Let’s begin with a cautionary tale. When suicide bombers connected to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) set off bombs in the Brussels airport in March 2016, the Israeli government did not convey its condolences as most other governments did. Instead, Israel Katz, the Minister of Intelligence, issued a scolding. “If in Belgium they continue to eat chocolate, enjoy life and parade as great liberals and democrats while not taking account of the fact that some of the Muslims who are there are organizing acts of terror, they will not be able to fight against them.”
You should not be criticizing us, say Katz and his cohorts, you should be imitating us. For look at what we have done. We have created a country from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River that provides its citizens with personal security, a vibrant democracy and a flourishing economy – even though half the population [i.e., Palestinians] are terrorists. If we can achieve that, imagine what we can offer Belgium, France, the UK and the US, countries that have suffered terrorist attacks.
To its credit, the Belgian government rejected Israel’s contention that security must come at the expense of the “luxury” of democracy. “Belgium is an open and democratic society with human rights and fundamental freedoms at its core,” it declared. “We remain firmly resolved to protect those values in our response to terrorism.” Still, slowly but surely, Israel is promoting its model of a Security State to receptive governments the world over. Europe is listening, but the United States is buying.
What is a Security State? It is a version of the police state that we know from Third World regimes, but not reduced to merely the repressive use of police. A Security State is closest to a totalitarian regime – China being the main example today – where a preoccupation with total security trumps all democratic protections. It is driven by the logic of securitization, in which fragile regimes, lacking popular support, assert their authority through repressive measures carried out jointly by the military, Presidential Guards, special forces, paramilitaries, security services and a militarized police.
Why, in the 21st century, is the prosperous US, supremely proud of its democratic traditions, turning into a Security State? Since the early 1980s, the capitalist world system has taken a dramatic and repressive turn. The rise of predatory neoliberalism in the Reagan, Bush and Clinton eras has seen the flow of global resources to the Global North (the US, at 4% of the world’s population, uses 18% of the world’s resources per year; Europe another 33%), the emergence of a transnational capitalist class (the wealth of the world’s 2,153 billionaires is 82 times more than that of the world’s poorest 50%, and the world’s richest 1% own 44% of the world’s wealth), and the impoverishment of most of the rest (80% of humanity lives on less than $10/day, 50% on less than $2/day, according to Oxfam). In 2018, the International Labor Organization reported that the majority of the world’s 3.5 billion workers “experienced a lack of material well-being, economic security, equality opportunities or scope for human development.” More than 2 billion people work in the “informal sector.”
Once masses of people are no longer needed on a long-term basis, there arises the political problem for the system of how to control this expanded mass of surplus humanity. As the world’s premier consumer economy and global superpower responsible for policing the planet and keeping the global flow of resource and capital running smoothly, the US has become neoliberal capitalism’s main enforcer.
Yet these global inequities are reflected within the US as well. The income of Americans in the top 1% averaged over 39 times more than that of the entire bottom 90 percent. In 2018, CEO pay averaged $14.5 million, compared to average worker pay of $39,888, a 287% differential. In the meantime, 40% of the US population (140 million people) are either poor or low-income. The wages of American workers have risen just 24% since1979, while worker productivity has increased by 134%. Less than 11% of workers are protected by labor unions. Still, the median White worker made 28% more than the typical Black worker in 2019, and more than 35% more than the median Latino worker. Women make up 63% of workers earning the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 since 2009.
While the Global North – from the core G-7 countries out to the advanced OECD economies – tries to keep itself aloof from the poorer countries, the “Global South” is expanding into the Global North. In the US and other capitalist countries, the vast majority of people – working class and middle class alike – are losing their job security and with it their financial and personal security. Young people are increasingly excluded from the market of “real” jobs before they even begin—and this was before corona. Together, working people are becoming a “precariat,” the working poor. At the mercy of a job market that demands “flexibility,” they have no job security and no assurance of job mobility. At the same time, they lack community and family support (neoliberalism is built on atomistic individuals, and besides, we’re all in the same sinking boat). State-insured “safety nets” are being withdrawn, and personal savings on which people can draw are dwindling. Middle-class and working-class alike, middle aged and young, white and people of color – none see a sustainable and dignified future for themselves. And they’re pissed off about it.
