(JTA) — In a slap at Israel, the City Council in Durham, North Carolina, voted unanimously to bar its police department from taking part in “military-style training” programs abroad.
The council “opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training since such exchanges do not support the kind of policing we want here in the City of Durham,” reads the resolution, which the council approved in a 6-0 vote Monday night.
It is the first city in the United States to officially ban such training, according to “Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine Coalition,” a group of 10 organizations which actively worked to pass the resolution.
The resolution also states: “We recognize and share the deep concern about militarization of police forces around the country. We know that racial profiling and its subsequent harms to communities of color have plagued policing in our nation and in our own community.”
The coalition of groups includes Jewish Voice for Peace, which supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, and various other Muslim, pro-Palestinian and civil rights groups. JVP has a project, named Deadly Exchange, aimed at ending such exchange programs.
“The Israeli Defense Forces and the Israel Police have a long history of violence and harm against Palestinian people and Jews of Color. They persist in using tactics of extrajudicial killing, excessive force, racial profiling, and repression of social justice movements,” according to the petition. “These tactics further militarize U.S. police forces that train in Israel, and this training helps the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the US.”
It called on the city to “immediately halt any partnerships that the Durham Police Department has or might enter into with the Israeli Defense Forces and/or the Israel Police.”
According to the City Council resolution, Police Chief C.J. Davis said in a memo to City Manager Tom Bonfield that “there has been no effort while I have served as Chief of Police to initiate or participate in any exchange to Israel, nor do I have any intention to do so.”
Some 50 people on both sides of the resolution spoke before the vote, according to the local television station WRAL. Some speakers criticized the resolution as anti-Semitic or objected that Israel was specifically mentioned. Others questioned why such a resolution was necessary, since no such exchanges were planned.
Former Police Chief Jose Lopez spent a week in Israel attending the Anti-Defamation League’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, according to his bio. He told the council that none of the training involved “militarization.” He said the training dealt with “leadership, it was learning about terrorism and then learning about how to interact with people who are involved in mass casualty situations and how to manage mass casualty situations.”
Responding this month to the resolution, the ADL’s Washington, D.C., regional director, Doron F. Ezickson, wrote that, “Far from training that ‘helps the police terrorize black and brown communities,’ ADL’s law enforcement programs, including those in Israel, are designed to equip officers with the knowledge, understanding, and sense of accountability necessary to help safeguard all of our communities and ensure that our civil rights and liberties are rigorously protected.”
Noah Rubin-Blose of the Triangle chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace said following the vote, “Abolishing police exchanges between Durham and Israel is a step towards a true community safety that cares for people’s needs and is not modeled after occupation and apartheid.”