Opinion: Durham City Council was wrong to endorse anti-Israel statement

Doron Ezickson
Doron Ezickson

On Monday, the Durham City Council endorsed a statement falsely linking exchanges between American law enforcement and Israel with the issue of police brutality in the United States.

Let’s be clear: no one should be fooled by the sentiments of the statement – it’s chock full of misinformation and anti-Israel propaganda, such as the ridiculous assumption that these programs offer “military style training.”

The statement comes on the heels of a petition started by a local Jewish Voice for Peace affiliate as part of a national campaign to demonize Israel – the only democracy in the Middle East and a critical American ally.

The JVP petition promotes the myth that these police exchange programs contribute to police brutality here in the United States. In fact, the exact opposite is true.

As one of the leading facilitators of police exchanges between America and Israel, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) works closely with law enforcement in the U.S., training thousands of law enforcement officials to identify and investigate hate crimes, as well as extremist and terrorist threats against all vulnerable groups in our society. We also train thousands of federal, state and local police each year on managing implicit bias, and the role of police as protectors the people – all people – and of the Constitution and individual rights.

Our law enforcement programs are well-respected and recognized by the nation’s leading law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are designed to equip officers with the knowledge, understanding, and sense of accountability necessary to help safeguard all communities and ensure that everyone’s civil rights and liberties are rigorously protected. And ADL submitted testimony for the Obama Administration’s forward-looking Task Force on 21st Century Policing on how to address police misconduct and how to advance police-community relations.

Contrary to inaccuracies peddled by JVP, these programs have helped police officers to be better prepared to identify hate crimesand to understand the dangers of hatred and prejudice. ADL has also worked closely with law enforcement to identify and fight extremist threats.

We take a small subset of law enforcement leaders to Israel each year so they can learn from their Israeli counterparts strategies for preventing and responding to terror attacks, and about leading in a time of crisis and terror. The goal of this program is to help U.S. law enforcement officials save lives.

The American law enforcement leaders who participate in these programs return to the U.S. better able to protect their communities from terrorism and to respond to attacks ranging from bombings to active shooter situations. It is clear that members of the Durham City Council demonstrated a complete lack of due diligence before issuing their statement, or taking up this issue as a whole. It does not appear that the council carried out any meaningful outreach to the institutions that actually facilitate these exchanges; they largely ignored the concerns of the majority of their own Jewish community, and in fact some council members, acting in their personal capacity, signed the original JVP petition long before this statement came to fruition. ADL received no request for information about its programs or their value, and ADL was not invited to be part of any kind of meaningful discourse with the Council.

Finally, it must be noted that JVP is a small, unrepresentative organization whose fiercely anti-Israel views are widely rejected by the larger Jewish community and its institutions and leaders. They are well known for using manipulative tactics and false propaganda to carry out their attack against the Jewish state. Importantly, they have no meaningful experience related to training law enforcement or any actual knowledge about the operation or utility of these exchanges.

The Durham City Council is empowered to act on a variety of topics, but it should never do so based on maliciously erroneous assertions. Here the Council failed to do its due diligence in separating truth from propaganda. The people of Durham deserve better.

Doron F. Ezickson is the Washington, DC regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.