Such inequalities undermine the stability of the system, of course. Since the 1% retain more and more of total income relative to that which goes to labor, working people do not have the resources to purchase the products being produced. This leads to what is called over-accumulation: capitalists accumulate massive amounts of surplus capital, but cannot ﬁnd outlets in which to proﬁtably invest, thus making speculative financialism the basis of the economy. For our purposes, it is the threat that economic polarization poses to the ruling classes that concerns us. Wall Street is not Main Street, and as social unrest grows, neoliberal capitalism must be increasingly enforced. The nice face of capitalism – Ronald MacDonald, Disney, the latest models of cars, vacations, shopping, democracy – if not displaced, is also reflected in the image of the Warrior Cop.
Rise of the Warrior Cop
The thrust of all this is a preoccupation with “security,” and police forces are capitalism’s domestic enforcers. But the “security” is misleading. It implies a self-evident need to respond to sources of insecurity. Of course I want to be secure; indeed, I expect and demand that my government secure me. But what if the sources of insecurity were made up, or if they were exaggerated in order to instill fear and distract us from the real sources of our insecurity: scraping to eke out a living, being pitted against other working people or immigrants for scarce jobs, all the while Wall Street and the 1% are raking in billons? What if my “security” concerns actually hid an agenda intended to control me, to pacify me? To return to the story we opened with, what if Israel were exploiting legitimate concerns over terrorism to replace our democratic systems with a Security State? What if the powers-that-be in our grossly unequal economies and societies were using “security” as a way to drive ourselves into a passive conformity to their system, delegitimizing both questioning and resistance? We want to be secure, but do we really want to be pacified?
As it is, the Security State acts to head off such critical questions and to instill conformity-through-fear. Preferring the term “police state,” John Whitehead writes in A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State:
A police state is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions….. By ‘police’ I am referring to the entire spectrum of law enforcement and surveillance personnel from the local police and state troopers to federal agents (the FBI and intelligence police that work locally through ‘fusion centers’), as well as the military and agents employed by private corporations who work in tandem with government-funded police.
So what is the problem? Why can’t the US just enact the policies, create the structures and produce the weapons conducive to a Security State, especially now that it has the “homeland security” justification of 9/11? The answer has to do with the conflict between subordinating civil liberties to policing while retaining America’s image as a democracy. Specifically, the “problem” facing the US in empowering its police to engage in homeland security was the wall erected by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. Like similar laws and regulations in other European states, the Posse Act strictly separates domestic law enforcement (internal security) from the deployment of the military (external security).
This doesn’t mean that the military cannot be deployed domestically. The National Guard plays that role occasionally. But for the real military to be called out, as Trump tried to do in Washington, DC, an obscure 1807 Insurrection Act had to be invoked, and the Pentagon refused. So the problem remains: how, faced with these restrictions, can the police become effective enforcers of an increasingly repressive and unstable neoliberal system? The answer, again, lies in securitization, in generating a paranoia throughout society that demands “security.” Its logic is that of The War On…(terror, drugs, crime, gangs, illegal immigrants, poverty, unions, radicals, etc.). This is what allows – no, requires – the breaching of the civilian/military wall. The military, domestic security agencies, the police and the incarceration system begin to merge into what I call the MISSILE Complex: Military, Internal Security, Surveillance, Intelligence and Law Enforcement
Here is where Israel comes in. It has turned resistance arising out of 50+ years of occupation – labelled, of course, “terrorism,” the quintessential colonial term – into a marketable product, as the story of Israel’s reaction to the Brussels bombing shows. The “Israelization” of the American police begins in the wake of 9/11, but it has its roots in the previous quarter century. By 9/11 the debilitating effects of neoliberalism, starting in the Reagan Administration, had already created huge social and income disparities. The call for “law and order” and the War on Drugs that targeted racial and political groups emerged during the Bush and Clinton years. Congress enacted the Patriot Act, which until today fundamentally curtails American civil rights and due process, less than two months after 9/11. Clearly it was in the drawer awaiting its opportunity.
By 9/11 the US had also lost the Soviet Union and communism as an external/internal threat that could be exploited to justify repressive, anti-democratic policies at home. While the threat of “terrorists” had become a minor issue in Clinton’s time, it had not yet been tied strongly to the domestic arena. That tie-in came with 9/11. But the US still had the problem of the civilian/military “wall.” Although military force in internal situations had been used in the US, it required the declaration of a “state of exception.” Only a national or local crisis would permit the reduction or suspension of legal protections so as to give the police a free hand in repressing whatever “crisis” the ruling classes felt must be repressed. (Historically, striking workers have often been targeted.)
