USA-‘ Israel’ Police Brutality

Police Brutality: From Israel to the US

Palestine Center Brief No. 340 (June 9, 2020)

By Mohamed Mohamed

Parts of American cities are in chaos right now. As everyone knows, the current protests and turmoil in the US were triggered by the murder of an unarmed and restrained black man, George Floyd, at the hands of police officers in the city of Minneapolis.

People throughout the US and the rest of the world are shocked at the brutality and excessive force used by the police officers responsible for Floyd’s death. Of course, any decent person with a conscience would be sickened by such cruelty. But while they are appalled, Palestinians are not surprised.

Why? Because Palestinians have endured similar force and oppression at the hands of Israel for more than 70 years.

In 1948, Zionist terrorists invaded the land of Palestine and expelled more than 750,000 Palestinians from their homes. They terrorized them, they killed women, children, and the elderly, and they committed massacres in numerous Palestinian villages. The few Palestinians who were able to stay are now treated as second-class citizens at best, and they face even worse discrimination than African Americans in the US.

In 1967, Israel initiated a war and invaded the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, as well as the Syrian Golan Heights and the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula. To this day, the Palestinian and Syrian territories are either under Israeli military occupation, or under a near-total siege as is the case in Gaza.

Israel denies these Palestinians the most basic of human rights, which should be guaranteed under international law. They do not enjoy the right to freedom of movement. They are routinely subjected to unlawful surveillance, searches, and seizures. They are often shot, killed, and maimed for very trivial reasons or for no reason at all. Israel and Israeli settlers regularly confiscate their land and private property. They do not have decent access to basic resources such as water, and they do not even have access to quality healthcare.

And as is the case with George Floyd and many others like him, Palestinians have been subjected to racial profiling, torture, and extrajudicial killings. The list of abuses goes on and on, and they are frequent. In fact, on May 30, Israeli police officers in Jerusalem shot and killed Iyad Hallak, an unarmed young man with autism. Israeli police claim they suspected he was carrying a weapon, so they ordered him to stop. Hallak panicked and ran away, and one of the Israeli officers shot him twice in his torso and ended his life.

But there is another important reason why Palestinians are not surprised by police brutality in the US. In order to maintain its lethal grip on Palestinians for the past seven decades, Israel has honed its skills in subjugation and torture. It has marketed and exported its violent tactics to many countries, and sadly, the US has gladly imported its ruthless methods.

In fact, thousands of members of law enforcement in the US have received training in “crowd control, use of force, and surveillance” from Israel. This training has been conducted here in the US, in Israel, and even in the occupied Palestinian territories. This makes them complicit sponsors of Israeli crimes against humanity.

In a 2016 report, the human rights organization Amnesty International wrote that American law enforcement personnel were placed in the hands of Israeli “military, security and police systems that have racked up documented human rights violations for years,” and it describes Israel as a “chronic human rights violator.” Other orgs have documented this.

It is very telling that many US law enforcement departments choose to learn and train in subjugation tactics from Israel, because it is a country known for its ruthless and unrestrained violent methods against the Palestinian people under its occupation.

During the first and second Intifadas (uprisings) in Palestine in 1988 and 2000, Israel responded to Palestinians protesting military occupation with tremendous force. Thousands lost their lives and tens of thousands were wounded. It seems that America is going through an Intifada of its own, but hopefully it will not lead to the same loss of life that occurred in Palestine.

American law enforcement’s collaboration with Israel in learning the policing tactics that led to Floyd’s death is abhorrent, but there is hope for the future. In 2018, the city of Durham in the state of North Carolina became the first American city to ban police from training in Israel. This is encouraging, and hopefully all cities in the US will follow suit soon.

A step in the right direction is to discontinue this training cooperation with Israel and to hold American police officers to a much higher moral standard. After all, the purpose of police anywhere is “to protect and serve,” not to torture and kill.

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