On Monday, April 16, Durham’s city council may discuss a petition from Jewish Voice For Peace asking Police Chief C.J. Davis not to give officers counterinsurgency training by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Israeli Police. Davis has taken advantage of the training while assistant chief in Atlanta. Officers from many American police departments have benefited from this specialized training.
The petition is part of the local JVP chapter’s Demilitarize! From Durham to Palestine campaign. It is supported by at least one council member, Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson, and comes as the IDF is engaged is containing demonstrations on the border between Israel and Gaza by Palestinians who reportedly are protesting the taking of their homelands in 1948 when Israel became a country. The demonstrations, backed by Hamas, which has charge of the government in Gaza, are scheduled to end on Israel’s 70th independence day in May. The IDF has the difficult task of stopping demonstrators who come at them with Molotov cocktails, rocks and burning tires. News reports say Hamas has acknowledged several of its fatalities were gunmen from its military wing.
Jewish Voice For Peace sounds like an innocent and noble name, but what is the organization on really about? NGO Monitor describes the organization’s goal as creating “a wedge within the American Jewish community” while working toward the goal of ending US economic, military and political aid to Israel.
The JVP petition is part of a strategy called “Deadly Exchange” launched last June. According NGO Monitor the strategy “aims to end police exchange programs between the United States and Israel.” JVP says “worst practices” are shared “to promote and extend discriminatory policing in both countries, including extra judicial executions, shoot-to-kill policies, police murders, racial profiling, massive spying and surveillance, deportation and detention and attacks on human rights defenders.” That’s a strong accusation which has yet to be proven. No reasonable person would tolerate these activities in a democracy. Few persons like what occurred in Ferguson, Baltimore, Baton Rouge or just last week in Sacramento. JVP also supports the Black Lives Matter movement, but its members apparently do not remember our rabbis and leaders marched with the Rev. Martin Luther King in Selma and were part of the freedom rider crusades in the nineteen sixties.
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A second part of the JVP strategy is an economic boycott of Israel coupled with ending investments in its government and companies and imposing sanctions on the country (BDS). Many mainstream Jews are unfamiliar with the BDS movement.
The critical question in this debate is who knows what training is best for our police force. As a neighborhood representative (Whitney Park in Spring Hill) to the city’s Partners Against Crime efforts with the police, I think that person is Chief Davis. She came here following a national search and was chosen by City Manager Tom Bonfield with the council’s approval. Having lived and worked in Atlanta Chief Davis is familiar with policing in a city with a significant African-American and Spanish-speaking residents and should know what training will benefit her officers.
The local JVP group and Councilwoman Johnson would prefer not to have a police force, both publicly stating solidarity between all individuals would keep us safe. However, that could open Durham to chaos and lawlessness, something most of us would prefer not to experience. Here's what Councilwoman Johnson said in a June 2016 story published in the News & Observer: “I feel like more of us should be pointing out the most dangerous people with guns are cops and soldiers and that the no fly list and FBI anti terror efforts are seriously corrupted by entrapment, racial profiling and Islamophobia.”
As a practicing Jew I believe in justice and equality for all. Jews join with their Muslim and Christian neighbors who wish to live in a free, just and fair society. We believe in the principle of “repairing the world.” We are gravely concerned when civil rights are violated. But we cannot have a society without law enforcement and terrorist prevention in today’s world.
If you agree with me, please consider expressing your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your concern.
Mark G. Rodin is a retired Durham resident who has lived here since 1981. He is a UNC Chapel Hill alumnus who supports a graduate scholarship in the Gillings School of Global Public Health and The Benjamin And Mark G. Rodin Scholarship in the College of Arts and Sciences. In addition Mr. Rodin works with the Durham County Board of Elections at early voting and as a judge in his home precinct.