The Security State routinizes all that, with the help of the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs and other legal measures. But the façade of democracy had to be maintained. If we can’t turn to our military, how do we find the proper ways to restructure our departments?, asked the police. Where do we get the paramilitary training and weaponry that we have not developed ourselves? Step into the breach a host of Jewish organizations eager to seize on an opportunity to strengthen Israel’s image in the US. Linking the Israeli and American police would create in the public mind a link between Israel’s long-term “fight against terrorism” and America’s new-found “vulnerability” to terrorism, enhancing Israel’s standing as a key ally. And, not least, it would open a huge market for Israeli weapons. And so began the Israeli training of American police and its restructuring of American police departments.
In fact, the Israeli police already had a foothold in the US. In order to train local police in Israeli counterterrorism tactics for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia State University and the law enforcement community established the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) in 1992, funded in large part by Bernard Marcus, the founder of Home Depot, a Jewish Republican who donates millions to Israel. The program was given three objectives: to enhance inter-agency cooperation between the State of Georgia law enforcement agencies and the police force of the State of Israel; to offer an educational professional program to senior Israeli law enforcement officials in Georgia; and to offer an educational professional program to senior Georgia law enforcement officials in Israel, primarily in the areas of counter-terrorism and drug interdiction.
Over the years some 34,000 law enforcement officers have participated in GILEE programs in the US and Israel. Its director, Robert Friedmann, serves on the board of Israel’s International Institute for Counterterrorism, whose purpose is “to coordinate the struggle against global terrorism and lead a worldwide team of affiliates and academic partners working to encourage cooperation among experts and disseminate innovative ideas for policymakers in the fight against terrorism.” Repeated legal efforts, including by Black students at GSU, to examine what GILEE actually imparts to the US police have met with absolute stonewalling by university and state officials. (Check out their video “Community Policing in a Time of Polarization and Anti-Semitism”.)
In 2002, soon after 9/11, the American Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), an organization that holds there is no difference between the national security interests of the US and Israel, inaugurated its Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP). Partnering with the Israel National Police, the Israel Ministry of Internal Security, and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet), JINSA won the support of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major County Sheriff’s Association, Major City Chiefs Association and the Police Executive Research Forum, for a program to bring to Israel American police chiefs, sheriffs, senior law enforcement executives, state homeland security directors, state police commissioners and federal law enforcement leadership for “education.” Over 9,500 law enforcement officers have participated in twelve conferences thus far. “The knowledge gleaned from observation and training during the LEEP trip,” effused Colonel Joseph R. (Rick) Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, on the JINSA website, “prompted significant changes to the organizational structure of the New Jersey State Police and brought about the creation of the Homeland Security Branch.”
At the same time, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) began hosting an Advanced Training School twice a year in Washington, DC. Its “School” has trained more than 1,000 US law enforcement professionals, representing 245 federal, state and local agencies. The ADL also runs a National Counter-Terrorism Seminar (NCTS) in Israel, bringing law enforcement officers from across the US to Israel for a week of intensive counter-terrorism training, as well as connecting American law enforcement officials with the Israel National Police, the IDF and Israel’s intelligence and security services. The Israel Weapons Industry (IWI), which manufactures the Uzi submachine gun, runs a police academy in Pauldon, Arizona, open to the public as well as police.
Israeli consulates also sponsor training programs for American police on a yearly basis, as do individual police forces. In his book From Occupation to “Occupy”: the Israelization of American Domestic Security, Max Blumenthal reports:
In October [2011, as part of its preparation to confront the nascent Occupy movement in Oakland], the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department turned parts of the campus of the University of California in Berkeley into an urban battlefield. The occasion was Urban Shield 2011, an annual SWAT team exposition organized to promote ‘mutual response,’ collaboration and competition between heavily militarized police strike forces representing law enforcement departments across the United States and foreign nations…. Training alongside the American police departments at Urban Shield was the Yamam, an Israeli Border Police unit that claims to specialize in ‘counter-terror’ operations.
In light of the killing of George Floyd, it should be noted that in 2012 the Israeli consulate in Chicago held a training for 100 officers of the Minneapolis Police Department in Minneapolis.
