Anti-Semitic campaign to blame Jews and Israel for U.S. police practices towards minorities shifts into overdrive

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Deadly Exchange 2018 Report Cover

The virulently anti-Jewish and anti-peace extremist organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has partnered with the organization Researching the American-Israeli Alliance (RAIA) on several new projects for its undeniably antisemitic “Deadly Exchange” campaign which, based solely on spurious accusations, singles out U.S. police department trainings in Israel for prohibition.

JVP’s latest materials for this cross-national campaign—a 36-page reportentitled “Deadly Exchange: The Dangerous Consequences of American Law Enforcement Trainings in Israel” and an accompanying interactive online database—are similar to its earlier ones that we’ve reviewed in our prior posts, including snazzy videos and user-friendly websites.

But what makes these two new projects different is that by collaborating with a pro Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) group to produce them, JVP is now more firmly situating “Deadly Exchange” within the broader anti-Israel campaign. Doing so is a smart move as it enables multiple pro-BDS groups to adopt “Deadly Exchange” as a central new initiative in the coming months.

Indeed, the fact that multiple BDS-promoting organizations, including the US Campaign for Palestinian RightsCodePinkAdalah-NYInternational Solidarity Movement-Palestine, and American Friends Service Committee, are now heavily publicizing the “Deadly Exchange” campaign to their members on their own websites, listservs, and social media feeds is a good indication of the strategic nature of the new JVP-RAIA partnership.

Below I briefly review JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” campaign for readers less familiar with this obnoxious initiative. The remainder of the post introduces RAIA—a relatively new and until now little-known member group of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. I also critique the new report it produced with JVP and its new online search engine and databasereleased earlier this month.

Background: JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” campaign

In a number of recent posts, we’ve covered the offensive nature of JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” initiative, including how it demonizes and seeks to delegitimize Israel:

It’s important to also note that this initiative traffics in ugly antisemitic tropes and canards about Jewish power, money, and conspiratorial efforts to harm society because it accuses various U.S.-based Jewish organizations, which help to fund and organize the American-Israeli police exchange programs, for deliberately seeking to “oppress” minorities and marginalized communities in the U.S. through these institutional alliances.

This smear includes the Anti-Defamation League—America’s leading organization devoted to fighting antisemitism, prejudice and hate crimes—and one of the leading groups that has for years hosted a popular police training program in Israel.

As we’ve highlighted, JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” campaign is based on fraudulent charges that many have described as akin to a modern day antisemitic blood libel in which “Jews are falsely blamed for outrageous crimes”.

The reality, as we noted, is that police trainings in Israel are designed to equip U.S. law enforcement officers with the knowledge to safeguard communities from a range of threats, including terrorism and active shooter situations.

Israel’s security forces are world leaders in terms of their experience and expertise in dealing with these kinds of scenarios and have much to teach their counterparts in other countries in terms of how to detect such threats and defuse them. Nothing in the training programs endorse “militarization” or would undermine the provision of “fair, unbiased and constitutional policing”.

But despite widespread condemnation of its “Deadly Exchange” campaign, including by left-wing critics of Israel, JVP and its allies are continuing to promote it across multiple U.S. communities and are now turning it into a central campaign for the anti-Israel BDS movement.

They’ve already scored a win for the campaign in Durham, North Carolina which this past April became the first city in America to impost a total ban on police exchanges “with only one country in the world: the Jewish state of Israel.” Now JVP and other far-left groups are engaged in an intense lobbying campaign in the Washington, D.C. area where they’re relying on similar strategies that proved successful in the run-up to the Durham City Council’s shameful vote last spring:

In short, as we’ve highlighted in our previous posts, the promotion of “Deadly Exchange” by far-left coalitions in the U.S. is another cautionary tale of how racial issues and other progressive causes in America unrelated to Israel are being exploited and hijacked by anti-Israel activists:

A key component of these hijackings is so-called ‘intersectionality,’ the concept that Israel is the unifying evil force in the world that ties together problems far distant from Israel…Israel thus serves the organizing purpose that Jews historically served in international conspiracy theories.”

Researching the American-Israeli Alliance (RAIA)—a new pro-BDS group

According to its website, RAIA is a pro-BDS non-profit research collective that was launched last year. Its goal is to expose the “connections between American and Israeli state violence” and to offer community activists the “latest tools” in the “movement for justice in Palestine”, specifically by providing the resources that they will need to launch municipal-level campaigns to ban U.S.-Israel police exchanges.

Best I can tell RAIA is a two-person outfit consisting of an Executive Director—Eran Efrati, formerly a chief researcher for the Israel-based NGO Breaking the Silence (BtS) and currently a Board member of JVP—and a Research Coordinator who is a former Master’s student from American University.

