Why did the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a self-described civil rights organization with a mission “to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” issue a scathing attack against JVP and our Deadly Exchange campaign— which aims to do exactly that?
Our campaign challenges police exchange programs that have facilitated training for thousands of high-ranking police, FBI, ICE, and border officials, and Israeli police and military over the last 20 years, reinforcing both governments’ oppressive tactics and ideologies. And the ADL is one of the primary leaders of these exchange programs.
The ADL markets their police exchange programs as a chance for U.S. law enforcement to learn from Israeli expertise on counter-terrorism. “Expertise” here is a synonym for Israel’s decades of enforcing a brutal military occupation, policing Palestinian communities as enemy combatants. The trip features visits to Israeli checkpoints, airports, prisons, illegal settlements, and secret service offices— all sites with long records of Israeli human rights abuses. We want to end Israeli oppression of Palestinians, not valorize it.
The lessons that U.S. officials bring back from these trips are part of a larger trend in policing since 9/11. The importation of counter-terrorism tactics and technologies into domestic policing and immigration policy is evident in many dangerous developments: from the growth of an unprecedented deportation machine premised on the linking of immigration and homeland security policies, to the pervasive surveillance Muslim communities face on the basis of their religion, to the military tactics police and private security use to violently repress Indigenous-led movements like the water protectors at Standing Rock. The frame of counter-terrorism allows police to further criminalize entire communities solely on the basis of race, religion, political activism or immigration status.
At the same time, Israeli police have started adopting a “broken windows” approach from U.S. law enforcement. The idea— which has been thoroughly debunked by activists, lawyers, and advocates— is that constant policing of low-level disorder, through the targeting of communities of color, with constant police surveillance, harassment, and arrest, will somehow deter serious criminal activity. This adds yet another dimension of discriminatory policing and detention to the arsenal of paramilitary and spying practices that Israel has always used against Palestinians.
No one is surprised that such programs are run by right-wing organizations like AIPAC or JINSA, a hawkish pro-war lobby with ties to the defense industry and the Islamophobia network. But it is particularly upsetting to find in their ranks an organization whose stated mission is promoting civil rights.
In this frightening time of increased antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism, many people are turning to the ADL for leadership. At the same time, the organization is dispatching high ranking police, ICE and FBI agents to exchange ideas with Israeli police and soldiers. Far from protecting civil rights, these programs endanger already marginalized communities in Israel/Palestine and the U.S.
As a Jewish organization, we feel a special obligation to call specifically upon the organizations in our communities who run and fund these programs.
These programs are not the root of police violence or occupation, but they are clearly branches, supporting and exacerbating the dangerous policies of both governments.
We believe in a world where all people have safety and freedom, and reject the notion that the safety of some communities requires the oppression of others. And we believe Jewish institutions who claim to fight for civil rights must stand for the rights of everyone.
Jewish Voice for Peace is a national membership organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for the freedom, equality, and dignity of all the people of Israel and Palestine.