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N. Carolina city bars cops from training in Israel after pro-Palestinian protest

Activists in Durham petitioned against ‘military-style’ exchanges with Jewish state; council says such programs do not support ‘the kind of policing we want’

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative. An elite Border Police unit takes part in an exercise in the IDF's counterterrorism training center outside of the central Israeli city of Modiin. (Israel Police)
Illustrative. An elite Border Police unit takes part in an exercise in the IDF's counterterrorism training center outside of the central Israeli city of Modiin. (Israel Police)

A North Carolina city council issued a statement against local police participating in international exchange programs that offer “military-style” training, after pro-Palestinian activists launched a petition against the force sending delegates to Israel, which it accused of “using tactics of extrajudicial killing.”

After a two-hour debate Monday night, the Durham City Council put out the statement, which opened by citing a memo from Police Chief Cerelyn C. J. Davis that said: “There has been no effort while I have served as chief of police to initiate or participate in any exchange to Israel, nor do I have any intention to do so.”

A former police chief did participate in such an exchange program.

The statement declared the “council opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training since such exchanges do not support the kind of policing we want here in the City of Durham.”

The council statement was in response to a petition by the Demilitarize from Durham2Palestine group of organizations which called for ending cooperation with Israel. Among those included in the umbrella group are Jewish Voice for Peace — Triangle, Durham for All, Inside-Outside Alliance, and Black Youth Project 100.

Screen capture from video of Durham city mayor Steve Schewell. (YouTube)

Former Durham police chief Jose Lopez, who traveled to Israel on an exchange visit in the past, told local WRAL television that the petition misrepresents what happens on the programs.

“The training that I got had all to do with managing major crisis situations where bombings had occurred, shootings, things of that nature. Things that really a lot of Americans need to concern themselves with now,” Lopez said. “Nothing of the training had anything to do with militarization.”

During the debate, Mayor Steve Schewel, who is Jewish, said that “so many people are being given completely false information that our police are training with the Israeli army and would be again … it’s so damaging to police-community relations,” the Heraled Sun reported.

“If you want to make change in the American Jewish community’s response to what’s happening in Israel and Palestine, then you have to be truthful,” Schewel continued. “Remember who we are as Jews. I’m 67. Six years before I was born … the Holocaust wiped out half of us on earth.”

The mayor further warned that it was lies about Jews that made the Holocaust possible, the report said.

In its online petition, Durham2Palestine wrote: “The Israeli Defense Forces and the Israel Police have a long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of Color. They persist in using tactics of extrajudicial killing, excessive force, racial profiling, and repression of social justice movements. Such tactics have been condemned by international human rights organizations for violating the human rights of Palestinians.”

“These tactics further militarize US police forces that train in Israel, and this training helps the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.”

Seven rabbis from the so-called Triangle — a group of three university cities — signed a notification to the council against the petition.

Screen capture from video of Doron Ezickson, Washington regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. (YouTube)

Doron Ezickson, Washington DC regional director of the Anti-Defamation league, also sent a letter to the council. The ADL helps organize counter-terrorism and police training for US law enforcers in Israel.

“Far from training that ‘helps the police terrorize black and brown communities,’ ADL’s law enforcement programs, including those in Israel, are designed to equip officers with the knowledge, understanding, and sense of accountability necessary to help safeguard all of our communities and ensure that our civil rights and liberties are rigorously protected,” Ezickson wrote, according to the Herald.

Eran Efrati, who is on the board of directors for Jewish Voice for Peace, wrote a message of congratulations on his Facebook page and said Durham had become the first US city to ban training with Israel’s police force.

“The incredible coalition who came together to say: We believe in a different idea of what security is and what it could be in our city, through community investment and not through militarized policing. A historic resolution and victory, the first of many for the Deadly Exchange campaign.”

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