A Washington D.C. chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is spearheading a coalition of far-left groups who are calling on the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) to end its participation in police exchanges and counter-terrorism training visits to Israel.

The effort follows on a decision this past April by the Durham, North Carolina City Council to impose a total ban on police exchanges “with only one country in the world: the Jewish state of Israel.”

JVP’s DC-Metro chapter and its allies, who have coalesced to form a “silly new group”, are now engaged in an intense lobbying campaign in the D.C. area. There, they’re relying on similar strategies that proved successful in the run-up to the Durham City Council’s shameful vote last spring.

Basically, JVP is hoping it can duplicate in D.C. its recent “victory” in Durham for the undeniably antisemiticDeadly Exchange” campaign.

As we’ve highlighted in several posts, “Deadly Exchange” is a campaign which, based solely on spurious accusations, singles out policing partnerships with Israel for prohibition:

For some months, JVP and its partners have been holding community-wide events and have been fielding a petition open for signature by D.C. residents. Now they have a snazzy new website with online materials, and they’ve created a new YouTube video (embed below) that’s been circulating widely on social media this past week.

Best I can tell, there’s been no visible or public push back to any of this from Jewish organizations in the D.C. area.

This a mistake because, as we mentioned in our prior posts about the Durham City Council ban, the Jewish Federation’s failure to respond early and visibly to JVP’s calculated campaign of disinformation empowered its local North Carolina activists by making it easier for them to falsely present themselves as legitimate voices in Durham’s Jewish community.

So, if there’s one lesson that should be learned from what happened in Durham it’s that local Jewish leaders and pro-Israel activists need to mobilize quickly to counter the sophisticated grassroots campaigns launched by JVP and its virulently anti-Israel partners.

Background: the JVP-Initiated “Deadly Exchange” Victory in Durham, NC

In a number of prior posts, we highlighted how Durham, North Carolina became the first American city to align a municipal public policy with the agenda of the virulently anti-Jewish and anti-peace extremist organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP):

Durham’s City Council catered to a coalition of local left-wing radical groups and activists who alleged that training programs for American police officials in Israel, some of them organized and funded by the Anti-Defamation League—America’s leading organization fighting antisemitism, prejudice and hate crimes—are to blame for institutionalized racism and societal ills in America, discriminatory racial profiling, policing problems and U.S. police militarization, and even the killings of blacks by cops on the beat in American cities.

These are fraudulent charges that many have described as akin to a modern day antisemitic blood libel in which “Jews are falsely blamed for outrageous crimes”.

The reality is that these police trainings in Israel are designed to equip U.S. law enforcement officers with the knowledge to safeguard communities from a range of threats, including terrorism and active shooter situations. Israel’s security forces are world leaders in terms of their experience and expertise in dealing with these kinds of scenarios and have much to teach their counterparts in other countries with regard to how to detect such threats and defuse them.

Nothing in the training programs endorse “militarization” or would undermine the provision of “fair, unbiased and constitutional policing”. Attendees meet with the Israeli National Police, Palestinian police officers, security and intelligence experts and even journalists. As reported by police chiefs who have participated, they receive high-level briefings as part of the curriculum, including on operational responses to terrorism, airport security, and maintaining access and safety of religious places:

American police officials returned home with information, resources, and contacts to enhance their abilities to combat terrorism and strengthen relationships about key law enforcement leaders and agencies.”

As we discussed, on April 16th Durham’s City Council unanimously passed a resolution banning the Durham Police Department from taking part in these kinds of trainings with Israeli security and law enforcement personnel.

It did so without any evidence to support this discriminatory action and based solely on propaganda concocted by the radical JVP and promoted by its local activists and their allies, who together launched the “Demilitarize! Durham2Palestine” coalition and a cutting-edge PR campaign.

In our prior post we provided an overview of the April 16th City Council meeting on international police exchanges, highlighting the public comments delivered there and also the remarks by various council members and the Mayor. A video of the proceedings along with excerpted clips can be found in the post. It’s worth watching them to get a sense of the kind of anti-Jewish hostility and divisiveness that JVP brings into a community.

We showed how members of the Durham Jewish community who pre-registered to attend the meeting to voice their concerns were subjected to a barrage of gross bigotry from those who came to support the statement. At one point during the proceedings, a minister from the Nation of Islam delivered a 2-minute anti-Jewish rant, referring to a “synagogue of Satan” and accusing Jews of having an “inordinate amount of control” in city politics.

Basically, what happened in Durham is another cautionary tale of how racial issues and other progressive causes in America unrelated to Israel are being exploited and hijacked by anti-Israel activists:

A key component of these hijackings is so-called ‘intersectionality,’ the concept that Israel is the unifying evil force in the world that ties together problems far distant from Israel…Israel thus serves the organizing purpose that Jews historically served in international conspiracy theories.”

Months after the Durham City Council voted to endorse a resolution “insulting and demonizing of Israel and the Jewish people”, the city’s Jewish community is still reeling from the “painful” actions of the council members and the damage that they’ve produced. As we discussed in our most recent post, the Council vote has left the vast majority of that city’s Jews—from across the political spectrum—feeling unsafe, marginalized and threatened.

