North Carolina city votes to bar international police exchanges, specifically with Israel


(JTA) — The City Council in Durham, North Carolina, has voted unanimously to bar the city’s police department from international exchanges in which the officers receive “military-style training” in a slap at such programs held with the Israeli army and police.

The resolution, which states that 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,” was approved by the council in a 6-0 vote Monday night. It is the first city in the United States to officially ban such training, according to Jewish Voice for Peace, 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.”

Born out of a petition created last fall by Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel, the resolution brought together several partners under the banner of Demilitarize! From Durham2Palestine.

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According to the petition, “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.

“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. Additionally, such practices erode our constitutional rights to due process, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.”

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 undergoing training during his tenure. 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.”

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.”