Abolition Is Global: The United States and Israel’s Deadly Exchange

Home News & Politics Abolition Is Global: The United States and Israel’s Deadly Exchange

The U.S. exchanges tactics and tech with Israel resulting in exacerbated violence both in the U.S. and in Palestine. It’s known as the Deadly Exchange.

As people in Lebanon and the diaspora reacted to the horrors of the tragic explosion in Beirut, the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau tweeted that they were “closely monitoring” the incident. You may have been thinking (as I was), “What the fuck?” Unfortunately, this is just one of the examples of why the struggle for police abolition is global. 

Another is the Deadly Exchange

In recent weeks, I’ve seen many people remark that the U.S. police look like an occupying force in the ways that they’ve responded to protests. They are an occupying force, ensuring the continuation of the American settler colonial project. But they also export and import techniques, weaponry, and ideas with other settler colonial states. One of the most dangerous of these special relationships is that with Israel. 

In an interview with Wear Your Voice, Stefanie Fox, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, describes the Deadly Exchange programs as “law enforcement exchanges between human rights-abusing governments, and in particular, between the US and Israel.” On these trips, U.S. law enforcement officials—ranging from local police to ICE agents to members of the FBI—go to Israel to exchange “reprehensible tactics and dirty technology” with Israeli police and military, according to Fox. These programs exacerbate the violence of both policing in the U.S. and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. 

As Fox points out, “There has always been a feedback loop between US policing and US global militarism. The US exports our brutal system of policing around the world along with and as part of our war-making. And also, our support for war and occupation abroad inform and enhance the methods of violence employed back home.” The U.S. continues this deadly tradition by funding the Israeli occupation, giving $3.8 billion a year in military funding. “In return,” says Fox, “Israel tests weaponry and technology—often by American arms companies—in its brutal occupation of Palestinians.” Then, those tactics and technologies return to American streets, where they are used to surveil, racial profile, and repress social movements–primarily those spearheaded by Black people, Latinx people, and Muslims. 

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Surveillance has been part of American policing since its inception. In Israel, military, police, secret service, and private corporations conglomerate data and use it to “control, track, and criminalize Palestinians,” says Fox. She mentions that U.S. officials often praise the surveillance lessons upon returning from Israel, implementing them in places like Atlanta where they modeled a new video monitoring system after one in Jerusalem; the NYPD credits lessons learned from Israel in creating their demographics unit, wherein “Muslim communities across the tri-state area were under massively invasive spying operation.” 

Both the U.S. and Israel exist in systems of racial differentiation where marginalized groups are treated as suspects because of racial hierarchies. In the U.S., white supremacist policies and practices ensure the criminalization of Black and brown people. In Israel, white Jewish Israelis have rights, whereas Palestinians, Black, Mizrahi, and other Jews of color aren’t afforded the same protections. Fox notes that the same technology is used in both countries to racially profile people; TSA officials have adopted practices and purchased tech from Israeli companies. She says some of these practices “were so offensive the ACLU successfully litigated against them.”

What we’re most obviously dealing with now, both in the US and Israel is the militarized repression of social movements. Jenijn Yaseen, a Palestinian living in Detroit, experienced checkpoints, IDF aggression, arrests, and the pain and burn of teargas in the occupied West Bank. During her time there, she’d had a gun pointed at her several times by the IDF. Since then, she’s been active in the BLM protests in Detroit, where she tells Wear Your Voice that the “gear and aggression seemed… identical.” While protesting in Detroit, she was surrounded by cops both behind and in front of her; they hit her with batons while yelling, “Bitch, fucking leave!” She had nowhere to go and said, “ the tear gas, the sound bombs, people running and screaming, it was almost like Palestine.”

Law enforcement in the US has always violently repressed movements for justice—from the Attica prison riots to Standing Rock. Their visits to Israel only enhance their ability to oppress people at home. Occupying Israeli forces benefit from the same education, in reverse. We saw the same tactics in action during the Right of Return protests in Gaza. 

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Because these exchanges happen at local and national levels, it’s imperative for us to organize our communities to not only defund police at home but also to organize against these deadly exchange programs. Abolition is global. The U.S. police force and military must be abolished, and so too must those entities in all settler-colonial states. There is no other way to ensure the prosperity and health of the most marginalized communities. 

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