The “why” of Israel’s involvement in US policing goes beyond mere training, however. Of all the countries of the Global North, Israel is the closest to the Security State that mainstream Democrats as well as Republicans look to for quelling the social instability and anger spawned by neoliberalism. Israel, after all, has been a Security State since its founding in 1948 – although its roots as a highly-militarized society go back to the start of the twentieth century. As a settler colony embroiled in a bitter struggle to pacify and displace the colonized Palestinians, Israel has always merged policing and the military, internal and external. Israel is the only Western democracy that has a centralized biometric data base of all its citizens – plus the four and a half million non-citizen Palestinians of the OPT – one based specifically on ethnicity and religious affiliation as a way of defining citizenship and rights. Israel is also a master of hasbara, of convincing its own people and others of its benign, peace-loving nature, threatened by criminal “terrorists.” Both of those attributes – the needed structures of a Security State and the ability to effectively “blame the victim” – are precisely what the besieged neoliberals need.
Because of the ongoing war against the Palestinians, Israel is the only Western country not to separate civilian law enforcement from the military. It never had a Posse Act served to “civilianize” the police. On the contrary, in Israel the police are not separated from the military but bonded with a variety of paramilitary units that connect the two. The structure of Israeli policing looks like this:
This is the kind of restructuring of US police forces that Israel advocates. The Israeli police is far from being merely a civilian agency charged with maintaining law and order. It is a paramilitary organization, operating under the Ministry of Internal Security, which is integrated into the wider military and security agencies under a regime of “permanent emergency.” Israel views the majority of the country’s population, the Palestinian citizens of Israel and the non-citizens of the Occupied Territory, plus other segments of Israeli society from African asylum seekers to “pro-Arab” progressives and leftists, as “the enemy.” The major stance of the Israel police is thus not primarily a civilian task – protecting society as a whole – but one of counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism. Indeed, one of its key units is the Border Police, a paramilitary unit that spans civilian police and military functions.
The Israeli police are very up-front about this. Their official website defines their role as “prevention of acts of terror, dismantling of explosive devices and deployment in terrorist incidents,” only then moving on to routine police matters such as maintaining law and order, fighting crime and traffic control. Counterterrorism is the “mentality,” with great overlap between “high intensity policing” and “low intensity warfare.” Former Shin Bet director and then-Minister of Internal Security, Avi Dichter, speaking before 10,000 police officers attending the International Association of Chiefs of Police in Boston, used the term “crimiterrorists” to underscore “the intimate connection between fighting criminals and fighting terrorists.” “Crime and terror are two sides of the same coin,” he asserted, according to reports by Max Blumenthal.
Israel’s mythical reputation as the world’s premier anti-terrorist power lends it great clout in Congress, in the Pentagon, in homeland security circles and among the police. Israel’s para-military police fit well with para-military tendencies already present in American police departments. Already in the mid-1960s, Philadelphia and LA established SWAT teams – SWAT meaning originally “Special Weapons Attack Team,” hardly a civilian concept. This begins what Radley Balko calls “the rise of the warrior cop.” in his book by the same name. Today 80% of police forces have SWAT teams.
Let’s take a brief look at how American police forces apply principles from Israel’s manual on counter-terrorism to American cities. Taking Israel’s notion that intelligence is the key to prevention and interdiction, the NYPD established a secret “Demographic Unit” that sent undercover officers, known as “rakers,” to map the “human terrain” of targeted minority neighborhoods – “modeled,” according to an NYPD source, “on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank.” Informants known as “mosque crawlers” monitored sermons and mosque activities. A Terrorist Interdiction Unit followed up on their leads, and yet another squad, the Special Services Unit, conducts undercover work – illegally in some cases – outside of New York City.
In 2012, the NYPD even opened an Israeli office, located in the Sharon District Police Headquarters in Kfar Saba, in order “to cooperate on a daily basis with the Israel Police.” “If a bomber blows himself up in Jerusalem, the NYPD rushes to the scene,” said Michael Dzikansky, an NYPD officer who served in Israel. “I was there to ask the New York question: ‘Why this location? Was there something unique that the bomber had done? Was there any pre-notification? Was there a security lapse?’” Dzikansky subsequently co-authored a book, Terrorist Suicide Bombings: Attack Interdiction, Mitigation, and Response, another example of how Israeli security practices enter into American law enforcement. Cathy Lanier, a former Chief of the Washington DC police, testified: “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” During her tenure she authorized checkpoints in the troubled northeast DC neighborhood of Trinidad to monitor and control street violence and the illegal narcotics trade.