Now activists affiliated with the JVP chapter in Washington D.C. are eager to capitalize on this perceived “first win” in Durham and a similar local-level effort there is now underway.

JVP Rolls Out Its “Deadly Exchange” Campaign in Washington D.C.

As in Durham, where JVP activists cobbled together a coalition of like-minded social justice groups on the far-left, JVP’s DC-Metro chapter is spearheading a new group called Occupation Free DC.

In typical intersectional fashion, Operation Free DC is made up of an array of groups engaging on different social justice issues in the D.C. area, including LGBTQ advocacy, Black Lives Matter, anti-Islamophobia and interfaith work:

Together they’re promoting the “Deadly Exchange” call to end counterterrorism training in Israel, specifically focusing on shuttering the DC Metropolitan Police Department’s (MPD) visits to Israel.

An online petition open for signature by DC residents condemns the MPD for allegedly participating in “biased police trainings” in Israel that fail to offer “real safety” and that don’t “invest in the community.” It calls on Police Chief Newsham to

immediately cease DC police participation in training exercises with Israeli law enforcement and military, so that worst practices like police killings, racial profiling, and repression of protests are not endorsed as a positive model for DC.”

In addition, the petition calls on member of the Council of the District of Columbia to “support and pass legislation to prevent MPD from training with discriminatory trainers that violate DC’s Human Rights Act.”

This petition is actually much briefer than the one which circulated in Durham, and it doesn’t contain the offensive statements about Israel being complicit in “helping the police terrorize Black and Brown communities here in the U.S.” (As we noted in our prior post, a less obnoxious and sanitized version of the Durham petition was also created and it was that version that was eventually delivered to Durham’s council members—although most of the them had already signed the offensive online version).

It’s possible that JVP decided to go with a different petition to “End the Deadly Exchange in DC” on account of the allegations of procedural irregularities and fraud in the process which have now been raised by Durham residents and local Jewish organizations.

Over the past week, many Washington, D.C.-based groups affiliated with and supportive of Occupation Free DC have been sending out scores of social media posts alerting their members to the petition, and tagging Chief Newsham. Charles Allen, Councilmember for Ward 6, has also been bombarded by tweets.

Here’s a few of the most recent ones, but there are dozens more on the Twitter feeds of the groups committed to Occupation Free DC:

It’s important to note that JVP and its partners have actually been actively promoting a ban on D.C. police training in Israel well before the successful Durham City Council vote this past April. Social media postings of the group go back to March advertising events in D.C.:

It’s clear too that Occupation Free DC activists have been discussing the issues with DC Council members and other community leaders for some time.

In September 2017, D.C. Councilmember David Grosso publicly rebuked the MPD for its “planned participation” in the ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel because it will mean “learning from military advisors…with documented human rights violations” and “that’s not what local law enforcement needs”.

Later, Grosso elaborated on these remarks in an interview for The Intercept claiming that it’s “not a good idea” for the MPD to “go and train” with any foreign police force—whether in Israel or another place—because it means “learning from people who are better at the violent approach to conflict resolution”—and “that’s not appropriate for what we’re trying to do here in D.C.”

Then in January of this year, the Washington D.C. Teachers’ Union President—Elizabeth Davis—reportedly urged 5,000 teacher-members to lodge complaints about police training in Israel and specifically over the MPD’s partnering with the ADL to train there. The email she circulated included the subject line “STOP the Deadly Exchange”, so her missive was obviously connected to and influenced by JVP’s local campaigning on the issue. Davis even used one of Occupation Free DC’s slogans in her email: “Israeli occupation is no model for DC.”

So, the JVP-sponsored campaign in D.C. isn’t really new. Rather, it’s been reinvigorated by the Durham ban on U.S.-Israeli police exchanges. Clearly, JVP has set its sights on D.C. as a promising new municipal target which accounts for the ramping up of the efforts there.

JVP’s New Video Condemning DC Police Training in Israel

This past week JVP and Occupation Free DC have been heavily promoting a new five-and-a-half minute video that showcases the “Deadly Exchange” themes:

In prior posts, we discussed JVP’s earlier videos for this campaign, which were slammed for crossing the line from legitimate criticism of Israeli policy into antisemitism. In particular, many critics found fault with the creepy octopus-like diagram in an earlier video depicting the American Jewish funding sources for U.S.-Israel police training programs:

In JVP’s latest video, this nasty diagram evoking a Jewish conspiracy is gone—in fact, there’s no mention of the ADL or any other Jewish American organizations that organize and finance the U.S.-Israeli police exchange programs. Otherwise, this new video pushes the same virulently anti-Israel propaganda, lies and distortions about Israel’s self-defense and counterterror practices as did JVP’s earlier videos.

Like in the earlier videos, this one too calls for community safety, protection and police reform. It also features a number of frames that visually depict the long and sad history of policing problems in the U.S.:

But where the video goes off the rails is in claiming that these problems are all the result of counterterror trainings that U.S. police officials undertake in Israel.

