The implications of Israel’s use of deadly force against unarmed Palestinian protesters has been a thorny issue for Americans of late. The brutal tactics deployed by American police forces against the country’s black population, which prompted the Black Lives Matter protests, left many questioning the training given to US police officers.
These concerns have been raised once again with commentators asking if the lethal use of violence employed by the Israeli army against Palestinian in Gaza should start to concern marginalised Americans who may want to protest against injustices in their own country.
It’s widely known that US police forces train extensively with the Israeli military. Hundreds of federal, state, local and even some campus law enforcement departments across the country are known to have trained in some capacity with the Israeli forces now gunning down Palestinian protesters in droves.
Some notable ones, Domenica Ghanem writing for These Times points out, include the Chicago police, responsible for shooting and killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. The Baltimore police too, who were responsible for killing 25-year-old Freddie Gray. And the St. Louis department, which was deployed in Ferguson when protests erupted after police killed 18-year-old Michael Brown – prompting Palestinians halfway across the world to begin tweeting advice for minimising injuries when police deploy tear gas.
US police departments are sent to Israel, or sometimes Israeli forces come to the United States, under the pretence of counter-terrorism training. With the United States on constant terror alert since the events of September 11, 2001, American police and law enforcement officials are taking advantage of Israel’s expertise in various facets of counter-terrorism and first response to better protect the American people.
But that training, Ghanem points out, includes learning the benefits of “skunk water”- a liquid developed by Israel that’s used to break up anti-occupation protests; the same “skunk water” was being stockpiled by the St. Louis department after protests in Ferguson.
Other programmes that appear to have been migrated wholesale include the infamous NYPD Muslim surveillance programme. According to Ghanem, the NYPD Intelligence Division Chief responsible for the programme got the idea from a similar programme used to spy on Palestinians.
The overlap in fighting what the Israelis call terrorism and social unrest at home in American is too serious to be overlooked, as many have been pointing out. It’s said that the former head of Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security service) Avi Dichter – who has advocated dropping heavy bombs on civilian-occupied Gaza apartment buildings – believes there’s “an intimate connection between fighting criminals and fighting terrorists”. Dichter calls these threats “crimiterrorists”. Dichter likes to think of the war on terror and the war on drugs in the same category, Ghanem points out.
While these connections may be new to some, the activists fighting both against the occupation of Palestine and for Black lives are not strangers to how their struggles are linked.
In fact Israel has been working tirelessly to make itself indispensable to governments around the world supressing sections of their own population. Israel’s critic Jeff Halper even describes Tel Aviv as being in an enviable position to “secure insecurity” having had decades of experience in doing so. “Its edge in the high-tech security needs may have developed out of necessity but it has now developed into a core element of the Israeli economy and placed it at the forefront of the global security industry.”