The Israeli Security State
“War,” of course, has long been an American political concept, especially in terms of racial relations, and policing became overtly militarized when Reagan declared the War on Drugs. That, in turn, was ratcheted up into a real war by Bush, Sr. In the early 1990s he inaugurated a program allowing surplus military equipment, weapons, and tactical vehicles to be transferred to law enforcement for use in “drug enforcement.” The Clinton Administration further militarized policing by passing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (authored by Joe Biden). This, Michelle Alexander argues in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow, laid the legal infrastructure for America’s racial caste system, since it resulted in the mass incarceration and disenfranchisement of millions of black people. In 1997, the Clinton Administration established the 1033 program which expanded the transfer of military equipment to police. Today, for example, the police in Oxford, Alabama, have an armored personnel carrier; in Lebanon, Tennessee, they have a tank.
Now add to all this the real “War Against Terrorism” in the wake of 9/11, which made every (non-elite) American subject to militarized policing and disenfranchisement, particular through the PATRIOT Act. Placing the US under a state of emergency (reaffirmed by Congress under every administration), it short-circuits due process – and that, if anything, describes American police behavior today. The militarized way in which the Occupy camps were dismantled – according to the Israel model, says Max Blumenthal – demonstrated that young middle-class white people dissatisfied with neoliberalism can be suppressed as easily as the black community.
As a result of all this, the police now had a friendly model of a militarized democracy, the Israeli Security State. With that came an interest in militarized weaponry for law enforcement, which opened a huge market for Israel, not only custom-tailoring military weapons for law enforcement, but for the civilian market as well. The Israeli Weapons Industry (IWI) has opened a manufacturing plant in Middletown, PA, where it produces a wide variety of militarized weapons and munitions for law enforcement. It sells a pistol-sized Uzi submachine gun for police (think about that the next time your friendly neighborhood cop pulls you over), but also lines of Galil and Tavor assault rifles and a tactical rifle called the Zion-15. (Take a look at the IWI US website.) Again, many of these weapons are available on the civilian market as well.
Israel is also the world’s leader in drones, producing 60% of the global market. Drones are becoming staples of US police departments, where they are commonly used for surveillance. (Weaponized drones are still forbidden to US police.)
Other Israeli firms specialize in the military/police convergence of “small arms” and “light” weaponry (SALW), together with surveillance and crowd control equipment. Electronically-equipped patrol and crowd control vehicles; chemicals and light machine guns for crowd control; souped-up assault rifles with thermal sights; sensor-activated alarms, lethal “smart fences” monitored from far-away command posts or biometric controls on movement; night-vision equipment; network and data mining systems; UAVs; body armor – all these and more comprise Israeli exports to the police and security markets, as well as the military.
Among the scariest technologies of repression produced by Israel are in the realm of security. Israel is home to 436 cyber-security companies, which have raised $6.32 billion in investments between 2013-2019. Many of them are active in the US. After a shooting in California, Apple refused to help the FBI crack into the shooter’s telephone, citing American laws over privacy, especially the privacy and data security of millions of iPhone users that would be compromised in the process. The FBI then turned to Cellebrite, an Israeli firm that specializes in data extraction from phones. The Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group, which specializes in “cyber intelligence for global security and stability,” has been implicated in the spyware used to trap Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It has also been sued by Facebook for breaking into its WhatsApp system. They have been accused of using spyware called Pegasus that monitors all communications and locations of targeted iPhones, including their messaging, Gmail, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram and Skype communications, as well as collecting Wi-Fi passwords for clients. Other Israeli surveillance and malware firms active in the US and worth Googling are Ability, Candiru, Anyvision Interactive Technologies, WiSpear, QCyber and Dahua. Cellebrite works with police departments in 20 states.
Other Israeli companies like Check Point, Verint, Narus, Amdocs and hundreds of others perfect their surveillance and intelligence technologies on Palestinians in the Occupied Territory, either through joint security industry-IDF projects at checkpoints or in the field, or in hi-tech units like Unit 8200. In 2014, 43 ex-soldiers from that elite intelligence unit sent a letter to their superiors and the Prime Minister refusing to do future reserve duty. Not only has our military service “taught us that intelligence is an integral part of Israel’s military occupation over the territories,” they wrote, but the information that is gathered and stored in the army’s systems “harms innocent people [as it] is used for political persecution and to create divisions within Palestinian society by recruiting collaborators and driving parts of Palestinian society against itself.” Nonetheless, these companies are active in American cities, airports, prisons and on the borders.
