A new report heavily criticizes a law enforcement exchange program between New York City and Israel for fueling discrimination against Muslim communities by the city’s police department.
“Deadly Exchange,” the report authored by Jewish Voice for Peace and Researching the American Israeli Alliance, puts previously published accounts of Israel’s influence on U.S. law enforcement efforts into new context, suggesting that U.S. and Israeli officials employ a variety of tactics and technologies to surveil, profile and repress racial minorities in the name of national security. JVP is seeking to end exchange programs that train American police in Israeli military tactics.
“The NYPD already has a long history of targeting Muslim communities and clear racist practices against all people of color,” said JVP Deputy Director Stefanie Fox in an email to Documented. “The last thing immigrant New Yorkers and New Yorkers of color need is for their local police to be encouraged in racial profiling or infiltration, or further militarized in their approach to public protests.”
The New York City Police Department did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication.
Since the 9/11 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center, New York’s police department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a slew of other local, state, and federal agencies have routinely sent officials to Israel for anti-terrorism training. The law enforcement exchange trips are sponsored by government officials, private companies and non-profits, and, although the trips generally include law enforcement officials from across the US, they have forged especially strong ties between Israeli authorities and law enforcement in NYC.
Since the first trip in 2002, organized by the pro-Israel think tank the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), over 11,000 American law enforcement officials have received training from Israeli security officials through the Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP). The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also has a longstanding program to train American law enforcement officials in Israel and bring Israeli law enforcement officials to lecture in the United States. The NYPD has maintained a branch in Tel Aviv since at least 2012.
The programs have enabled law enforcement officials in New York to import Israeli surveillance, racial profiling and protest suppression tactics and technologies, as well as enabling Israeli officials to learn from policing practices in New York City, according to the JVP and RAIA report.
With the help of the CIA, New York police created a Demographics Unit which mapped entire Muslim communities and wrote detailed files on where people ate, prayed and shopped. The unit was inspired in part by Israeli practices in the Occupied Territories, according to the 2013 book, “Enemies Within,” by Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman.
“Drawing inspiration from Israeli military practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories casts the NYPD in the role of brutal occupying force and the areas where American Muslims live as occupied foreign territory,” Ramzi Kassem, a professor at CUNY School of Law, where he directs the CLEAR project (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility), said in an email. “New Yorkers, who are reminded by every passing police cruiser to expect ‘Courtesy, Professionalism, and Respect’, now know that the police force they pay looked to a repeat human rights violator as a model.”
In April, the JVP secured its first significant win in its efforts to end exchange programs when the Durham City Council in North Carolina voted unanimously to prohibit its police department from participating in “military-style training” abroad.
“Trump has claimed the mantle of ‘fighting terrorism’ to defend policies like the Muslim Ban, militarized policing, and detaining, deporting and separating families at the US-Mexico border,” Fox told Documented. “The Trump administration has built their inhumane policies of migration and policing on the foundation laid by the very counter-terrorism logics lauded during police exchange programs with Israel.”
Researching the American Israeli Alliance)Correction: NYPD’s Demographics Unit was created with the help of the CIA, not as a result of law enforcement exchange programs with Israel. An earlier version incorrectly attributed the creation of the unit to exchange programs. The story was also updated to reflect the fact that Researching the American Israeli Alliance co-authored the report.