Frequently Asked Questions About the Deadly Exchange


This campaign is about ending the deadly exchanges between U.S. law enforcement and Israeli security forces, as part of our larger goal of challenging state violence and discrimination in both countries. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about the programs we’re targeting and about our campaign.

What are these exchanges and why do you want to stop them?

Since the early 2000s, thousands of U.S. police officers, sheriffs, border patrol agents, ICE officers, and FBI agents have trained with Israeli military and police forces. We want to stop these exchanges for a few key reasons:

Because holding up Israel’s use of military technology, lethal force, mass surveillance and racial profiling as a global gold standard serves to legitimize, reinforce and deepen Israeli Occupation and apartheid.

According to the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) U.S.-Israel law enforcement program, David C. Friedman, the goal of their delegations is for U.S. cops “to learn lessons from Israel in terms of tactics and strategies and the evolution of terrorism, but also examples of leadership.” The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) similarly markets their program as a way for US law enforcement to learn from Israeli expertise in surveillance and countering “Islamic fundamentalism,” developed in the context of military occupation.

These programs transform Israel’s 70 years of dispossession and 50 years of Occupation into a marketing brochure for “successful” policing. We want to end Israel’s human rights abuses, not valorize them.

Because we want to boycott and divest from the brutality of policing by both the US and Israeli governments.

Policing in both the U.S. and Israel is deeply rooted in discrimination and violence. As has been well-documented by human rights organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, Israel’s security, military and policing systems maintain the occupation through extrajudicial killings, torture, and collective punishment. In the U.S., the Movement for Black Lives has brought renewed attention to the ongoing phenomena of police killings of Black people, as a critical part of a long legacy of violence against communities of color, beginning with slavery. Likewise, immigrant rights activists have been fighting the massive growth of the world’s biggest detention and deportation machine, and Native communities in the U.S. fight for accountability in the face of the nation’s highest rate of police murder. Boycott, divestment and sanctions are powerful tools to demonstrate our values and bring about real change.

By demanding these programs end, we are asking elected leaders and nongovernmental organizations to withdraw funds and moral support from both these dangerous institutions and policies.

Because these programs are a worst practices exchange that bring paramilitary tactics to U.S. policing and broken windows discrimination to Israeli policing.

In the U.S., these exchange programs are one example of a wider shift in policing over the last two decades. The programs grew out of a post-9/11 trend to bring counter-terrorism logics, technology and tactics into policing and immigration policy in the U.S. This can be seen in the increasing criminalization of everyday life in communities of color, intrusive surveillance particularly in Muslim communities, violent repression of Indigenous-led movements, the importation of military tactics, technologies and weapons from the war on terror into domestic policing, and unprecedented deportations fueled by the intertwining of immigration and counterterrorism policies. Law enforcement exchange programs under the banner of Israeli counterterrorism expertise contribute to these deadly trends by encouraging even deeper application of counterterror and counter-insurgency models into domestic policing, immigration, and surveillance policies and practices. [1]

Conversely, in recent years, and owing to the great degree of collaboration with U.S. police, Israeli police have
started adopting a broken windows approach to policing, following the idea that constant policing of low-level disorder–which takes the form of constant police surveillance, harassment, and arrests in communities of color–will deter serious criminal activity. The Knesset’s adoption of a Stop and Frisk law, and the Israeli police adopting the Compstat program used by the NYPD to implement and track their broken windows approach to community policing are examples of how Israeli police are adding new layers of discriminatory policing and detention to the paramilitary and spying practices they’ve always used. In 2013, as the NYPD was embroiled in federal civil rights lawsuit for their harassment of communities of color, top Israeli police were traveling to NY to study the program. Donna Lieberman, ED of the NYCLU wrote “Israel is showing an incredible lack of concern for community relations if they’re trying to emulate broken windows policing and out of control stop-and-frisk practices.”

This dangerous two-way street means that US and Israeli officials are learning the worst possible lessons from one another.

[1] For detailed analysis of the content of the exchange programs and the worst practices they promote, please see three additional resources: 1) Annotated Police Exchange Program Itinerary, 2) In Their Own Words, 3) Expose on U.S.-Israel Policing Partnerships: The Cases of NYC, LA, and Ferguson

Because we must start somewhere.

