Deadly Exchange campaign – four years of wins!
Four years ago this month, we began our Deadly Exchange campaign to end US law enforcement trainings in Israel. For four years, we have protested and prevented top-ranking US police, ICE, and FBI officials from training with Israeli forces. For four years, hundreds of volunteers all across the country have sent dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests and conducted painstaking research. For four years, we have protested outside Jewish institutions–like the ADL–who fund these exchanges and pressured them to end their complicity. And we have four years of wins! From legislative victories in Durham and New Orleans, to popular pressure campaigns in New England, to last year’s campus win at Tufts, the Deadly Exchange campaign has grown through deep coalition-building and our belief that safety comes from investment in our communities — not racist, militarized policing.
We know that the U.S. has long deployed the same weapons and tactics in military campaigns abroad and police forces here at home. The history of militarized policing is rooted in American slavery and settler colonialism, and is deeply tied to U.S. state violence around the world. U.S. support for Israeli apartheid builds on this history. Since 9/11, Israeli security forces have trained US law enforcement in what Israel markets as “counterterrorism”. Through these trainings, US police study the tactics of illegal military occupation and an apartheid system of discriminatory laws that have been “battle-tested” on Palestinians, which only exacerbates the crisis of racist, militarized policing for communities in the US. JVP members, alongside a broad and powerful coalition of Palestinian- and Black-led organizations, dedicated ourselves to putting an end to these exchanges as an important step towards demilitarizing, defunding, and eventually abolishing the police.
In 2018, the Demilitarize Durham2Palestine coalition passed legislation making Durham, North Carolina the first city in the United States to ban local police exchanges with the Israeli military. Then, in 2019, state and local police chiefs in Vermont and Northampton, MA canceled their training trips to Israel following pressure from the community and local JVP members. Through Freedom of Information Act requests, many of our chapters began to uncover the depth of the complicity. Unearthed government documents revealed that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had sent the Deputy Director of ICE on a trip to Israel, demonstrating the way the trips build connections between oppressive agencies within the US and highlighting the hypocrisy of the ADL’s criticism of family separation policies.
In 2020 in New Orleans, Eye on Surveillance, a campaign with groundwork in local Deadly Exchange organizing, pushed the city to ban facial recognition software (one of Israel’s largest exports) that was being used to identify majority Black, brown, and indigenous people. At Tufts that same year, the student council voted to ban their campus police from training in Israel. Most recently, Seattle City Council presented a Deadly Exchange resolution, that, despite direct interference by Israeli government officials, was only one vote short of passing due to popular support and a grassroots campaign organized by Seattle residents.
All across the country, our actions have grown in size, number, and power. We use our bodies, our voices, and our vision of a better world to stand in opposition to racist policing and the institutions which uphold it. As our actions in front of the ADL office in New York grew in prominence, the ADL has worked to hide the exchange trips from view. While they used to actively publicize this program, they have now rebranded it and removed it from their website. The ADL now includes disclaimers in the invitations they send to police departments, in an attempt to dodge FOIAs. They have also tried to intimidate people active in the campaign, even going so far as to hire a spy agency to collect information on the Occupation Free DC coalition.
Four years on, this work is more urgent than ever. Black-led uprisings against police violence in the intervening years have continually underscored how dangerous these exchanges really are and how the sharing of technologies and tactics of repression impact all of us. The demands of the campaign have become embedded in broader campaigns to defund and demilitarize the police — from the 8 to Abolition platform to the Poor People’s Campaign. We are in an unprecedented moment, where the interconnectedness of the brutality of the US police and of Israel’s apartheid regime is being laid bare. This is a moment to make change. We are growing, we are powerful, and we will continue to build until we win.