-circuits any necessary national conversation about U.S. police violence. As long as shadowy outside forces can be blamed for the problem, there will be no internal reckoning.
Jonathan Schanzer, the vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, testified at a joint hearing before Congress in April that SJP receives significant funding from the group American Muslims for Palestine (AMP). At least seven of AMP’s employees previously worked for now-defunct organizations that fundraised for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
[Photo: TED Prize, TEDCity2.0 / Youtube ]