We are under no illusion that ending these programs will end police violence or deportations in the U.S., abolish Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, or terminate all security collusion between the U.S. and Israel. But we believe strongly that working to end these programs will challenge state violence and human rights violations in the U.S., in Israel/Palestine, and beyond. Successful organizing is about seeing where we can slow, stall, or chip away at the big systems hurting us, our communities, and our neighbors.

We have the power to stop these police exchange programs, and we think it’s a critical way to move towards justice for all people.

Because we think it’s time to reimagine what safety means.

Central to the philosophy of these exchange programs is the assumption that state policies of violence, surveillance, occupation and deportation targeting some communities can create “safety” for other communities. In Israel, this harms not only Palestinians but also Ethiopian and Eritrean Jews, Mizrahi and Sephardi Jews, other Jews of Color, and African migrants, while in the US, it means targeting Black people, indigenous people, other communities of color, immigrants and refugees, and Muslims. Policing in both places sees only some communities as worthy of protection while criminalizing, occupying, imprisoning, deporting, and killing people in other communities. We believe that real safety grows through the ways we protect and defend each other, and that no one is made safer through state violence.

The notion that violent policing fosters safety is a myth, and we want to reimagine with our communities how real safety should look and feel.

Who is running the exchanges?

Exchanges between U.S. and Israeli police and military agencies are organized by a range of actors, including private companies both in the U.S. and Israel, non-profit organizations, and governmental agencies.


There has long been direct collaboration between U.S. and Israeli law enforcement departments, and exchange programs are just one example of how this collaboration plays out. Direct exchanges and trainings have at times been initiated by U.S. government bodies, and at times by Israeli government bodies, often through the International Cooperation Department of the Israeli National Police.  


We also know that there are private companies based in Israel that run exchange programs, such as i-HLS, as well as private companies based in the U.S., such as Security Solutions International.


The Georgia Law Enforcement and Exchange (GILEE) program is another very prominent example of these joint trainings. The program was established with the goals of “enhanc[ing] inter-agency cooperation between State of Georgia law enforcement agencies and the police force of the State of Israel” and “offer[ing] an educational professional program to senior Israeli law enforcement officials in Georgia, primarily in the area of community policing.” Through the program, high-ranking police officers from Georgia and other states across the country travel to Israel, while Israeli police officials are also brought to Atlanta every two years to learn Georgia’s ‘drug enforcement’ tactics. According to GILEE’s director, Robert Friedmann, 24,000 participants have engaged in 330 programs and 180 delegations since its establishment in 1992.


At Jewish Voice for Peace, we were especially upset to learn about Jewish organizations that facilitate such deadly exchanges. The programs run counter to all the Jewish values we hold dear, and we feel a special obligation to start closest to home, and to work to challenge those organizations in our own communities that are complicit in the deadly exchange.


At least 5 Jewish non-profit organizations facilitate exchanges: the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF, the charitable organization affiliated with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – AIPAC), and Birthright Israel.


These programs focus, for the most part, on high ranking officers, which limits the total numbers involved in the exchanges but means that those who go are the people who set policy and conduct training for whole departments and agencies, such as police chiefs, commanders and other high-ranking immigration and law enforcement officials.


According to ADL, more than 200 top ranking officials have traveled to Israel through their National Counterterrorism Seminar (NCTS) since the program’s inception in 2003. Since 2010, trips are run multiple times a year, in December 2016, August 2016, September 2015, March 2014, February 2013, October 2013, March 2012, April 2011, October 2011. ADL runs an additional program, Advanced Training School (ATS), that brings Israeli law enforcement officials to the U.S. to speak to groups of American law enforcement officials, involving over 1000 U.S. participants since the program began in 2003. [2]


JINSA’s program, the Law Enforcement Exchange Program (LEEP), was founded in 2002 and takes small delegations of U.S. law enforcement to Israel. JINSA reported in 2011 that more than 100 law enforcement officials on the federal, state, and local levels had traveled to Israel with the program. Since 2011, JINSA-organized law enforcement delegations to Israel have occurred yearly: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015. JINSA also reports that 11,000 American law enforcement officials have attended nationwide LEEP conferences, which bring in Israeli security officials as experts.


AJC brings U.S. “counterterrorism experts” and law enforcement officials to Israel through its Project Interchange program. Their first trip was in 2006, and at least 10 trips (usually consisting of 10-15 participants) were organized through the year 2012. The American Israel Education Foundation (the charitable organization affiliated with AIPAC) has also facilitated numerous trips, including in 2014, in February 2013, in April 2013, and at least one in 2006. Similarly, Birthright Israel collaborated with Shorashim, the National Conference of Shomrim Societies, and Jewish National Fund USA (JNF USA) to organize the first ever birthright trip for U.S. law enforcement in June 2016[3]


[2]  ATS also includes briefings from domestic counter-terrorism professionals.

