MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

US police departments under pressure to end training programmes with Israel | Middle East Eye

Posted by M. C. on July 3, 2020

Still, before being fired and charged over the incident, all four officers had been employed by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), which participated in a 2012 training conference in Minneapolis that was held by the FBI and Chicago’s Israeli consulate. 

“Every year we are bringing top-notch professionals from the Israeli police to share some knowledge,” Deputy Consul Shahar Arieli said at the time, as quoted by Mint Press News. 

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-us-police-training-end-knee-neck-protests

The video of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed African American, for nearly nine minutes as he slowly died, gasping for air, has struck a familiar chord with many Palestinians and anti-occupation activists.

Since his death in late May, footage of Floyd pleading: “I can’t breathe” and “they’re going to kill me,” has emerged alongside videos and stills of Israeli security forces taking similar positions over the necks of unarmed Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and besieged Gaza Strip.

The Israeli police force has tried to distance itself from any perceived similarities, issuing statements denouncing what happened and stating that its officers are not trained to use knee-to-neck techniques.

But photographs taken as recently as March have shown Israeli forces using the same restraint on unarmed protesters just yards from the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City.

The damning imagery has revived complaints against US programmes that send American police officers to train under Israeli law enforcement and military officials, as nationwide calls for defunding and abolishing American police departments have taken hold.

Palestinian Americans draw stark comparisons of US and Israeli uses of force

Read More »

Since the early 90s, hundreds of law enforcement officers, including police officers and agents from the FBI, CIA, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have either been sent to Israel through police exchanges, or attended summits within the US that were sponsored by Israeli lobby organisations.

Police forces from Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California, Arizona, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington state and others have participated in the training, including one that took place in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd was killed.

Leading human rights groups have denounced the exchange programmes, warning that Israeli police standards and tactics only serve to exacerbate racial profiling and police brutality in the US.

“With a long record of human rights violations, Israeli security forces are an incredibly problematic training partner,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International USA’s researcher for arms control, security and human rights told MEE.

Micky Rosenfeld, an Israeli police spokesperson, rejected criticisms of the training scheme, telling MEE that the police exchanges in Israel provide American forces with valuable information on how to “prevent and respond” to attacks.

“The learning and sharing has saved many lives both in Israel and overseas throughout the years,” Rosenfeld said.

“The organisations that are calling out, specifically in the US, against law enforcement learning and sharing are weakening the nation’s preparedness to respond to terror attacks, hate crimes and extremists who break the law.”

‘Policy or practice?’

Since Floyd’s death, second-degree murder charges have been levied against Derek Chauvin, the officer who had his knee to Floyd’s neck, while the other three are facing charges of aiding and abetting.

Rosenfeld called the incident “sad” and said that “there is no procedure that allows an officer of the Israel police department to carry out an arrest by placing a knee on the neck of a suspect”.

Still, before being fired and charged over the incident, all four officers had been employed by the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), which participated in a 2012 training conference in Minneapolis that was held by the FBI and Chicago’s Israeli consulate.

“Every year we are bringing top-notch professionals from the Israeli police to share some knowledge,” Deputy Consul Shahar Arieli said at the time, as quoted by Mint Press News.

MEE reached out to the MPD several times to inquire as to whether Chauvin was one of the 100 Minnesota police officers that participated in the training. The MPD did not respond to requests for comment, but before he was fired Chauvin was a training officer at the department, having worked there for the past 18 years.

MEE also reached out to the Israeli consulate in Chicago for comment, but failed to receive a response.

For his part, Rosenfeld said that no training exchange with Israel’s police forces would “involve such a measure” like the one Chauvin used against Floyd.

“It doesn’t exist in any [Israeli] police textbook,” he said.

But Fady Khoury, a Harvard Law School civil and political rights attorney with Adalah legal centre for minority rights in Israel, said textbooks and bylaws cannot negate the physical evidence of such tactics being used by Israeli officers on the ground.

“There is plenty of documentation out there of violent arrests that involve kneeling on detainees’ heads and necks,” Khoury said.

“We have seen this not only in the occupied territories when soldiers perform arrests, but inside Israel by police officers as well.”

Days after Floyd was killed, Mohammad al-Qadi, a Palestinian marathon runner from the occupied West Bank, posted several pictures depicting uniformed Israelis arresting Palestinians by using knee-to-throat techniques similar to the one that resulted in Floyd’s death.

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