The Deadly Exchange Blood Libel

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Israeli officials brought to the United States by American police departments “teach them how to murder the blacks,” stated the anti-Semitic Pink Floyd band founder Roger Waters in an unhinged June 20 Hamas television interview. He further demonstrates that, in the current global Black Lives Matter (BLM) upheaval, an interrelated Islamist-Leftist alliance on social media and elsewhere has slandered Israel while demonizing America and whitewashing Islam.

Waters connected Israel to the Marxist, anti-Semitic BLM movement through the increasingly mainstream myth that Israeli law enforcement exchanges with American police incite their abuse. The May 25 Minneapolis killing of the black man George Floyd by a police officer’s prolonged kneeling on the handcuffed Floyd’s neck has given increased prominence to this lie. Waters fantasized that this restraint measure was an “Israeli technique, taught to the militarized polices forces of the United States.”

Cornell University Law School professor William Jacobson has extensively examined at his excellent Legal Insurrection website the background of Waters’ views. In 2016 he noted a “multi-year effort by left-wing and Islamist anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and openly anti-Semitic activists to hijack racial tensions in the United States and redirect that anger towards Israel.” This effort assumed an organized form in 2017 with the Deadly Exchange campaign launched by the radical anti-Israel group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).

Jacobson has analyzed the “intellectual rubric is ‘intersectionality,’ by which anti-Israel activists try to forge links with minority (particularly black) activists by holding out Israel as the key link to oppression around the globe.” As one Vermont JVP activist stated, they “are all fighting the same battle against a militarized, imperialist, capitalist, racist system that threatens all of us.” “Afraid of the power of traditional Black and Hispanic Christian identification with Israel, Deadly Exchange advocates seek to use the campaign to recruit minority populations to the anti-Israel movement instead,” Jacobson has added.

The Deadly Exchange has targeted programs often sponsored by Jewish-American groups such as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA). Since Al Qaeda’s September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in America, these groups have facilitated Israeli counterterrorism training for American police officers in both Israel and the United States. As Syracuse University political science Professor Miriam Elman has noted at the Legal Insurrection, these programs, where Israeli and Palestinian Authority officers discuss issues including community-police ties, “make both Americans and Israelis safer.”

Israeli counterterrorism expert Avi Kapon has observed that Israeli “counter-terror experts are among the most experienced and respected professionals on the planet.” Counterterrorism is an “art over there,” John Jay College of Criminal Justice Professor and Israeli Defense Forces veteran Maria Haberfeld has noted. “If you’re dealing with this for so many decades, then there is definitely expertise.”

ADL Washington, D.C. Regional Director Doron F. Ezickson on April 12, 2018, wrote to Durham, North Carolina’s city council of Israel’s “unfortunate vast experience dealing with terror.” This offered “valuable expertise on how to balance the need for security with protections accorded by the laws and values of a democratic country.” JINSA Homeland Security Program (HSP) director Steven L. Pomerantz likewise recently wrote of HSP attendees in Israel. They “have discussed efforts to build trust with minority communities, visited hospital trauma units and crime scenes, and spoken with terrorists serving life sentences for murder.”

“Many HSP participants have recognized the program’s great value,” Pomerantz has noted, such as in a 2019 National Sheriffs’ Association resolution. Among “many similar testimonies over the years,” Pomerantz learned from one police chief that the HSP experience in Israel later helped deescalate and resolve an armed hostage-taking. Ezickson’s predecessor, David Friedman, has stated that ADL program participants have given “incredibly positive feedback.”

By contrast, Georgia law enforcement organizations called the Deadly Exchange campaign “fallacious and slanderous” in early 2019. Ezickson and Friedman have similarly respectively denounced JVP charges as “ludicrously false” and “shameful and despicable,” while the ADL has noted that its exchanges contain no tactical training. Pomerantz concurred that JVP defamation is “not only false, but dangerous,” and noted that HSP includes no field training on matters such as holds or arrests.

ADL New England regional director Robert Trestan likewise responded to JVP-led campaigns that canceled Vermont and Northampton, Massachusetts, police participation in a December 2018 ADL Israel conference. This was the first cancellation in this annual conference for New England police since the program began in 2002. He called JVP accusations “patently false” and noted that the seminar did not handle “incarceration of people against their rights, or locking up children or racial profiling,” all opposed by the ADL.

In reality, police departments across the United States and around the world have their own rules of engagement independent of Israel. Accordingly, the kinds of restraint techniques that caused Floyd’s death, yet often considered necessary for confronting dangerous suspects, have provoked controversy globally. Nonetheless, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld stated after his death that Israel has “no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway.” Israel’s Midwest Consulate General also denounced any Floyd-Israel connection as “baseless and misguided.”

Jacobson has also denounced as “preposterous” any Israeli link to any “specific police officer” in America given that a “miniscule and almost unmeasurable percentage of U.S. police are trained in Israel.” While perhaps a few hundred American police officers participate in brief, Israeli-led trainings, American police academy classes number yearly tens of thousands. While noting the domestic origins of various American policing controversies, Elman has concluded that the Deadly Exchange screed has “simply not a shred of evidence.”

This “vile” campaign rather “traffics in ugly antisemitic tropes and canards about Jewish power, money, and conspiratorial efforts to harm society,” Elman has observed. The lie that “Jews are responsible for the spilling of minority blood in U.S. cities is reminiscent of ancient blood libels which incited pogroms against Jews,” Jacobson has concurred. Other Jews, including the legal authority Alan Dershowitz, have similarly condemned Deadly Exchange.

Jewish News Syndicate editor Jonathan Tobin accordingly inveighed against the Deadly Exchange’s first victory in Durham on April 16, 2018. There the city council had unanimously singled out Israel in a scandalous prohibition of city police training exchanges, even though Durham had not had such programs in the past decade. This council vote was a “modern version of the ancient blood libel in which Jews are falsely blamed for outrageous crimes.”

The broader public should clearly recognize that Deadly Exchange proponents rely upon deceit in order to harm both America and Israel. These activists have celebrated precisely how the “element of surprise (they worked fast with little public notice)” enabled the 2018 Northampton and Vermont debacles. In contrast, these propagandists fear truth, for as Friedman noted, ADL program participants in Israel “come back and they are Zionists. They understand Israel and its security needs in ways a lot of audiences don’t.”

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