The Israeli company NICE Systems provides wiretapping and surveillance products to spy agencies, military, police forces and private corporations in 150 countries. It counts among its clients dozens of police departments; in fact, all incoming phone calls to the Los Angeles and New York City police departments are recorded on NICE and Verint technologies. At the core of the NICE SafeCity program, which is run in Baltimore and other American cities, is the Situator, the command-and-control system that displays a Common Operating Picture (COP) “so that everyone in the operational chain knows what is happening and what to do.”
Safe Cities programs like NICE’s not only install video surveillance cameras throughout a city or facility, but they deliver “strategic insights” by capturing and analyzing mass quantities of structured and unstructured data from phone calls, mobile apps, emails, chat, social media, and video. NICE’s surveillance cameras employ advanced image processing for detecting vehicles or locating people – a practice of “social sorting” by which, without our knowledge, we are enabled or prevented access to particular places or events, our movements and even consumer patterns are followed, or we can be detained. By having the police, intelligence agencies or even corporate employers collect and pre-sort images of citizens or employees, its video analytics can instantly identify targets by their body image, features, textures and colors, instead of having to waste valuable time watching recordings from thousands of cameras scattered throughout a city. Linked to other surveillance systems, the program automatically marks the target’s route on a map and indicates where he/she is headed.
Atlanta police chief George Turner visited Israel in 2008 with the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) and studied Israeli security intelligence and leadership. After Chief Turner’s visit, the Atlanta Police Department created and implemented the Video Integration Center, a sophisticated network of more than 5,300 both public and private cameras. The Video Integration Center helps to proactively monitor crime and is modeled after the command and control center in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Atlanta Police Leadership Institute (APLI) was modeled after the Israel Police Leadership Development Center. APLI prepares future leaders by training employees from all ranks for promotional opportunities. To date, more than 100 Atlanta sergeants and lieutenants have graduated from the program. Both the Video Integration Center and Atlanta Police Leadership Institute are funded and supported by the Atlanta Police Foundation.
When we think of the control exerted on populations through the police forces of neoliberal Security States, the use of “violence” is not the issue in Israeli-US police training. True, police violence is intimidating, but Israel has not trained US police to be more violent. They were violent and repressive a century or more before Israel was ever established. Interestingly enough, the inter-personal violence so characteristic of American police in conflict situations is lacking in Israel. Israeli police rarely handcuff people or pull their weapons, the first instinct of American cops. The “violence” in Israeli policing is more controlled, as it is in combat. It is less a macho kind of violence. Israel police do not move as suddenly from detaining to shooting as do the Americans. Rather, they react only through control of the situation. Israel lacks the nicities of reading to suspects their rights before engaging with them, as we saw preceding the Atlanta shooting of Rayshard Brooks. Prior to engaging, however, Israeli police isolate and lock-down the site of the attack, issue alerts to those in the immediate vicinity and then, if necessary, aggressively deal with the perpetrators.
Once the attack has been launched, the American-Israeli use of arms is reversed. Whereby American police are constrained in their violent reactions by law, regulations and public opinion (and therefore many are required to wear body cameras), the Israeli police consider the safety of the first responder primary, and so allow – require – a disproportionate use of force. Their response is a military one, and police units are generally backed up by paramilitary SWAT-type units as well as the army – the integrated response Israel urges on American police. As paramilitary units, Yamam (the Central Special Unit), Yasam and other Border Police units are authorized to fire live ammunition into Palestinian crowds, a common (and fatal) practice that goes well beyond the bounds of the American police.