Between the two of them, RAIA claims that it produces reports and conducts workshops across the U.S. Mostly this work seeks to blame Israel for policing problems in the U.S., including the ‘militarization’ of American police forces in the post-9/11 era—so RAIA can best be seen as a ‘research’-oriented, behind-the-scenes subsidiary of JVP.

[RAIA website]

The fact that RAIA’s Executive Director used to work for BtS should tell you a lot about his research skills and integrity. As we’ve noted in several posts, BtS leaders are notorious for fabricating stories to defame the IDF to international audiences and BDS-supporting donors:

Last week, in his coverage of RAIA and its new website and database, the pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon reported that several years ago, when he was still at BtS, Efrati was allegedly involved in a deception of his own: recounting to the notorious anti-Israel journalist Ben Ehrenreich some tall tale about Israeli children being told by their parents to urinate on the floors of the Muslim prayer area in Hebron’s Patriarch’s Tomb—the second holiest site to Judaism.

As Elder reminds his readers, this “sick story” begins and ends in the “hateful imagination of Eran Efrati” given that this highly implausible ‘scandal’ was never actually reported in the Arab press or websites.

It’s also worth noting that sitting on the external advisory board for RAIA is Sarah Schulman, a pseudo-scholar who is credited by many for having come up with the ugly “pinkwashing” smear that’s continually used to discredit Israel’s laudable record of LGBTQ rights and freedoms.

Not much more is publicly available about RAIA. For example, it doesn’t list all of its funding sources on its website, a lack of transparency that’s common for anti-Israel, pro-BDS groups. According to the website, RAIA’s fiscal sponsor is the AJ Muste Memorial Institute, which has also funded JVP.

We also know that RAIA is a USCPR member group, which is a telling piece of information in and of itself because it gives considerable insight into the RAIA’s goals and the viewpoints of its two leaders.

As we’ve recently posted, USCPR works behind the scenes as an umbrella organization to organize and coordinate hundreds of groups supposedly “working to advocate for Palestinian rights.” But as we highlighted, based on a review of its programming and messaging on social media, USCPR’s focus isn’t really on improving Palestinian human and civil rights but on demonizing Israel and trying to shift U.S. policy against the Jewish state.

In recent months, USCPR has also served as an apologist for Hamas. It’s Executive Director, Yousef Munayyer has insisted in one tweet after another that the efforts of Hamas militants to breach the Gaza border and destroy the infrastructure for humanitarian aid there is “peaceful protest”.

Munayyer has also been at the forefront of the ugly effort within U.S.-based anti-Israel circles to exploit the U.S. civil rights struggle for the Palestinian cause. Under Munayyer’s directorship, USCPR has preposterously cast Israeli policies toward the Palestinians as a discriminatory “matrix of control” with laws similar to those used against Black Americans during the Jim Crow era.

These days, Munayyer spends an inordinate amount of his time trying to racialize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, making untenable connectionsbetween the experiences of black men in America’s inner cities and Palestinians, who are cast in his writings as people of color oppressed by privileged white Jews.

Under the direction of Munayyer, USCPR has become a leading player in promoting such “intersectional hijackings”, as indicated by its “political educational curriculum” meant to simultaneously strengthen U.S. and Palestinian “liberation struggles”; its ardent support for JVP’s “Deadly Exchange” campaign; and its upcoming national conference at the end of the month focused on the “struggle for collective justice from the U.S. to Palestine.”

Given RAIA’s research summarized below, it’s not at all surprising that RAIA will be at this USCPR conference. There, according to USCPR’s Director of Organizing and Advocacy Anna Baltzer, it’ll be running a workshop on “Resisting Global Policing: Disrupting US-Israel Exchanges.”

The new JVP-RAIA coauthored “Deadly Exchange” report

Several weeks ago, JVP and RAIA released a co-authored report designed to highlight Israel’s alleged negative impact on U.S. law enforcement. The report is a hefty 36 pages and includes 89 footnotes to sources used along with a 2-page bibliography. Images that accompany the text are included throughout. Every page also includes dozens of hyperlinks to media coverage and to the ‘scholarship’ related to the developments, events and incidents described. [Page numbers below reference the report’s numbering].

In terms of its content and central themes this new report doesn’t really break any new ground when compared to JVP’s previous materials disseminated as part of its “Deadly Exchange” campaign.

Like the earlier videos and websites, the new report also blames longstanding U.S.-Israel counterterror police trainings, hosted primarily by the ADL and the Jewish Institute for National Security (JINSA), for fueling discrimination and racism against minority communities in American cities, for militarizing the approach to crime and to public protests, and for “endangering us all” (pp. 5, 26, 35).

