Protests Against ADL’s Role In US-Israel Deadly Exchange Programs

Above Photo: From jewishvoiceforpeace.org

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JVP activists demonstrated at Anti-Defamation League offices from New York to Seattle, New Haven to Chicago, and 11 other cities across the country Wednesday as part of a nationwide action organized by Jewish Voice for Peace calling on the ADL to end #DeadlyExchange programs between U.S. and Israeli law enforcement officials.

At protests throughout the day, ADL executives refused petition deliveries, and told JVP activists that the New York headquarters would receive the text of the petition signed by 20,000+ people. When organizers arrived at the ADL’s national headquarters in Manhattan they were again refused. After a large rally where 70 recited the mourner’s kaddish for those killed by state violence, seven JVP members–ranging in age from 24 to 72– remained in the lobby of the building, waiting for the the ADL to take the petition. Instead, 30 police officers arrested them as they were reading testimonies from those harmed by police exchange programs and singing “Ain’t gonna study war no more.”

In a letter delivered to ADL Director Jonathan Greenblatt Wednesday morning, JVP Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson requested a meeting to discuss the demand that this self-proclaimed civil rights organization put an end to these dangerous training programs that perpetuate discriminatory, repressive and violent policies in the U.S. and Israel.

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director, JVP: 
“With antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism on the rise these days, we need organizations fighting for the safety of all people. Unfortunately, the ADL’s response to our campaign thus far has been to affirm their commitment to running these harmful programs. With today’s actions, we are asking ADL leadership to understand the deep concern we feel, listen to the real harms caused by their programs, and take immediate action to stop these deadly exchanges.”

In addition to attempting to deliver the petition, local activists also hosted speak-outs on the links between policing here and Israeli Occupation abroad, called out names of those who lost their lives to state violence, and read testimonials gathered from Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews and others impacted by Israeli law enforcement, with the message: “Safety through Solidarity: Not Policing or Occupation. End the Deadly Exchange.”

For the last decade, under the banner of “counter-terrorism” training, the ADL has brought more than 200 top-ranking U.S. law enforcement, including police chiefs and ICE officials, to Israel to train with Israeli police, military and intelligence agencies. The ADL has also brought those same Israeli forces to train to more than 1,000 US police, ICE and border officials in the U.S. These programs share dangerous tactics, technologies, and practices in both directions: bringing paramilitary tactics to U.S. policing and broken windows discrimination to Israeli policing.

Stefanie Fox, Deputy Director, JVP:
“These programs turn Israel’s 70 years of dispossession and 50 years of Occupation into a marketing brochure for successful policing. We want to end Israel’s human rights abuses, not hold them up as a model.”

The nationwide protests today used compelling visuals and storytelling to describe the human impact of these programs. JVP members worked in broad and diverse coalition, making connections about the impact of racial profiling, police violence, and militarization from the US to Palestine/Israel.

Asaf Calderon, JVP activist in New York City:
“As an Israeli immigrant to the U.S., I’ve seen racial profiling of black and brown people with my own eyes from the security in Ben Gurion airport to random detentions in the subway in New York. I find the fact that law enforcement agencies in both countries are building on each other’s experience of racial discrimination appalling, even more so when these programs are run by a so-called civil rights organization.”