Israeli police response derives, as so much of the tactics and weaponry do, from the IDF’s Close Quarter Combat doctrines perfected in urban warfare in Palestinian cities. Israeli police response prescribes: Its motto is “Strike Fast,” and it involves confrontational, “shoot-to-kill” (aiming at the head so as not to set off any explosives) tactics, justified as necessary to prevent the attackers from carrying out their mission. The attitude and method are explained by an officer in the Memphis Police Department who received Israeli Combative Pistol Training:
The first point which separates the Israeli Combative Method from other teachings is the mindset with which it is employed. While American ideals on the Use of Force revolve around using the least amount of force in a conservative, defensive manner, the Israeli method is opposite this ideal. In the Israeli method, the intent is to bring the maximum amount of force into play in an offensive manner. The intent is to ‘attack the attacker’, to be more aggressive than the aggressor, to ‘explode’ and overwhelm the initial aggressor with violence of action. Three words that I use to describe this mindset are Aggressive, Offensive, and Decisive…. The intent is to shoot until there is no longer a threat.
John Elliott, an American security officer, in an article entitled “Shoot Like the Jews,” relates what he learned during his time in Israel with a Yamam Special Police Unit:
When it came to shooting, the major difference between Israel and America training is our philosophy on close-quarter or urban combat. The biggest difference between what the Israelis did and what we Americans were trained to do was that they would oftentimes suggest going almost headlong at an enemy position while firing through whole magazines. It usually took a matter of seconds to burn through a magazine, so fast reloads factored heavily into one’s success. In training, we would advance by increments of 40 or 50 meters at a time in urban settings, all the while firing on full-automatic. Back in the States, the attack is more controlled. We were taught to perhaps squeeze off rounds in three-second bursts and then seek cover. This is not the way of Israeli security apparatus and though it may be too bold in every circumstance, in the right scenario, I cannot think of a more effective way to gain ground.
Crowd control is yet another “niche” in policing coming out of Israel’s suppression of innumerable Palestinian demonstrations and uprisings. Beit Alfa Technologies (BAT), located on the Beit Alfa kibbutz in northern Israel, specializes in riot control vehicles, sold to more than 35 countries. The vehicles are equipped with crowd control gear, including a Jet Pulse Water Cannon capable of shooting water, pepper spray, tear gas, chemical additives and dye, which can be used to mark out individuals for later identification and capture. BAT’s water cannons also shoot “Skunk,” non-lethal, malordorant riot control “solution” produced by an Israeli company Odortec. Skunk, a nauseating, sewage-smelling liquid that lingers on bodies, clothes and in homes for weeks, has been sold to the St. Louis Metro police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the world.
Much police violence towards civilians is justified by the use of “non-lethal” (or, more accurately, “less lethal”) weapons. Water cannons sound innocuous, but a pulse jet cannon system such as BAT employs turns small quantities of water into shells or bullets of water as they are shot out at high pressure. Israel also produces and exports alternatives to bullets, “blunt impact projectiles,” metal bullets coated with either rubber or plastic and fired from launchers mounted on rifle-barrels, intended to cause suspects excruciating pain but stop short of killing. Manufactured by Israel Military Industries, they are currently being tested in more than 20 North American cities (although their use is prohibited within Israel itself). These weapons, together with various gases and sprays, may be “less-lethal” but they can cause serious injury and even death. They are yet another example of how police try to package their technologies of repression as benign.
This combination of totalizing high-tech surveillance with a readiness to serve governments at the expense of human rights and individual liberties reflects a reality in which “security” trumps all else. Protections against arbitrary arrest or imprisonment – habeus corpus in particular – are lacking in Israel. Although the Israeli Supreme Court banned torture in 1999, it is still practiced within the loopholes provided, such as labeling suspects as “ticking bombs” or finding non-visible ways of torturing. The Israeli human rights organization B’tselem lists seven key elements of the Shin Bet’s interrogation regime: isolation, the use of the conditions of confinement as a means of psychological pressure, the use of the conditions of confinement as a means for weakening the detainees’ physical state, tying up prisoners in painful ways, beating and degradation, threatening and intimidation. Israel has been accused of training American military personnel in torture techniques in Iraq and elsewhere; whether that trickles into the police through counterterrorism doctrines is an open question.
As it is, Israeli police encourage their American counterparts to consider the public – especially “problematic” publics like inner-city Blacks, dissatisfied workers, youth protestors – as potential terrorists rather than civilians to be protected, a shift in perspective that fits the “War on….” approach, a militarized police and the desire of the Security State to pacify its population.
