Responding to Activists, the Durham City Council Rejects Police Exchanges With Israel | News

Responding to Activists, the Durham City Council Rejects Police Exchanges With Israel


This post is excerpted from the INDY’s morning newsletter, Primer. To read this morning’s edition in full, click here. To get all the day’s local and national headlines and insights delivered straight to your inbox, sign up here.

In February, the INDY reported that Durham activists were pushing the city council to pass a resolution condemning exchanges between American police officers and Israeli security forces, citing those Israeli forces’ alleged human rights violations. At a work session yesterday, the council did just that. Well, sorta.
  • From the Herald-Sun: “The Durham City Council went on record Thursday opposing military-style training by foreign governments for local police. ‘The council opposes international exchanges with any country in which Durham officers receive military-style training since such exchanges do not support the kind of policing we want here in the City of Durham,’ according to the statement released at Thursday's council work session. … The statement also includes a quote from Durham Police Chief C.J. Davis: ‘There has been no effort while I have served as chief of police to initiate or participate in any exchange to Israel, nor do I have any intention to do so.’ The statement adds: ‘Black lives matter. We can make that phrase real in Durham by rejecting the militarization of our police force in favor of a different kind of policing, and that is what we are doing in Durham now.’”
  • Davis has been to Israel as part of an exchange in a previous job. “In a memo, Davis told City Manager Tom Bonfield her own training experience in Israel ‘had nothing to do with terrorism tactics, military tactics, or the use of or exposure to, military equipment.’ Davis said her previous visit was ‘based on developing leadership academies, leadership principles, and the challenges experienced with building community and police relations with the growing homeless population in the U.S., comparable to Sudanese populations in Israel.’”
  • “Seven Triangle rabbis signed a letter urging the Durham City Council to reject the petition. Their letter calls the petition biased and bad policy for Durham and its police department.”
  • “Mayor Pro Tem Jillian Johnson also read a statement Thursday, which she also sent to people who contacted her about the petition. ‘It’s important to note that Mayor Schewel’s statement is significantly different from the original petition we received on this issue, which I signed. The original petition from the “Demilitarize Durham to Palestine” campaign included language linking violent policing in the U.S. to tactics of the Israeli police and military,’ Johnson said. Johnson said she does not believe that ‘it is inherently anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli policies and practice, just as I don’t believe it’s anti-American to criticize the practices of the U.S. military and police, which I do often.’”

IN CONTEXT: As I was writing this, I came upon this story from Reuters: “Israeli forces shot and wounded at least 40 Palestinian protesters on Friday, Palestinian medics said, as thousands converged on Gaza’s border with Israel and set fire to mounds of tyres to launch a second week of demonstrations. Twenty Palestinians have died since the demonstrations near the heavily guarded Gaza border fence began on March 30, the latest a man who died in a Gaza hospital on Friday of gunshot wounds suffered on the first day of protests. Five of Friday’s 40 wounded were in critical condition, according to the Gaza health ministry.”
  • Israel says many of those killed were militants, but human rights groups have said that the incident involved “live fire against demonstrators posing no immediate threat to life.” The protesters are seeking a right to return to Israel as refugees. The U.S. government is criticizing the protesters, not the Israelis.

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