What do the Israelis teach Western police forces?
In the bitter aftermath of the George Floyd killing, and claims about IDF exporting training, author and activist Jeff Halper unravels connections between the police and the military
Let’s begin with the question “why?” Why are the Israelis so involved in police training and the restructuring of police forces in the Global North?
Since the mid-1970s the capitalist world-system has taken a dramatic and repressive turn. The rise of neoliberalism has seen the majority of the world’s resources – some 65-70% per year – funnelled to the G7 countries, impoverishing the rest. Oxfam says that 80% of the world's population lives on less than US$10 a day, and 50% on less than US$2 a day.
While the transnational capitalist class (the 1%) accumulate obscene fortunes, the vast majority of people – working class and middle class alike are losing their job security and financial security. Young people are being excluded from the market of “real” jobs before they even begin. Working people are becoming the precariat, the working poor. They are at the mercy of a job market that demands “flexibility”. They have no job security and no assurance of job mobility, and the unions struggle to protect them; at the same time, they lack community and family support, a state-insured safety net or savings on which they can draw. They have no future and are pissed off about it.
Such inequalities undermine the stability of the system. As social unrest grows, neoliberal capitalism must be increasingly enforced. The “nice” consumer face of capitalism is increasingly displaced by the need to secure an unstable capitalism.
All this generates a preoccupation with “security”. Police forces are capitalism’s domestic enforcers but law enforcement in the Global North is still constrained by principles and laws harking back to earlier days. The most relevant for us is the separation of the police (internal security) from the military (external security) in Western states, a wall erected in the Westphalian system devised in 1648.
In the US, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 strictly separates domestic law enforcement from the deployment of the military. The UK went a step further. As modern police forces began emerging in the 19th century, British policing developed the concept of local level “policing by consent”, which is why the UK, unlike most countries, does not have a national police force. How, then, with these restrictions, can police become effective enforcers of an increasingly repressive and unstable neoliberal system?
The answer lies in securitisation, a fancy term covering homeland security, The War On… (terror, drugs, crime, gangs, illegal immigration, unions, radicals etc). This bridging of policing and the use of military force to enforce social order is what is behind the rise of the Security State in the Global North. There is a circular “security” logic to the Security State.
Although kernels of this have long existed, the use of military force in internal situations has been used primarily under a “state of exception”, a time when legal protections are reduced or suspended to give the police a free hand in repressing whatever “crisis” the ruling classes feel must be repressed. Threats to “security” create a unity between the ruling classes and the rest of the population – indeed, the precariat are often the most right-wing and patriotic – making it possible to impose a permanent state of emergency. The US has its Patriot Act. In 2005, the British government passed the Military Aid to the Civil Power Act (MACP), which provides military assistance to police when they feel the need for specialist capabilities or equipment in situations beyond their capacity to maintain order. In 2014, Parliament passed the Civil Contingencies Bill, labelled the “British Patriot Act”, and in 2015 the Home Command was established as the Ministry of Defence’s operational headquarters responsible for “resilience” operations in support of the civil authorities. Then there’s the Prevent programme to deal with “extremism”.
Israel still operates under the British Emergency Regulations of 1945.
The “why” of Israel’s involvement in all this goes beyond police training. Of all the countries of the Global North, Israel is the closest to the Security State that Trump, Johnson, the European right wing and certainly the ruling classes crave as their only hope of quelling the inequities and anger spawned by neoliberalism. Israel, after all, has been a Security State since its founding in 1948 – although its roots as a highly-militarised society go back to the start of the 20th century. As a settler colony embroiled in a bitter struggle to pacify and displace the colonised Palestinians, Israel has always merged policing and the military, internal and external. It is a master, also, of hasbara, of convincing its own people and others of its benign, peace-loving nature, threatened by criminal “terrorists”. Both of those attributes – the needed structures of a Security State and the ability to effectively blame the victim – are precisely what the besieged neoliberals need.
I draw attention to what I term “securocratic wars against the people,” the overlapping of military wars abroad and militarised policing wars at home. There are clearly connections between high-intensity wars (Vietnam, Iraq), civil wars (Spain, Northern Ireland), counter-insurgency – this would include guerilla wars – and “homeland security”, including counter-terrorism measures, but also involving the so-called wars on drugs and crime. The last connection is with policing of different sorts, armed and unarmed, and with prison systems.
All this brings us to the “what.” What is Israel actually exporting to the Global North? In the context of exporting a model of a Security State, Israel is helping Western police forces restructure as paramilitary organisations. The “Israelisation” of the American police began in the wake of the debilitating effects of neoliberalism, starting in the Reagan administration but already creating huge social and income disparities in the Bush and Clinton years. They began calling for “law and order,” domestic “Wars on”… and a need to control and pacify an ever-growing precariat. By 9/11 the US had also lost the Soviet Union and communism as an external/internal threat that could be exploited to justify repressive, anti-democratic policies at home. While the threat of “terrorists” had become a minor issue in Clinton’s time, it was not tied strongly to the domestic arena. That tie-in, the immediate source of police “Israelisation,” came with 9/11. The Patriot Act levelled the walls between the military, domestic security agencies and the police, giving rise to a new paramilitary “homeland security”.
