Jewish Voice for Peace seeks to end Anti-Defamation League police exchange program

Susan Bramhall, member of Jewish Voice for Peace New Haven chapter, speaking at a demonstration in front of the Anti-Defamation League's office to end the police exchange with Israel.

Clare Dignan /Hearst Connecticut Media

Susan Bramhall, member of Jewish Voice for Peace New Haven chapter, speaking at a demonstration Nov. 8 in front of the Anti-Defamation League's office to end the police exchange with Israel. Photo: Clare Dignan / Hearst Connecticut Media

The Jewish Voice for Peace New Haven chapter called for peace and solidarity among all races and ethnicities Wednesday, delivering a petition to the Anti-Defamation League to end the police training exchange program between Israel and the U.S.

“More important now than ever for our institutions such as the ADL to be uncompromising in their support of all communities,” JVP New Haven chapter chariman Shelly Altman said. “By sponsoring these police exchange programs, we feel they’re doing just the opposite.”

They delivered a petition with 20,000 signatures to the ADL office, aiming to end the organization’s sponsorship of the National Counter-Terrorism Seminar in Israel, which began in 2004, and other police exchange programs.

The week-long program allows high-ranking officials and members of the U.S. and Israeli police and defense communities “to train together and share best practices for fighting terrorism.” More than 200 high-ranking U.S. officials have participated in the program since its inception.

“The program enables American law enforcement commanders to benefit from Israel’s counterterrorism experience,” according to the ADL website.

But JVP has called the program a “deadly exchange,” citing instances of Israli policing using tear gas, rubber-covered bullets, excessive force and racial profiling, and the Israeli police’s adoption of “stop and frisk” laws, which were once used by New York City police, but ruled unconstitutional in the U.S.

“Israel’s expertise in using lethal force and mass surveillance and racial profiling in decades of rule over Palestinians shouldn’t be the model for policing anywhere,” demonstration organizer and JVP member Susan Bramhall said. “We need to challenge militarized and racist policing policies both here and in Palestine and Israel and not valorize it.”

In delivering the petition, Altman said JVP is trying to start a dialogue with the ADL about ending the exchange program, noting the demonstration was not hostile, though the presidential administration has demonized demonstrations as such.

“We’re deeply concerned that an organization whose mission is to be a civil rights organization that is working on behalf of all people is promoting a program that learns from a country that routinely violates human rights,” Bramhall said.

The demonstration was one of several others held throughout the day in other U.S. cities where petitions were delivered to ADL offices and JVP members shared testimonials gathered from Palestinians, Ethiopian Jews and others said to be affected by Israeli law enforcement.

The ADL could not be reached for comment on Wednesday’s demonstration, but said in a June blog post on its website, “It is perfectly legitimate to criticize Israeli policies. But JVP single-minded desire to paint Israel as a source of racism and violence has led it far beyond legitimate criticism of Israel,” and said in recent months the JVP “has taken increasingly radical positions and has employed questionable tactics in pursuit of its mission to diminish support for Israel.”

The ADL aims to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and combat hate and discrimination in minority communities.