The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Sunday February 5th

Letter: Lessons from Palestine on Police Militarization


Last week, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) had the opportunity to attend a work session hosted by Durham City Council. 

SJP was particularly interested in attending this specific session when we heard of a resolution presented by the Durham2Palestine coalition, which demanded that Durham City Council immediately adopt a resolution halting any police exchanges or police trainings with Israel. The public had the chance to hear from both proponents and opponents of the resolution. 

The Durham2Palestine coalition included various organizations, including the local Jewish Voice for Peace – Triangle, Black Youth Project 100, and Students for Justice in Palestine (UNC and Duke). The resolution was endorsed by NC Piedmont Democratic Socialists of America, various churches and Veterans for Peace. 

Opposition members included some Jewish community members who felt that the resolution was unwarranted in its critique of Israel. Having even rudimentary knowledge about how Palestinians are treated in the West Bank under the Israeli military was all anyone needed to know that police exchanges with Israel serve a nefarious purpose here in the United States. 

Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank has essentially been a 50-year experiment of how to come up with the most effective way to suppress, humiliate, and deprive a native population from living a dignified life. Palestinian protesters in the West Bank are subjected to humiliating and dehumanizing practices from Israeli police and soldiers, including the use of so called “Skunk”—a liquid dispersed from water cannons to disperse protesters that The Economist  characterizes as having the odor of “raw sewage mixed with putrefying cow’s carcass”. Other methods of crowd control include firing indiscriminant tear gas on Palestinians living in refugee camps, including children. 

Here in the United States, two of the four law enforcement agencies in Ferguson, Missouri received training from Israeli security forces, and it’s no surprise that the tactics used by police during protests in Ferguson resembled military-style repression used in Israel (such as the use of tear gas). As students who live in the Triangle, the thought of Durham police learning about these methods and potentially adopting them makes our stomach churn.  

There is no shortage of examples of the disproportionate use of force against African Americans and people of color more broadly by American police forces, and it’s no surprise that a state built on the exclusion of non-Jews also has a startling problem with state-sanctioned racism. Israel cannot be a model to emulate. Not in the Triangle, nor the rest of the United States.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, American police in various cities throughout the U.S. are currently still training or open to training its police with Israel, and are especially interested in learning about how to best “manage” disobedient crowds. However, increased police militarization makes the disturbing and unfounded presumption that citizens inherently pose a threat to public welfare which warrants these drastic militarization efforts that purportedly require the police to use extreme violence. 

This presumption of guilt is racialized in its conceptions of who constitutes a “threat” and manifest in its historical violence against people of color. If the Triangle wants to maintain its reputation of being a socially progressive region that wants to rectify historical injustices against vulnerable members of its society, then it must adopt this resolution to demilitarize and make connections to marginalized populations living abroad. 

Students for Justice in Palestine

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