Organizers fight Anti-Defamation League to end deadly exchanges in Chicago

  JVP Organizer Scout Bratt speaking to the crowd outside of the Chicago Sinai Congregation to protest the ADL’s police exchange program.    Photo by: Pascal Sabino

JVP Organizer Scout Bratt speaking to the crowd outside of the Chicago Sinai Congregation to protest the ADL’s police exchange program.

Photo by: Pascal Sabino

 
alt text By Pascal Sabino, Environmental Health and Wellness Editor, The Real Chi & Industry Pathways 2018 Cohort
 
 

On  August 2, Jewish Voice for Peace organized a rally outside of the Chicago Sinai Congregation in opposition to both the Anti-Defamation League’s support for a rebranding effort for the state of Israel and the organization’s training programs for American police.

“We firmly believe policing does not make us safe.”

Organizers mobilized to oppose what they called hypocrisy on the part of the ADL, which identifies itself as a civil rights organization while also supporting a police exchange program with the Israeli Defense Force, which has repeatedly come under fire for international human rights violations. The exchange program sends U.S. law enforcement officials, including Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson, to participate in counter terrorism training with the Israeli military.

“ADL symbolizes civil rights and social justice in many Jewish communities,” said JVP organizer Scout Bratt.  “What we want to unearth is that that definition of civil rights is actually completely counter to what we understand to be civil rights, what we understand to be social justice.”

The IDF has been broadly criticized by human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch and the United Nations, specifically for their militarized policing strategies. A 2017 statement on Israeli policing of Palestine from Human Rights Watch listed multiple violations of international humanitarian law in five categories including unlawful killings, forced displacement, abusive detention, and the unjustified closure of the Gaza strip.

According to the nationwide Deadly Exchanges campaign, the ADL also enables the same human rights abuses perpetrated by the IDF in Palestine to happen locally through its police exchange program.

“JVP calls these trips Deadly Exchanges because what participants learn are worst practices of surveillance, counterinsurgency, dehumanizing frameworks, racial profiling, crowd control, and lethal policing,” said Charlotte Rosen, one of the organizers of the rally.

With the city slated to build the $95million Joint Public Safety Training Academy on the West Side, a major concern at the rally was whether the forthcoming facility will train officers to implement the surveillance tactics learned from the IDF. “It's an investment in those techniques,” said Bratt. “We firmly believe policing does not make us safe.”

Those fears are only heightened by the fact that Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson attended a counterterrorism training in 2016. JVP identified at least a dozen other leaders within CPD who have attended these trainings, highlighting the risk that those law enforcement officials will bring abusive Israeli techniques of over-surveillance and racial profiling back with them to Chicago.

  Activist Stephanie Skora leads the crowd chanting, “You Can’t Rebrand Apartheid!”    photo by: Pascal Sibino

Activist Stephanie Skora leads the crowd chanting, “You Can’t Rebrand Apartheid!”

photo by: Pascal Sibino

The ADL touts itself as the biggest NGO sponsor of police trainings in the United States, best known for its National Counter Terrorism Seminar program. The program takes participants to visit Israeli checkpoints, Gilboa Prison, and surveillance organizations that are geared towards enforcing military occupation rather than civil law.

“The success that Durham was able to achieve is absolutely a goal.”

Chicago JVP activists say that they are encouraged by the recent success of the Deadly Exchange campaign in Durham, which became the first city in America to ban the National Counter Terrorism Seminars. The movement leading to the ban was spearheaded by a coalition of organizations called Demilitarize from Durham2Palestine, which mobilized due to the current and previous Durham police chiefs having participated in the exchanges. The resolution, which was approved unanimously by the city council said, “Such exchanges do not support the kind of policing we want here in the City of Durham.”  

JVP organizers indicated that they have their sights set on a similar ban for Chicago as well. “The success that Durham was able to achieve is absolutely a goal,” said Bratt.

While JVP has previously assembled a petition with over 20,000 signatures proposing an end to the exchanges, Bratt says that Chicago legislators are not yet actively considering a ban. “A big piece about the campaign is that different cities are in different stages in the campaign, even though it is a national campaign.”

Bratt says that since there are groups like NoCopAcademy and Assata’s Daughters doing excellent work to end racist policing in Chicago, JVP’s role is to create solidarity across communities and foster transparency around ADL, Israeli occupation in Palestine, and the police exchanges.

“A lot of it is also educating people who say that they are progressive Jews,” said Bratt. “Those who are passionate about Palestine and Israel, but are not thinking about how policing is playing out here as a result of the exchanges.”