Uprising for Black Lives Drove Cancellation of Joint US-Israeli Police Trainings

Recent developments leaked memo from the Anti-Defamation League(ADL) reveals that the group has stopped controversial law enforcement trainings of U.S. cops with Israeli military and police forces as a response to the movement for Black Lives. It shows the power of the movement — which resonates years after its biggest mobilizations, and beyond the borders of this country.

It was not too long — 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, participated in protests across the U.S. Despite Trump’s white supremacy, mass protests in streets led to a discussion about systemic racism.

This wave of Black-led protest was so successful. It was confronted with deeply rooted commitments to policing, prisons, large local budgets that were considered untouchable for police departments, well-organized unions of police officers, and a White House requesting the deployment of troops to suppress the marches. The revolt shaped an urgent conversation that overcame those obstacles — and it made concrete gains.

The wins extended beyond the Black community. After years of campaigning for such action, the Washington NFL and Cleveland MLB teams replaced racist mascots that depict Indigenous peoples. The list goes on.

One of the victories speaks to how Black freedom is tied with freedom of other communities, the suspension of cooperation between U.S. Police and Israeli forces.

These trainings are very extensive. It is no exaggeration when we say that everything can be learned from these trainings. major urban police departmentThe country has exchanges with Israel. These exchanges also include small police departments. The ADL is responsible for facilitating these exchanges. Coordinating with law enforcement authorities, the ADL acts like a bridge between Israel and the United States police. Additionally, it provides funds to support the trips.

Both victims of Israeli and U.S. police violence have suffered devastating results. Israeli military and police have shared tactics that they honed while controlling Palestinians living under Israel’s brutal military rule in the occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem with U.S. police — practices that the whole world saw in the police brutality against the 2020 protests. Israel has also shared its weapons, such as the “skunk truck” — a vehicle that sprays putrid liquid that is hard to wash off onto protesters — which St. Louis police purchased after the 2014 Ferguson uprising. The methods used by Israeli police in East Jerusalem to expel Palestinian worshippers during Ramadan and attack Palestinian residents of the city designated by Israel for their removal looked very familiar to Americans.

Mobilizations asserting that Black lives matter, forced countless people and institutions to answer the question: What side are you on — that of Black people demanding justice, or of police carrying out violence in our communities each day and repressing protests?

The ADL claims it is a civil rights organization. Its central practices include attacking Palestinians as well as critics of Israel. The ADL has presented itself as an expert on counterterrorism and has advised law enforcement on the hallmark “war on terror” surveillance programs — which have led to serious attacks on civil rights — particularly of Muslims and people of Middle Eastern background. The ADL has been working closely with police departments to attack civil rights of Indigenous peoples and other people of color. The conflict between the ADL’s stated mission and its actual practice is clear.

That tension led eventually to an internal evaluation of the police trainings with Israel: How could they keep them in place when more people protested racist policing, and Israeli violence against Palestinians.

The ADL’s leaked internal memo shows that it did pause its trainings — quietly — in hopes that no one would notice. The fight is not over. The ADL has suspended the training program but it has not ended it. The ADL was compelled to acknowledge how out of step its work is with public momentum in solidarity with the targets of police violence — albeit privately. It is up to the public to demand that these programs cease completely.

The 2020 uprisings made it possible to suspend police trainings, but activists worked long hours to educate the community about them and protest their violations. Campaigns such as Deadly ExchangeStudents for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Movement for Black Lives were among the organizations that laid the foundation for challenging police exchanges, which found a new life in the swelling of mobilizations.

As we demand an end of these programs, we can look to Durham, North Carolina as an example. The Durham City Council outlawed police exchanges in 2018. Activists formed a multiracial coalition of faiths that called attention to Israeli police trainings, as well as Israeli brutality against Palestinians. The coalition won a resolution by the city council that “opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training.”

The movement for Black lives has a lot more to do. Justice must be inclusive of all our communities. It must also reach beyond our local communities. Indeed, our racial justice efforts must reach beyond the country. Even though it may seem distant, events and institutions are actually intimately linked to our communities. There are ties that link us beyond borders. These include U.S. weapons and military aid, as well as ties between Israeli security forces with U.S. law enforcement. Stopping police exchanges will lead to a world of cooperation, solidarity, and common pursuits of justice, not racism and violence.