Early on in the video, JVP’s Olivia Vita, who serves as the narrator, makes the completely unsubstantiated claim that “Israeli police terrorize and kill Palestinians with virtual impunity” and condemns Israel’s security forces for “never ending checkpoints”. That these security measures are put in place to protect Israeli civilians from harm is never addressed.

As in the prior videos, there are many shots of West Bank Palestinians throwing stones and hurling rocks. They’re described by Vita as “peaceful protestors” who are “expressing their civil rights” and are subjected to “brutal repressive tactics.”

There’s absolutely no appreciation here of Israel’s stringent rules of engagement during violent rioting, or any acknowledgement that rock-throwing has killed and maimed scores of innocent Israeli men, women and children.

At one point in the video, Vita denounces Israel for subjecting Palestinians to trials in separate military courts!

As we noted in a prior post, such charges display a profound ignorance of the laws of occupation:

the Fourth Geneva Convention obligates Israel, as an occupying power, to ‘ensure and restore public order and safety’ and to create Military Courts in which to prosecute Palestinians, including minors (as NGO Monitor rightly notes, domestic civilian law can’t be applied to Palestinian minors…because this would violate the Oslo Accords, would be akin to an annexation of territory, and would be outside international law’s ‘occupation paradigm’).”

Referring to the violence at Israel’s border with Gaza that has been ongoing for months, Occupation Free DC alleges that Israel’s military and police “killed over 130 Palestinians marching for their freedom.” This is nothing less than a Hamas talking-point. It’s also repeated by Vita in the video and is a complete fabrication as we’ve documented in many posts covering the recent “Great Return March”.

In addition to Israel’s alleged illegal policing of “political demonstrators” in the West Bank and Gaza, the video also mentions that Israel’s police adopt “discriminatory policies to harass Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

This charge that Israel’s police force represses protest in Israel is laughable and belied by the admirable way in which it operated during a recent large demonstration in downtown Tel Aviv against the controversial nation-state law.

There, unlike in the West Bank or Gaza where those protesting government policies and laws in the streets get arrested or worse, groups of Israeli Arabs were able to freely exercise their rights of speech and assembly by raising Palestinian flags aloft and by chanting for Israel’s destruction.

The Occupation Free DC video also includes a number of short interviews with supporters of the ban on D.C. police training in Israel on account of the “illegal exchange of oppressive and racist tactics.” All of the embedded interviews are pretty ridiculous with the speakers coming off as not at all informed about the issues, but my favorite is with Alison Glick—a member of JVP’s D.C. chapter.

Glick mentions that the “last time” she was in “Palestine” she stayed with Nariman Tamimi—the “mother of Ahed Tamimi” and a “mother and friend of mine”—who complained to her about being mistreated and roughed up by the IDF. I’ll hazard a guess that, during the visit with her buddy Nariman, she didn’t hear anything about this woman’s “utterly uncompromising” support for terrorism or her deep-seated Jew-hatred.

Conclusion

Last April, the City of Durham disgraced itself by singling out the Jewish state based on the conspiracy theory that programs for American law enforcement personnel in Israel, sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League and other Jewish-American organizations, are to blame for alleged police brutality against non-whites in the U.S.

Now the groups that brought that ugliness into Durham, North Carolina are targeting the next American municipality—Washington D.C.

In its latest video, JVP specifically references the Durham “precedent” in calling on D.C. residents, the Chief of Police and the DC Council to “shut these trainings down.”

But whether JVP and its allies will be successful in D.C. remains to be seen. So far, there’s nothing to indicate that a majority of the DC Council are likely to capitulate to JVP’s lies and distortions.

Given how much MPD Police Chief Newsham values his past experience participating in U.S.-Israeli counterterror exchange programs (in interviews he’s remarked that it “was the best training that I have had in my 28 years as a police officer”), he’s also likely to stand opposed to any Council decision that would bar the future life-saving law enforcement trainings that his police department could benefit from by interacting with their counterparts in Israel.

I have to believe that Chief Newsham’s position on the issue is bound to matter for a majority if not all of the councilmembers, preventing an easy win for JVP’s malicious Occupation Free DC campaign.

But to be on the safe side, Jewish leaders in the area should now publicly voice their own position on the issue. D.C. residents and the Council of the District of Columbia need to hear that there’s simply no rational connection between Israel and the situation facing the Palestinians, on the one hand, and American social justice issues or the challenges of racism and policing in America, on the other hand. They need to understand that those who are saying that there is such a connection are making false and defamatory claims which come “uncomfortably close” to age-old antisemitic canards.

Bottom line: A set of features unique to Durham, North Carolina made that city particularly ripe for exploitation by JVP and its far-left allies. It’s not guaranteed that JVP’s pernicious “Deadly Exchange” campaign will have the same degree of traction in Washington D.C.

Miriam F. Elman is an Associate Professor of Political Science and the Inaugural Robert D. McClure Professor of Teaching Excellence at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 65 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @MiriamElman