Update on the Deadly Exchange Campaign from Jewish Voice for Peace
As a group of multiracial Jews and allies who have been working to end U.S.-Israel law enforcement exchange programs through our Deadly Exchange campaign, we’ve seen a lot of people in this moment who might be noticing the issues it addresses for the first time. We offer this guide as an explainer and backgrounder.
We are at an unprecedented moment of opportunity for Black liberation in the United States, created by Black people risking their lives to lead an uprising. At Jewish Voice for Peace, and in our coalitions focused on ending the Deadly Exchange, we are committed to bringing our all to support Black liberation. Which means the most important thing to do right now is support Black revolt in the face of ever-escalating state-sanctioned violence here in the United States. We are closer than ever before to a true sea-change in this country, and all of us have a responsibility to stay focused on the fight to #DefundThePolice. Mask up and protest, dig deep to give to frontline Black groups, and get involved in local campaigns.
In response to this Black-led uprising, militarized police are erupting in massive violence against protestors, backed by city governments and the full power of a president who just declared martial law.
Right now the deadliness of America’s militarized police is especially – horrifyingly – evident. Solidarity movements across the globe are demonstrating in support of Black communities and their resistance to U.S. police terror.
The Black freedom struggle has always been deeply internationalist, and as U.S. troops and police unleash their artillery to quell this incredible rebellion, many people are drawing comparisons and making connections. From the U.S. to Brazil to Israel, the militarization of police is a global enterprise, and grows directly from the soil of American history. Black and Palestinian leaders – from Dr. King to Dr. Angela Y. Davis to Palestinian scholar Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi – remind us that justice is indivisible, and that all fights for freedom are intertwined at their roots. Black leaders are risking everything to uproot the injustice at the heart of the U.S., and their work transcends borders.
Understanding the Basics:
Lesson 1: It all starts right here
American policing is the story of anti-Black racism in this country: The first police were slave patrols; The Black Codes, designed to limit freedom for newly liberated slaves, were created during Reconstruction – and still linger in state and federal laws; And the prison industrial complex incarcerates Black people at over five times the rate of white people. George Floyd’s murder is not an accident, nor a departure from U.S. police practices. It is the result of a system doing exactly what it was built to do. Any militarized tactics or technologies acquired through police exchange programs go directly to executing the unchanged mission of the American police, established long before the founding of the state of Israel.
Lesson 2: Making connections between the U.S. and Israel without context can do harm
Highlighting these police exchange programs without enough context or depth can end up harming our movements for justice. Suggesting that Israel is the start or source of American police violence or racism shifts the blame from the United States to Israel. This obscures the fundamental responsibility and nature of the U.S., and harms Black people and Black-led struggle. It also furthers an antisemitic ideology. White supremacists look for any opportunity to glorify and advance American anti-Black racism, and any chance to frame Jews as secretly controlling and manipulating the world. Taking police exchanges out of context provides fodder for those racist and antisemitic tropes.
Lesson 3: The militarization of American police is rooted in America’s wars and profiteering
From the creation of American police, they have been in the business of surveilling and quelling protest movements, especially Black-led organizing and resistance. In recent decades, we’ve witnessed the police’s increasingly militarized tactics. That process of militarizing our police forces is rooted first and foremost in America’s war-making all over the world, which includes funding and support for Israel’s brutal military occupation. Technology, practices and weapons that the U.S. uses against Black and Brown people abroad come back to American streets, and are imported into other countries. Money lands back in American arms corporations, and those weapons and tactics land back on U.S. streets.
Lesson 4: Police exchange programs are a mutual exchange of rights violations between like-minded governments
U.S. police have long built partnerships and swapped “worst practices” with militaries and police forces that abuse human rights all over the world. Police exchange programs solidify partnerships between the U.S. and other governments, including Israel, and facilitate a two-way exchange in methods and equipment for state violence and control, including mass surveillance, racial profiling and suppression of protest and dissent.
Lesson 5: Show up to the moment
Intersectional movements for justice are a marathon, and at this moment there is a surge in the U.S. that requires our deep and focused attention. While this campaign is one critical connection in a global story, the uprising in America today is about fundamentally overturning 400 years of state violence against Black people. Let’s bring everything we have to this moment.
Some suggested further readings:
- Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement statement: “We can’t breathe until we’re free! Palestinians stand in solidarity with Black Americans”
- Deadly Exchange Report
- Does the militarisation of US police encourage excessive force?
- Policing Timeline: An historical overview of policing compiled by Critical Resistance that traces the evolution of policing in the US, and people’s resistance to it