Since Western governments had been hamstrung by the police/military barrier, their police forces looked around for models of restructuring. Israel’s structure of militarised policing, a ready-made model unlike that of any other Western country, addressed their needs precisely. The Ministry of Internal Security, under which Israeli policing falls, integrates a wide range of military and paramilitary police forces and security agencies, all under a regime of “permanent emergency”. Policing in Israel was never primarily civilian; it always concerned itself more with “security”. The shift from security against Palestinians to security against anything threatening neoliberal stability is a merely technical one.
The Israeli police are very upfront about this. Their official website defines their role as “prevention of acts of terror, dismantling of explosive devices and deployment in terrorist incidents”, only then moving on to routine police matters like maintaining law and order, fighting crime and traffic control. “High intensity policing” and “low intensity warfare” come together in what police and military analysts now call a common securocratic “battlespace”. The Warrior Cop is on the rise. Cathy Lanier, Chief of the Washington DC police, who once said “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel,” authorised checkpoints in the troubled Washington DC neighbourhood of Trinidad to monitor and control street violence and the illegal narcotics trade.
Then we come to the issue of Israeli training of US, UK and other Global North police. Beginning in 2002, shortly after 9/11, a spate of training programmes emerged. The American Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), an organisation which holds that there is no difference between the national security interests of the US and Israel, inaugurated its Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP). It partners with the Israel National Police, the Israel Ministry of Internal Security, and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), and is supported by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriff’s Association, Major City Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum, to bring to Israel for “education” police chiefs, sheriffs, senior law enforcement executives, state homeland security directors, state police commissioners and federal law enforcement leadership. More than 9,500 law enforcement officers have participated in 12 conferences thus far.
“The knowledge gleaned from observation and training during the LEEP trip,” said Colonel Joseph R (Rick) Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, on the JINSA website, “prompted significant changes to the organisational structure of the New Jersey State Police and brought about the creation of the Homeland Security Branch.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) hosts an Advanced Training School twice a year in Washington DC. This has trained more than 1,000 US law enforcement professionals, representing 245 federal, state and local agencies. The ADL also runs a National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) in Israel, bringing law enforcement officers from across the US to Israel for a week of intensive counter-terrorism training, as well as connecting American law enforcement officials with the Israel National Police, the IDF and Israel's intelligence and security services.
And the Israeli Weapons Industry (IWI), the Israeli Uzi manufacturer, runs a police academy in Paulden, Arizona, open to the public as well as police. Another major Israeli police training centre is the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE), located in a black box of a building at Georgia State University in Atlanta (check out their video, Community Policing in a Time of Polarization and Anti-Semitism, via https://gilee.gsu.edu/media/videos/).
Since a preoccupation with security generates paranoia throughout the society, lowering civilian/terrorist/criminal distinctions, Israeli police approach their work as an extension of “counter-terrorism”. Citizens become “people of concern”, potentially threats to public order rather than civilians to be protected. Still, the “violence” in Israeli policing is more controlled, as it is in combat. Israel police, unlike Americans, do not move as suddenly from detaining to shooting. Rather, they react only through control of the situation. This means isolating and locking down the site of the attack, issuing alerts to those in the immediate vicinity and then, if necessary, aggressively dealing with the perpetrators. Since Israel lacks the niceties of reading to suspects their rights before engaging with them, emphasis is placed on the safety of the public and of the officers, not on that of the suspect. This allows Israeli police to shift rapidly from control of the situation to engagement, but avoids much of the collateral damage to person and property we witnessed, for example, in the Breonna Taylor situation in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Israeli practice of “Strike first and with lethality”, passed on to the London Metrpolitan Police, was most famously evident in the death of Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, shot dead on his way to work in a tube carriage. The counterterrorism protocols that had been followed – Operation Kratos – called for shooting suspected suicide bombers in the head without warning. It had been developed together with the Israeli (and Sri Lankan) police.
“Israelisation” takes place in the realm of police weaponry, surveillance and technologies of repression as well. Even though US and European companies have the capability of producing military weapons, the civilian/military separation has placed constraints on them in developing military-style police arms. This opens a huge market for Israel in custom-made military weapons for law enforcement. The IWI has opened a manufacturing plant in Middletown, Pennsylvania, where it produces, for example, a pistol-sized Uzi submachine gun for police. That plant produces a wide variety of militarised weapons for law enforcement, including lines of Galil and Tavor assault rifles and a tactical rifle called the Zion-15 (take a look at the IWI US website). Israel is also the world’s leader in drones, producing 60% of the global market. Drones are becoming staples of US police departments, but here, too, the “wall” poses a challenge: drones are commonly used for surveillance, but weaponised drones are still forbidden to US police.
“Israelisation” does not include violent techniques of restraint. American police forces in particular have been violent since long before Israel was even established (though Israel does train American and other foreign militaries in techniques of “enhanced interrogation” – torture – which are illegal in Western countries). But what it does train Western police in is actually more far-reaching than violent tactics of apprehending individuals.
Posted: 28 October 2020 | Published in: Jewish Socialist No 74