Such a militarized approach was evident in Lafayette Square at the height of the George Floyd protests when President Trump called out the National Guard and certain federal police forces. But the reaction of the Pentagon was equally telling. It turned out that Trump would have had to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1802 in order to deploy troops, another brick in the wall – like the Posse Comitatus Act – intended to protect civilian society. None other than Trump appointed Mark Esper, the Secretary of Defense, went on air to refuse outright to deploy the military, a rare case of resistance to the President by his own Cabinet. This, and the vocal opposition of career military people like Jim Mattis to calling up the military shows how entrenched the civilian/military wall is.
The police attack on Breonna Taylor in Louisville, by contrast, shows the dangers of a militarized police in a Security State. The “No-Knock” warrant itself stands in stark contrast to the notion of protecting the civil rights and person of anyone suspected of a crime. The readiness of the police for deadly engagement as judged by the time of the attack (the middle of the night), the method of entry (a battering ram) and the amount of violence employed (the killing of Breonna Taylor and the “wanton endangerment” and assault charges against one of the officers) bespeaks less the seriousness of the crime – a relatively minor drug charge – than the racial profiling of the people inside the apartment, a profiling that led to the violence regardless of how innocent people attacked responded. Again, while “security” is a prime concern of the Security State, it is not a neutral term. Particular populations – racial, class, of certain political persuasions – are targeted. For them, de facto, due process is suspended, and unless the harm is egregious and too visual to ignore, as in George Floyd’s case, the enforcers of the capitalist order are excused.
The Israeli approach also employs two other tactics adopted from the world of counter-terrorism – interactive intelligence and ethnic profiling – both of which are illegal in the US. So far. In his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump said: “I think profiling is something that we’re going to have to start thinking about as a country… you look at Israel and you look at others, they do it and they do it successfully.”
This all falls into what I call Global Palestine. The American police are not merely a stand-alone localized agency anymore. They have been fully integrated into the MISSILE Complex as part of an interwoven military/security/police/prison system, and the American piece of the MISSILE Complex has become fully integrated into a global Matrix of Control. What I call a perpetual War Against the People, William Robinson calls The Global Police State. Conventional wars as we think of them – two or more state militaries fighting each other on battlefields – is pretty much a thing of the past. Wars today are securocratic wars, intended to secure the world-system for corporations and the global ruling elites. That means they are less wars in a military sense and more wars of looting. But since people in the Global South refuse to be looted and turned into casual labor in a global workforce, and since all the riches generated by such wars are being increasingly hogged by fewer and fewer people (the top 5% of households in the US account for over 40% of consumer spending), policing and pacification rather than victory becomes the aim of these kinds of wars.
The question then arises: if these (expensive and brutal) wars against the people are being fought in the interests of a small fraction of humanity, how do they gain the popular support they do? Well, securocratic wars are waged mainly by powerful states of the Global North in the name of liberal, universal values, while in fact they advance the interests of corporations, whether in looting the resources of a particular place or in securing an unequal and unstable capitalist system. Liberal warfare hides its economic and political agendas by claiming to fight for peace and universal values, nothing less than for civilization itself – all of which requires, they contend, a “free” (market) world order that is securitized. Nothing in principle now stands in the way of the transnational corporate elites and the governments, militaries and police they control from imposing a global order of their own.
This is Global Palestine. Your police and security forces, together with your military, are purchasing Israeli weaponry, technologies of repression, tactics of population control and its Security State structures all perfected on the Palestinians, in the laboratory that is the Occupied Territory.
Deadly Exchange, a program of the Jewish Voice for Peace, has a report detailing US-Israeli police ties <https://deadlyexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Deadly-Exchange-Report.pdf>.And Steven Graham, author of Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, concludes that “integration is underway between the security-industrial complexes and the military-industrial complexes of Israel and the United States. Even more than this, the emerging security-military-industrial complexes of the two nations are becoming umbilically connected, so much so that it might now be reasonable to consider them as a single diversified, transnational entity.”
So connect the dots. As the US police become “Israelized,” you, the American people, become “Palestinianized.” How this is happening should be a main focus of your BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaigns. For the weaponry and tactics being developed on the Palestinians in far-off Gaza, Hebron, Jenin, Nablus or, for that matter, Jaffa and the Negev, are in fact intended for your community. The slogan “We are all Palestinians,” it turns out, is literally true. ■
Jeff Halper is an American-born anthropologist who has lived in Israel since 1973. He is the former Director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and a co-founder of The People Yes! Network. His previous article for The Link, “Is the 2-State Solution Dead?” (2012), is available on our website www.ameu.org. In 2006, Jeff was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.