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Activists plan to ‘celebrate and escalate’ after ADL pauses police training

For the last five years, a coalition of progressive activists have been calling on the Anti-Defamation League to stop facilitating American police training in Israel. Now they’re planning to gather at the organization’s New York City headquarters Tuesday night to celebrate a win: according to an ADL memo leaked to the media last week, the group has not organized the police trips since 2019.

“We’re definitely celebrating this as a victory,” said Eve Feldberg, a Jewish Voice for Peace activist organizing the event. Feldberg said she’s expecting a couple hundred attendees who will march 20 minutes from Bryant Park in Midtown Manhattan to the ADL’s offices, accompanied by a nine-piece marching band.

But the victory described by organizers of the “Deadly Exchange” campaign, which argues the police trips fuel violence in both the United States, Israel and the occupied West Bank, is more murky than it may appear. ADL officials say the activists are wrong to take credit for a pause in a program that may resume.

Though leaked internal ADL document from 2020, published by Jewish Currents and the Guardian Thursday, showed that the trips had been paused, and that high-level staff had serious concerns about the police program’s impact, the ADL has said that it ultimately decided to continue the training program with a revised curriculum. While no trips are currently scheduled, they may be in the near future.

Jewish Voice for Peace, which leads the Deadly Exchange coalition, while continuing to call for a permanent end to the police training program, has billed Tuesday night’s event as an opportunity to “celebrate and escalate,” counting the pause as a significant win.

“The ADL seems to have this philosophy that safety for Jews both in the diaspora and in Israel can come through policing,” Feldberg said, “and what the Deadly Exchange campaign is saying is: true safety comes through solidarity not through collaboration with cops.”

An ADL spokesperson dismissed the protesters as misguided.

“We are not sure what they are celebrating,” the organization said in a statement to the Forward. “The program is on pause due to the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic — not because of outrageous and false claims made by radical anti-Israel activists.”

The ADL is one of three groups that have offered training trips to Israel for U.S. police officers. More than 1,000 people, mostly senior law enforcement officials, have gone on trips run by the ADL, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs and the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange. The trips are generally privately funded and are free for participants, though none of the organizations would share with JTA in 2020 the exact sources of the funding or the costs of the trip.

The ADL has said the trips are intended to increase the American participants’ understanding of extremist violence and mass casualty attacks and to teach them to build community resilience.

The ADL memo says each trip cost $115,000, and that it has allocated upward of $200,000 per year in staff time to take the trips and defend them from critics.

Much of the criticism has been driven by Jewish Voice for Peace, an anti-Zionist group that published a 2018 report calling the trips a “Deadly Exchange.” The group says the exchanges allow police forces from two countries with histories of racial discrimination and allegations of oppressive policing to swap strategies.

“Our collective power is working: The ADL never would have disrupted their US-Israel police exchanges without the power of our multiracial intersectional coalition forcing them into a corner,” Jewish Voice for Peace’s executive director, Stefanie Fox, said in a statement.

Portions of this post appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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