Anti-Defamation League Responds: We Do Not Support the Militarization of Police

The exchange program criticized by Jewish Voice for Peace “has led to the arrest of potentially dangerous terrorists and extremists before they could cause harm to U.S. civilians,” says regional director.

Last month, Wendy Elisheva Somerson, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, called for an end to a program through which the Anti-Defamation League takes members of the Seattle Police Department to Israel to exchange best practices with the military there. Invoking the Jewish value of tikkum olam, she asked, “What lessons should be swapped between a U.S. police department with a documented record of racist violence and an occupying army with its own egregious record of human rights abuses?” In reference to the ADL, she wrote that “we desperately need Jewish organizations that can fight the brokenness of our world, including antisemitism, Islamophobia, and racism. What we don’t need are organizations, such as the ADL, that fight violence with more state violence.” The ADL and some readers responded.

The op-ed falsely accuses the Anti-Defamation League of sponsoring law enforcement trips to Israel to teach about “state-sponsored violence,” police militarization and oppression. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are the facts: ADL works closely with law enforcement in the U.S., training thousands of law enforcement officials to identify and investigate hate crimes, as well as extremist and terrorist threats against all vulnerable groups in our society. We also train thousands of federal, state and local police each year on Constitutional policing, implicit bias, core values, and the role of police as protectors the people—all people—and of the Constitution and individual rights.

Contrary to what some members of Jewish Voice for Peace might tell you, these programs have helped police officers to be better prepared to identify hate crimes; have led to increased protection of synagogues, churches, and other houses of worship; have helped police officers understand the dangers of hatred and prejudice. ADL has also worked closely with law enforcement to identify extremists and the assistance we have provided over the years has led to the arrest of potentially dangerous terrorists and extremists before they could cause harm to U.S. civilians. And to be clear, ADL does not, and has never, supported the “militarization” of police.

We take a small subset of law enforcement leaders to Israel each year so they can learn from their Israeli counterparts about how to identify and prevent terror attacks such as the horrific car-ramming attack recently in lower Manhattan. They meet with their counterparts in the Israeli police and learn about counterterrorism strategies, techniques used by first responders and community policing efforts. The goal of this program is to help U.S. law enforcement officials prevent attacks in the U.S. and save lives.

Finally, a word about JVP: This group is an outlier in the American Jewish community. Their views are colored by a deep and abiding antipathy toward Israel. It’s disappointing and sad to see activists who claim to uphold Jewish values twisting the facts and using a serious issue such as police brutality to suit their own anti-Israel agenda. ADL will continue to work through courts, in the halls of Congress, in local communities through our 26 regional offices and through public campaigns to fight hate, anti-Semitism and racial injustice. Miri Cypers, Seattle Regional Director, Anti-Defamation League, via email

I would like to respond to the your article that you claim is to address cooperation between the Seattle Police Department and the Israeli Defense Forces. This article is the most hypocritical, antisemitic, anti-Israel piece I have read in a long time. It is filled with false claims that are clearly based on either lack of research and/or understanding of Israel and the Jewish people. In a world where hatred, antisemitism, and violence toward Jews is increasing every day, your article is adding the fuel to the hate-filled fire. The fact that you are Jewish makes this even more disturbing.

Let me correct your distorted view of history for you: The Balfour Declaration gave back the Jewish state to the its rightful descendants. The world recognized the Jews as the original inhabitants of this land. Jerusalem is mentioned hundreds of times in the Torah but not once in the Koran. Your claim of the Gilboa prison is housing 800,000 people is a flat-out lie. There are 25,000 prisoners there and none are minors. You call Israel an occupier when the truth is how do you occupy your own land? Ninety-seven percent of Judea and Samaria, which you call the West Bank, is controlled by the Palestinian Authority and they have full rights and cooperation with Israel. The Gaza strip was handed to Hamas with hopes for peace and has led to two wars and countless attacks already.

You are painting Israel as this horrible place where Palestinians are all prisoners. I encourage you to go and see for yourself. I have been to Israel, Judea and Gaza and it is quite the opposite. Israelis and Palestinians live side-by-side, and though there is much tension in many areas, everyone wishes for peace and none more than the Israelis. In the words of Golda Meir: “We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.”

Much remains to be done for a country that is surrounded by all that wish for its destruction, but by spreading falsehoods in the guise of an article about the SPD and IDF has come across and nothing more than a piece of hateful propaganda. If tikkun olam is the Jewish value of repairing the world, then why are your words hurting it more? I am saddened that this article was written by someone claiming to be Jewish. The worst kind of Jew is a self-hating one. Shame on you and the hate you spread. Ariel Weber, Seattle, via email

The writer responds: As a self-loving anti-Zionist Jew, I share Ariel’s concern about the rising tide of anti-Semitism in the era of Trump, but I don’t believe that defending the oppression of Palestinians does anything to make the world safer for Jews.

While I certainly wish that the ADL would focus on fighting this hatred, how can an organization that sends cops to train with the Israeli military suggest that they do not support the militarization of the police? What else could we possibly call this?

The ADL’s assertion that it is working for racial justice is in direct opposition to what racial justice movements are demanding—police accountability, not militarized policing in the name of “anti-terrorism.”

Like the ADL, Trump also supports Israel’s racialized ‘security’ tactics, which he uses as inspiration for the wall he wants to build on the US southern border.

I find it disgraceful that a so-called civil rights organization like the ADL would support racial profiling in both Israel and the U.S. in the name of security. I am proud to be represented by JVP, the fastest growing Jewish organization in the U.S., with over 200,000 supporters and over 60 chapters across the United States. —Wendy Elisheva Somerson

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