September 2018Campaigns

The Occupation Free DC campaign aims to end MPD program with Israeli forces

The National Terrorism Seminar, run by the Anti-Defamation League, brings federal and local law enforcement from across the US to Israel to train with Israeli police, military, and intelligence. Since police so often behave like an occupying power when dealing with working class communities, especially working class communities of color, allowing them to train with a literal occupying army is asking for trouble. Occupation Free DC, a campaign initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace DC-Metro and endorsed by Metro DC DSA, is working to end the Metropolitan Police Department’s participation in the exchange.

Occupation Free DC is part of a nationwide campaign led by Jewish Voice for Peace that seeks to get US law enforcement to end its “deadly exchange” with Israeli police and military. Activists in Durham, North Carolina scored the first major victory in this campaign. After local activists with the Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine coalition gathered petition signatures from 1% of Durham residents, the city council unanimously voted to ban exchanges between local police and Israel.

DC activists are hoping to emulate this model and are currently gathering signatures. The MPD’s own regulations prohibit the police from training in or with facilities that practice discrimination. A 2007 Baltimore Sun article on Montgomery and Baltimore County police participation in the exchange mentioned how US police officers were given briefings by their Israeli counterparts on racial profiling. According to the  Sun, “Unlike in the United States, where racial and ethnic profiling is forbidden, Israeli airport officials explained how they use profiling to identify suspicious passengers, questioning them extensively and performing searches if necessary. “

The MPD, however, is clearly not implementing its own regulations. That’s why Occupation Free DC is calling on the DC City Council to pass legislation that would bar the MPD from training with discriminatory trainers that violate DC's Human Rights Act.

To be clear, the MPD does not need Israeli guidance to be bad actors. The MPD has its own history of human rights deprivations. Notoriously, the department engages in jump-outs, a ramped up version of stop and frisk in which officers jump out of unmarked police cars with guns drawn. MPD officers killed Terrence Sterling, Javon Hall, and Ralphael Briscoe. Their killers have never been brought to justice. During Trump’s Inauguration, MPD officers attacked protesters with chemical irritants and projectiles. They encircled and illegally arrested over 200 people.

Israel, on the other hand, has committed shocking abuse after shocking abuse as part of its decades long policies of occupation and apartheid. In recent months, Israel has shocked the word by continuously opening fire on unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Should MPD police be training with armed forces currently engaged in the routine killing of protesters?

These exchanges can only be an exchange of worst practices, such as police killings, racial profiling, and repression of dissent. Neither the MPD nor Israeli police and military need the other to encourage their wanton disregard for human rights, but such collaboration can only exacerbate the problem.

In addition to Jewish Voice for Peace-DC Metro and Metro DC DSA, Occupation Free DC is supported by a range of civil and human rights groups including, Black Lives Matter DC, Justice for Terence Sterling, Black Youth Project 100, Stop Police Terror Project DC, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, the DC Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, Defending Rights & Dissent and the Justice for Muslims Collective.

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