[JVP-RAIA report “Deadly Exchange”]

Basically, like the campaign’s prior propaganda, the latest report claims that police trainings in Israel are teaching inappropriate and unsafe “Israeli military tactics” to U.S. law enforcement officials, who then adopt these strategies, expertise and technologies in their home towns and cities.

[JVP-RAIA report “Deadly Exchange”]

Where the new report differs from the past materials is in its attempt to provide a scholarly patina to the “Deadly Exchange” campaign. In essence the goal is to weigh readers down with so much ‘evidence’ and so many ‘facts’ from so-called experts that they will wind up believing that everything JVP and RAIA are saying must be true, and that U.S. police collaboration with Israel must therefore come to an end.

The report is divided up into three sections which cover U.S. policing practices in three areas: surveillance, racial profiling, and use of force (e.g. suppression tactics during protests).

In each section, American police departments come under heavy attack for targeting Muslims communities and people of color with “clear racist practices.”

The report has little of anything positive to say about contemporary U.S. law enforcement policies and challenges—in page after page its authors argue that American minorities are being abused and poorly served by local police officials and the policemen and policewomen on the beat.

It repeatedly insists that these problems stem from the over-militarized nature of policing (“repressive war-like policing” p. 2) that’s developed in response to what is deemed as a hyped-up and exaggerated threat of terrorism in the post-9/11 time period.

Each section of the report also includes a discussion of Israel’s policing practices, which are also described in solely negative terms and without any reference to the challenges involved with defending a citizenry from terrorist groups or the need to contain violent and volatile protests.

[JVP-RAIA report “Deadly Exchange”]

The report’s author also express little appreciation of the role that social media plays in inciting violence against Israeli civilians and the consequent need for the government to develop sophisticated online surveillance techniques (p. 9).

In these sections, the “Deadly Exchange” report fails to mention even a single incident in which Palestinian governing authorities in the West Bank and Gaza have acted in oppressive ways toward Palestinian civilians, including by suppressing journalists and civil dissent.

Hamas is mentioned only once—and in a footnote (# 86)—where Israeli “right wing and liberal” media coverage of the recent Great Return March protests at the Israel-Gaza border is slammed for depicting “Palestinian demands for freedom as a Hamas ploy, a provocation, and a violent show of force.” In that footnote, and throughout the text, Palestinian terrorists and violent protesters are referred to as “peaceful” and “unarmed civilians” (pp. vii, 28, 30, 33), which as we note above is a gross inaccuracy.

Other flaws and inaccuracies in the new JVP-RAIA report

A big part of the problem with this latest report is that its inaccurate descriptions of the legal and political situation in the West Bank, Gaza, and east Jerusalem stem from an overarching demonizing perspective on Israel.

The report continually claims that Israel “rules a population” (pp. ii, v, 3) and has the “goal of controlling the entire Palestinian population” (pp. iii, vi, 27, 35). These are false claims because they fail to even acknowledge the Oslo jurisdictions, or the role that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas governing agencies play in the lives of Palestinians. Specific examples in the text include the perpetuation of the myth that Israel enforces Jewish-only transportation in the West Bank. And the authors appear to be completely oblivious to the fact that international law requires occupier states to create military courts.

But these errors are actually wholly consistent with the report’s general perspective which views Israel as a usurper of Palestinian lands (p. v) and asserts a strong racial dimension to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (pp. v, 15, 26, 29-30):

The Israeli legal system, military rule, and law enforcement, are structurally predicated on the racial distinction between Palestinians and Israeli Jews, creating a hierarchical structure where rights are differentially conferred based on race” (p. 18).

Throughout the report, Israel is depicted as an “Apartheid state” which uses lethal violence, including “mass murder” (p. 27), against Palestinians whether or not they are Israeli citizens or residents (it’s clear from the report that neither RAIA nor JVP are even aware that Palestinians who reside in east Jerusalem hold residency status).

The report’s overarching demonization of the Jewish state also results in a skewed and highly inaccurate presentation of the situation for Israel’s minority Jewish citizens, including “black and brown” Mizrachi Jews and Ethiopians (pp. 17-18, 29-30).

Here too the report’s authors display a complete lack of familiarity with the Jewish Israeli experience, including laudable accomplishments in terms of minority rights and access. (Ironically, despite the report’s insistence that Israeli police unfairly target black and brown Jewish communities in Israel, a number of the images included in the report depict black and brown Israeli police officers!).

[JVP-RAIA report “Deadly Exchange”]

Compounding these problems is the new report’s overreliance on the work of one-sided and vehemently anti-Israel academics such as the notorious Ilan Pappe. “Deadly Exchange” also draws extensively for its data on sketchy sources like the notoriously anti-Israel West Bank-based NGO Adameer, which has documented ties to a U.S.-designated terror organization.

