Ferguson is not Gaza … yet
Posted in the Chicago Forum
#1 Aug 19, 2014
Ferguson is not Gaza … yet
U.S. law enforcement maintains extensive relations with Israel, but militarized policing is largely homegrown
August 18, 2014 12:00PM ET
by Mark LeVine -﻿ @culturejamming
The police violence in Ferguson and the attendant images have inspired comparisons with Israel’s assault on Gaza. The parallels between Israeli and U.S. militarized policies are not far-fetched. A cursory investigation shows that Israel maintains an extensive network of relations with U.S. law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels.
It is no coincidence that the Ferguson and St. Louis County police forces were trained in Israel in recent years. These connections are so important that the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee touts their success and the Jewish Virtual Library lists police training as a separate category of U.S.-Israel relations. The CRI, a private counterterrorism-training outfit run by a former Israeli special forces member, promises training in “combat experience in dealing with terrorism, crime and guerrilla warfare.” Over the years, thousands of U.S. personnel at all levels of law enforcement and hundreds of senior managers, from local police chiefs to FBI detectives, have taken counterterrorism training in Israel or attended conferences sponsored by the Israeli government, security-minded conservative think tanks and even the Anti-Defamation League with little to no scrutiny for their role in the militarization of our police forces.
In 2001, shortly after 9/11, I wrote a column asking,“We’re all Israelis now?” That question resonated with U.S. law enforcement agencies, which see Israel as the vanguard of the fight against Muslim terrorism. But as with the argument that Israel’s lobby determines U.S. foreign policy priorities, Israel usually follows the parameters set by U.S. political and strategic elites, not the other way around. For example, the U.S. did not need Israel to reallocate tens of billions of dollars toward domestic defense. Similarly, the half a billion dollars in military weapons given to local police forces through the Department of Defense’s 1033 grants program — a surplus the army was happy to be rid of — was not a result of Israel’s lobbying. It was a natural extension of local law enforcement’s decades-long relationship with the military.
Rather than comparing Ferguson to Israel’s heavy-handed conduct in Gaza and the West Bank, Americans should instead examine their own country’s history of militarized policing. In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. military-industrial complex has done pretty well on its own to capitalize on the so-called war on terrorism. As the American Civil Liberties Union described in a 2012 report and again this June, these synergies are part of the dangerous precedents that brought “the war [on terrorism] home.”
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