The Israeli military gunned down at least 52 Palestinians on Monday, and have killed approximately 108 since March 30. American police officers have killed 118 people since then.

According to the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) — an independent non-profit focusing on Palestinian issues — the slaughter of Palestinian protesters that began on March 30 has claimed more than 100 lives in the last 42 days. Roughly half of those Palestinian deaths came Monday, with Israeli snipers mowing down unarmed protesters demonstrating near the Israeli border in opposition to the opening of the new U.S. Embassy in occupied Jerusalem.

While American police officers may not be sitting on a border fence with sniper rifles, they have nonetheless killed more Americans than Israelis have killed Palestinians in the same time frame the IMEU studied. According to the Washington Post’s police killings database, 118 Americans have been killed by law enforcement officers between March 30 and May 10, 2018. In total, 387 Americans have been shot and killed by police in the United States since the start of the year.

Even though these two sets of statistics come from two different countries thousands of miles apart, one little known fact tying both Israeli security forces and American law enforcement together is that police in the United States are frequently flown to Israel to be trained by Israeli military forces. In 2017, The Intercept reported that thousands of American police officers have been trained in Israel since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, with Israel branding itself as a global leader in counterterrorism.

In the context of the Pentagon’s 1033 program that supplies local police departments with surplus military equipment, it’s easy to see how American police being trained by a military force could be problematic. Brooklyn College professor Alex Vitale told Intercept reporter Alice Speri that the training officers receive has no use or purpose in the day-to-day reality of civilian law enforcement.

“A lot of the policing that folks are observing and being talked to about in these trips is policing that happens in a nondemocratic context,” Vitale said. “It involves either military policing, border control policing, or policing of folks in the occupied territories who aren’t full legal subjects in the Israeli legal system.”

“The focus of this training is on riot suppression, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism — all of which are essentially irrelevant or should be irrelevant to the vast majority of police departments,” he continued. “They shouldn’t be suppressing protest, they shouldn’t be engaging in counterinsurgency, and almost none of them face any real threat from terrorism.”

This may explain why both Israeli security forces and American law enforcement officers have been singled out for human rights abuses by human rights watchdog Amnesty International. In a post about the Israeli occupation of Palestine, Amnesty wrote that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was “illegal,” and that Israel’s military is routinely killing civilians with impunity, including children:

Israeli forces unlawfully killed Palestinian civilians, including children, and unlawfully detained within Israel thousands of Palestinians from the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), holding hundreds in administrative detention without charge or trial. Torture and other ill-treatment of detainees, including children, remained pervasive and was committed with impunity. Israel continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and in Palestinian villages inside Israel, forcibly evicting residents.

In a separate post about American police in 2015, Amnesty wrote that American police officers disproportionately kill African Americans, and that even though law enforcement officers are charged with keeping the peace in dangerous situations, police around the United States have shown a pattern of disregard for the lives of African Americans:

Police officers are responsible for upholding the law, as well as respecting and protecting the lives of all members of society. Their jobs are difficult and often dangerous. However, the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and countless others across the United States has highlighted a widespread pattern of racially discriminatory treatment by law enforcement officers and an alarming use of lethal force nationwide.

One question that still hasn’t been clearly answered — either by the Bush, Obama, or Trump administrations — is why American police are being trained by an occupying military force, rather than by law enforcement in countries like Canada, Japan, or the United Kingdom, where police are trained in de-escalation tactics.


Carl Gibson is co-publisher of Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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