Bottom line: The new “Deadly Exchange” report co-authored with the pro-BDS RAIA ‘research’ group rests on the claim that the situation facing Palestinians “parallels” the experience of blacks, undocumented immigrants, indigenous movements, and Muslims and other minority groups in the U.S. (pp. x, 36)—a false assertion that serious scholars have long debunked. Resting on a flawed foundation, the report maintains that policing in Israel mirrors that in the U.S. and that “worst practices” are exchanged between law enforcement in both countries. As in the case of its prior materials, the new report tries to substantiate this claim with innuendo and conjecture.

A new website to accompany the report: Palestine is Here

The new JVP-RAIA report condemns the various security practices and technologies that U.S. police departments have allegedly copied from their Israeli counterparts—like “interagency coordination” (p. 21) and the network of surveillance cameras and Video Integration Center in Jerusalem’s Old City which the Atlanta Police Department reportedly adopted (p. 10).

[JVP-RAIA report “Deadly Exchange”]

There’s certainly nothing inherently wrong or problematic with law enforcement wanting to “proactively monitor crime” by using the best practices and technologies out there to protect the innocent. But JVP and RAIA want us to think that this is a problem.

It’s the supposedly nefarious nature of this kind of U.S. police force “modeling” Israeli police practices, and their contracting with Israeli security corporations, that the two organizations try to highlight in an online interactive database which is meant to be used in conjunction with the recently released report.

The “Palestine Is Here” database tracks Israeli military ties to local police departments, local government, corporations and universities in an effort to “support direct grassroots organizing to end US militarized trainings, academic collaborations, and technological exchanges with Israel.”

People are supposed to use the website to identify “who is facilitating and funding exchanges” between Israel and their local police and government agencies and academic institutions.

So far, the site has links to dozens of US cities and towns and depicts how law enforcement in them have been exposed to Israeli counterparts.

Each entry opens with the same generic description of the key claims of “Deadly Exchange” followed by a tailored “profile” of what trainings police chiefs or other officials in these communities participated in and what technology was subsequently purchases or what policing practices were later put into place—presumably because of what they learned while in Israel.

A look at just one of these entries (for San Bernardino, California) and its embedded hyperlinks shows just how unconvincing this whole set-up really is:

[RAIA website, Palestine Is Here]

JVP and RAIA want us to be upset by the fact that this California police department decided to purchase drones, even though City Council members there were thrilled by the prospect of using a drone for search and rescue missions and for a safe, less expensive way of making high-risk car stops.

It’s important to also note that the hyperlinked article in the entry makes no mention whatsoever that an ADL-sponsored police training in Israel had anything to do with the decision to purchase the drone—no one who is interviewed says that it did. So, there’s no apparent connection at all between the San Bernardino police chief’s training in Israel and his police department’s purchasing decision.

Conclusion

In the years since the September 11 attacks, scholarship asserting that the U.S.-initiated global war on terror (GWOT) has eroded American civil liberties has burgeoned into a cottage industry. Much of this literature challenges the military-industrial complex surrounding U.S. counterterror efforts and some of it condemns militarized state violence and the increasingly militarized approaches to local policing that the GWOT has facilitated.

It’s certainly possible to question this body of work, which in my view tends to underplay threats to homeland security, is overly skeptical of public-private security partnerships, and in general treats U.S law enforcement agencies with an unwarranted degree of suspicion and hostility.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with JVP’s efforts to bring this scholarship to the attention of the American public—as it does in its new co-authored report and accompanying database produced with RAIA, which cite a few reputable studies on the topic like Nikhil Pal Singh’s Race and America’s Long War.

Bur where these new “Deadly Exchange” campaign materials go off the rails is in attributing America’s post 9/11 policing problems, violence against minorities, criminalization and incarceration rates, and the ongoing problem of racism in the U.S. to Israel and to the Jewish American organizations that host counterterrorism trainings for police officials with their Israeli counterparts—as if a police chief’s participation in a week-long seminar in Israel determines his or her department’s rules of engagement or drives the behavior of cops on the beat.

Bottom line: JVP and the other virulently anti-Israel groups are now trying to convince American liberals that if they care about social justice issues like policing problems or racial injustice, then they must also revile Israel and the American Jews who cause the suffering of U.S. minority communities at the hands of the state. This vicious antisemitic campaign must be opposed by all Americans of good will.                     

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Recently, Elman was included on the Algemeiner newspaper’s 2018 list of the top 100 people worldwide who are “positively influencing Jewish life.” Follow her on Facebookand Twitter @MiriamElman

 

Anti-Semitic campaign to blame Jews and Israel for U.S. police practices towards minorities shifts into overdrive

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