Rebecca Long-Bailey was fired today for retweeting an interview with Maxine Peake in the Independent in which Peake claims the Israeli police taught American police the restraint techniques that have been killing unarmed black men and women throughout the US.
Clearly this is the result of a Labour Party hair trigger on the issue — warranted after the last few years of chaos — but how inaccurate is the claim really?
The offending paragraph reads as following:
“I don’t know how we escape that cycle that’s indoctrinated into us all,” continues the 45-year-old. “Well, we get rid of it when we get rid of capitalism as far as I’m concerned. That’s what it’s all about. The establishment has got to go. We’ve got to change it.” Born in Bolton to a lorry driver father and care worker mother, Peake is strident and expressive; if religion wasn’t anathema to her, she’d be perfect in the pulpit. “Systemic racism is a global issue,” she adds. “The tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.” (A spokesperson for the Israeli police has denied this, stating that “there is no tactic or protocol that calls to put pressure on the neck or airway”.)
It’s a thorny claim. Is it inflammatory? Clearly. But does that amount to antisemitism or just anti-Zionist hyperbole? The Israeli police may deny that they have recommended the use of that particular tactic, but they don’t deny that the US have trained with them, and so Peake’s overarching point — that systemic racism is a global issue — remains perfectly in tact.
In this regard, Amnesty International supports Peake’s claim. In an article on US forces training with their Israeli equivalents, they report:
The Department of Justice report cited Baltimore police for using aggressive tactics that “escalate encounters and stifle public cooperation.” This leads, the report said, to use of unreasonable force during interactions for minor infractions, such as quality of life matters. Furthermore, the report details how an overall lack of training leads to excessive force being used against those with mental health issues, juveniles and people who present “little or no threat against others,” such as those already restrained.
For years, Amnesty International has found Israeli military, security and police forces responsible for the same behavior.
Most tellingly, however, is this article on US-Israeli cooperation when training law enforcement from the Jewish Virtual Library, which reports that these exercises began in earnest following 9/11:
In January 2003, thirty-three senior U.S. law enforcement officials — from Washington, Chicago, Kansas City, Boston and Philadelphia — traveled to Israel to attend a meeting on “Law Enforcement in the Era of Global Terror.” The workshops helped build skills in identifying terrorist cells, enlisting public support for the fight against terrorism and coping with the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
“We went to the country that’s been dealing with the issue for 30 years,” Boston Police Commissioner Paul F. Evans said. “The police are the front line in the battle against terrorism. We were there to learn from them — their response, their efforts to deter it. They touched all the bases.”
“I think it’s invaluable,” said Washington, DC Police Chief Charles Ramsey about the instruction he received in Israel. “They have so much more experience in dealing with this than we do in the United States.”
What exactly is the terrorism that Chief Ramsey is referring to here? Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation? There are Palestinian groups that have absolutely committed terrorist offences under international law, but the Israeli forces are hardly capable of discerning who is a Palestinian terrorist and who is just a Palestinian. Their shameful record on human rights abuses makes that abundantly clear. It is evidently Israel’s position to fight terrorism with terrorism.
This is exactly what we’ve seen in the US in recent months, in which the police fight those protesting against police brutality by turning their brutality up to 11. It should not be controversial to suggest that the USA treats its black citizens the same way that Israel treats the Palestinians. As far as they are concerned, both are the enemy within.
Kier Starmer’s response to a claim like Peake’s — intimated indirectly via Rebecca Long-Bailey — should not be to blow the anti-Semitism whistle on a rival but to get down on his stupid knee again and make a change.
If black lives matter, Palestinian lives matter too.