The Truth About the ‘Controversial’ American-Israeli Police Exchange Program

An Israeli police officer at the scene of a knife attack in Jerusalem on July 19, 2022. Photo: Israel Police

Recent events in the United States have prompted renewed calls for closer scrutiny of police arrests of suspects. However, some have slandered Israelis – a group of people nearly 6,000 miles away who are clearly totally unrelated to these events.

Supporters of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign have taken to social media to claim that the Israeli police are somehow responsible for the death of a suspect in American police custody simply because there is a respected police exchange program between the two countries.

the US-Israel Strategic Cooperation: Joint Police and Law Enforcement Training Developed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the program involves taking American law enforcement officers and first responders to Israel, where they and their peers attend workshops designed to hone their skills , z as:

  • identify terrorist cells;
  • dealing with the consequences of a terrorist attack;
  • treatment of mass casualties; and
  • Building command and control during a terrorist attack.

Senior U.S. Law Enforcement Personnel:

  • Attend briefings and presentations, and take educational tours to Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holy sites;
  • Meet with senior Palestinian law enforcement officials to hear their views on issues related to strengthening security and countering extremism; and
  • Focus on public relations, with a particular focus on improving police respect for civil rights and freedoms.

Steven L. Pomerantz, former associate director of the FBI and director of the Homeland Security Program at the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA), who describes himself as the “architect” of the exchange program, highlighted the fact that there trips to Israel are about not about “on-site training”, but about anti-terrorist techniques:

Participants will learn how Israeli law enforcement deters, disrupts and responds to terrorist attacks. They examine the ideology of suicide bombers and other attackers, ways to de-escalate an ongoing incident, and the process of gathering and sharing information.

Pomerantz stressed that anti-Israel activists had a “deep misunderstanding of the nature and objectives of the police exchange” and are most likely “motivated by malicious bias.”

Officials participating in the exchange spoke about the importance of learning how to reach out to the local community to ensure they understand their specific concerns.

After a visit in 2017, Major Michael Lindstrom of the Sandy Springs Police Department said: “I think one of the most important lessons I learned from our time in Israel was the importance of connecting with the community , where the officials worked.”

Similarly, Chattanooga Police Chief Celeste Murphy commented, “We have learned a lot about community policing, how it is able to bridge the divide between multiple cultures and religions in a very careful way. It shows that they have compassion for the people they serve, and that’s a lesson we could of course brush up on.”

However, anti-Israel activists used the program to unfairly slander the Jewish state, arguing that whenever there is an incident of police brutality in the US, Israel bears some culpability because American police officers through the exchange have been “militarized”.

The slander became mainstream during George Floyd protests in 2020, as groups like Amnesty International criticized Israel and the lies are once again being spread on social media platforms as America grapples with the death of a young man in police custody in Memphis, Tennessee.

Numerous tweets posted over the past few days accused the Israeli police of being indirectly involved in the incident because the former director of the Memphis Police Department Larry Godwinwho retired from his job more than 10 years ago, reportedly visited Israel as a delegate to the Homeland Security International Conference in 2010.

In addition, current Memphis Police Chief Cerelyn “CJ” Davis participated in a leadership exchange session with the Israel Police Force, as well as other international exchange programs.

Other than that, there is little evidence that the Memphis Police Department was involved in the exchange program.

Furthermore, the actions of the officers involved in the recent incident, even if they had been the case, were a far cry from any known Israeli police approach. Indeed, Amnesty was forced to retract its criticism of the program after admitting that claims that US police had been taught “neck kneeling” tactics by Israeli intelligence services were undocumented.

Of course, the slander that Israel is training US law enforcement to brutalize black men is a blatant example of anti-Semitism and clearly at odds with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working definition of antisemitismparticularly by blaming Jews for wrongdoing committed by others.

While this vicious smear is currently being circulated primarily on Twitter and especially among the most extreme anti-Israel activists, we can expect the lie to spread far and wide in the coming days.

More importantly, we must be prepared to face it with the truth: that it is nothing more than anti-Semitic propaganda aimed at fomenting hostility towards the world’s only Jewish state.

The author is on the staff of HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media regulator specializing in anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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