AnalysisFeaturesIsraelpolice brutality

NYPD, KKK, IDF: They’re all the same!

Photo: NYPD arrests a protestor at a Jan. 2023 Palestine demonstration. Credit: Wyatt Souers

As pro-Palestine demonstrations hit their eighth month and as we witness police forces brutally repress these protestors calling for an end to the genocide in Gaza, the relationship between police forces like the New York City Police Department and the Israeli Defense Forces are under intense scrutiny for the shared practices and approaches to policing between the two entities.

This relationship is indicative of a larger pattern of collaboration between U.S. law enforcement agencies and the Israeli military, and the “counterterrorism” tactics which cops learn abroad in Israel against Palestinians is then brought back to be deployed in our own communities. 

Policing after Sept. 11

Collaboration between various U.S. law enforcement agencies and the IDF began in the early 2000s following the Sept. 11 attacks, when the former needed to bolster their surveillance and infiltration tactics. In the wake of these attacks, the NYPD fundamentally shifted the ways it tackled policing, and other police forces across the country followed its lead. 

These police forces turned to Israel, who had such experience in these repression measures and military operations, mainly in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In 2002, for example, the NYPD was the first police department in the U.S. to send officers to Israel for a “symposium on suicide bombers.”

Since Sept. 11, a cornerstone of this partnership has been the exchange programs that are facilitated by various organizations that include the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. The programs consist of U.S. police officials traveling to Israel where they receive training from the IDF, along with Israeli security experts visiting the United States where they conduct seminars and joint exercises. The training that U.S. police officers receive in Israel covers a range of different topics which include counterterrorism, crowd control, intelligence gathering, infiltration of protests, instructions on media coordination over coverage and surveillance.

According to a 2018 report by Jewish Voice for Peace and Researching the American-Israeli Alliance:

These exchange programs with Israel facilitate the sharing of practices and technologies between US law enforcement and the Israeli military, police and intelligence agencies; instill militarized logics of security into the civilian sphere, normalizing practices of mass surveillance, criminalization, and the violent repression of communities and movements the government defines as threatening; and deepen ties between US and Israeli officials to shore up support for a shared security model that justifies flagrant human and civil rights violations. 

These tactics used by the IDF — which are first used on Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — are then shared with U.S. law enforcement agencies and brought back to the States. 

From Sept. 11 to “stop and frisk”

In 2011, then-mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg stated the following during a speech he gave at MIT: “I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh biggest army in the world.”

The Sept. 11 attacks fundamentally transformed the structure of the NYPD, making it a larger force than most countries’ militaries. Year after year the NYPD’s budget only sees an increase — with the 2023 budget reaching a staggering $11.2 billion, with the department investing heavily in surveillance technology and repression efforts. In fact, since Oct. 7, the NYPD has deployed the counterterrorism unit against pro-Palestine demonstrations across the city. 

In the wake of Sept. 11, the NYPD ramped up its surveillance of Muslim and Arab communities, a program used to track them at home, school, mosques, restaurants and so on. The passing of the Patriot Act at the federal level made it that much easier for governments to surveil people and communities in the name of national security. 

During his tenure as mayor, Bloomberg implemented the disastrous policy of ”stop and frisk”, where police officers could stop any individual on the street that they suspected was committing or about to commit a crime. Indicative of the collaboration efforts between the NYPD and IDF, Israel passed its own “stop and frisk” law in Feb. 2016 to allow for the harassment of Palestinian teenagers by Israeli soldiers.

In New York City, this “stop and frisk” policy was primarily targeted against Black and Latino men. In 2013 a federal court decision ruled “stop and frisk” unconstitutional. 

2020 and now 

But the repression tactics adopted from the IDF and imported back to the States was most apparent during the 2020 uprising against police brutality, which saw NYPD officers — and other police forces across the country — using little to no restraint when tackling, punching and even driving a vehicle into protestors. These repression tactics brought new light and criticism onto the IDF exchange programs. So severe was the backlash against these programs that a leaked ADL memo revealed that, at the height of the protests, the organization was considering suspending the exchanges altogether. In the end, the ADL decided to continue the program.

It was during the 2020 demonstrations for George Floyd that protestors across the country received advice on how to treat tear gas and rubber bullets from Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, because the former were all too familiar with these tactics of repression. 

Palestinians also painted murals across the West Bank separation wall in honor of George Floyd and the struggle against police brutality here in the United States. 

Cop City and beyond

New York City is not alone. Over the last four years a movement has been growing in Atlanta, Georgia to stop the construction of a police training center that has been dubbed “Cop City.” The training facility is slated to be built on 85 acres of forest land in Atlanta drawing concerns from environmental activists as well as how this facility will further militarize the police in Atlanta. And on top of all this, the federal government’s 1033 program now allows for police departments across the country to receive military grade equipment, further militarizing police forces. 

The Atlanta Police Department has used flashbang grenades and rubber bullets against Stop Cop City activists, who also draw parallels between their struggle and the struggle of Palestinians. 

Activists are also pointing out the collaboration between the Atlanta Police Department and the Israeli government. One of the programs they are highlighting is the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange program, which sends Georgia police officers to Israel to train in tactics of counterterrorism, “homeland security and community policing.”

These tactics of repression adopted from the IDF were brought back to Atlanta.

In 2023 a Stop Cop City activist, Manuel Paez Terán, also known as Tortuguita​​, was shot 14 times by Atlanta police. Tortuguita was in the forest with other forest defenders in an attempt to bring awareness to Cop City. They were 26 years old. 

And in February of 2024 protestors against Cop City were charged with domestic terrorism charges, which Georgia updated in 2017 to broaden its definition to include “attempts to seriously harm or kill people, or to disable or destroy “critical infrastructure.”

On May 31, New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced a $225 million plan to bring his own Copy City police training academy to Queens.

‘Move cops, get out the way! We know you’re Israeli trained!’

When you hear protestors in the streets chanting, “NYPD, KKK, IDF: They’re all the same!” and “Move cops, get out the way! We know you’re Israeli trained,” it isn’t because they sound good and bring up energy. They are being chanted because the NYPD and police forces across the country have exchange programs with the Israeli government. 

These chants come from an understanding of the connections we see between what is happening in Palestine and the violence at home. We witness it here through the horrific police violence against Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and so many more. We see it in the severe repression tactics used against those who protest this police brutality, and in the last eight months, those who dare to oppose the U.S.-Israeli genocide in Gaza. 

It may seem bleak but knowing this is what forms the basis of international solidarity: The same imported surveillance technologies, infiltration and crowd control tactics and other techniques of repression used against Palestinians by the IDF are the same ones that will be used against us. The struggle against Zionist occupation abroad is the same struggle against police brutality domestically.

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