[3] Although the heads of many U.S. police associations such as the National Sheriffs Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the International Association for Chiefs of Police (IACP), and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) have participated in exchanges organized by JINSA, ADL and AIEF, we have not found examples of these police associations organizing exchanges directly with Israeli officials in the last decade.

Why are you focusing on exchanges with Israel and not other places?

At Jewish Voice for Peace, our mission is to challenge the political, economic, and military relationships between the U.S. and Israel that have enabled the sustained oppression of Palestinians for many decades.

One of the goals of this campaign is to situate the law enforcement exchange programs within the larger context of the U.S.-Israel alliance, characterized historically by the shared embrace of Islamophobia, anti-Arab racism, and the ‘clash of civilizations’ narrative, as well as military and intelligence collaboration, and a revolving door of military aid allocation that ends up in the pockets of Israeli and U.S. military and security contractors.  

Police exchange programs between Israel and the U.S. are one piece of this relationship, providing an entry point for us to challenge racism and state violence in both places. And even though police and military exchanges are happening between the U.S. and other countries, Jewish organizations are choosing to single out Israel as the U.S.’s ideal partner. For example, JINSA’s mission statement identifies “U.S.-Israeli security cooperation” as the “cornerstone” of U.S. defense and strategic interests, and a “strong American military” is, above all else, “the best guarantor of peace and the survival of our values and our civilization.”

At the same time, Israel promotes itself as the world’s top security expert, drawing on decades of experience enforcing a regime of brutal military occupation and apartheid against Palestinians. Challenging these programs is part of an effort to address our specific responsibility and opportunity as American taxpayers who sustain the U.S. policies and military aid to Israel that enables ongoing occupation and apartheid.

Why are you highlighting the role of U.S. Jewish institutions in these police exchanges?

At Jewish Voice for Peace, we’ve always understood it to be our role to speak as Jews, and to our fellow Jews, to challenge the role that our community plays in upholding unjust policies and practices. That is why we focus on challenging Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid against Palestinians, and that is also why we challenge fellow Jewish organizations over their complicity in and unconditional support for Israel’s human rights abuses.

As U.S. Jews, we feel a particular responsibility to hold organizations in our communities accountable. Mass surveillance, policing violence, militarized borders and other such worst practices do not make anyone safer; they increase state violence against already vulnerable communities and contribute to the systemic devaluation of Black and brown lives.

We call on Jewish institutions, especially those like the Anti-Defamation League that identify as civil rights organizations, to end these deadly exchanges.

Are you claiming that Israel or U.S. Jewish organizations are behind the rise in police brutality against People of Color, in the U.S.?

Definitely not. Policing in the U.S. operates as one of the primary systems that upholds racism and white supremacy today, with is roots in the institution of slavery. People of color in this country, and Black communities in particular, have been confronted with violent and brutal policing since the very first patrols, and certainly long before the establishment of the state of Israel. Although recent trends in policing (privatization, increased militarization and heinous cases of police brutality and killing) are critical to address, Angela Davis reminds us that these cases are a continuation and amplification of the violence that has always existed. And that violence will continue to exist, with or without Israeli training of U.S. police.


What we do claim is that these U.S.-Israeli police exchanges serve to reinforce, circulate, and promote the discriminatory and brutal policing practices that already exist in both countries, including practices of mass surveillance, deadly force, the use of military technology, and racial profiling.  [4]


We are targeting these programs, not because doing so will instantly end racism or violence against Palestinians or people of color in the U.S., but because opposing them represents an opportunity to chip away at the structures of white supremacy and state violence that they both rely on and help strengthen. Through this fight, we’re working towards a world in which ‘safety’ is not created for some through violence against others, one in which all people can experience true security and freedom.


[4] For detailed analysis of the content of the exchange programs and the worst practices they promote, please see three additional resources: 1) Annotated Police Exchange Program Itinerary, 2) In Their Own Words, 3) Expose on U.S.-Israel Policing Partnerships: The Cases of NYC, LA, and Ferguson

Do you have another question?

For any other questions, you can get in touch with us via our contact page.