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Police Brutality at University Encampments Linked to “Deadly Exchange” between Israel and U.S.

As pro-Palestine encampments have escalated across U.S. campuses these past few weeks, so have law enforcement’s brutality against students and faculty and their inaction towards real violent threats like the Zionist mob attack at the University of California, Los Angeles protest on April 30, 2024. 

Many administrators decided to call in law enforcement to disperse and arrest hundreds of peaceful protesters demanding their institutions to end ties with Israel and all companies funding Israel’s genocide in Gaza, while few others tolerated the protests, since the uprising of pro- Palestine encampments inspired by Columbia University on April 17, 2024.

The Associated Press reported that police have arrested nearly 2,900 people at 57 colleges and universities nationwide. 

Videos of police brutality in the U.S. have gone viral and garnered attention worldwide over the years, ramping up with police violence at peaceful pro-Palestine rallies and encampments. The brutality attests to the groundbreaking “Deadly Exchange” report by the organizations Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and Researching the American-Israeli Alliance (RAIA), which examines how American police are trained in Israel.

In a video posted on social media, police officers threw Annelise Orleck, the former head of Dartmouth’s Jewish studies department, to the ground and dragged her along the grass. The 65-year-old was recording arrests and attempting to protect her students from heavily armed police before the incident. 

“We need to stop attacking our children, beating our children, shooting our children,” Orleck said in an interview with TMJ. “These are 17, 18, 19, 20 year olds and it’s deeply disturbing and shocking that we have chosen to do that to prevent them from you know expressing their free speech rights.”  

 

The chair of the Emory philosophy department, Noëlle McAfee, told a local news outlet that she was arrested for asking officers to stop “punching and rolling and knocking and punching” a young protester.

“The mother in me said ‘stop.” she said. “And I made sure to stand four feet away from them, standing still, non confrontational, I said, ‘stop’ — one of the cops stood up and got right in front of me and said, ‘Ma’am, you need to step back, you need to step back.” 

They arrested her for saying, “no.”

According to the Columbia Spectator, on April 30, 2024, the New York City police department arrested a total of 282 protesters at Columbia University and City College of New York, while pushing protesters to the ground and slamming them with metal barricades.

The student newspaper reported that footage shows police using stun grenades against students and an officer throwing a protester down the stairs in front of a campus building. 

On May 2, the NYPD admitted that an officer fired one shot inside Hamilton Hall at Columbia University striking a frame in a wall. They claimed it was an accident. 

On April 27, police dragged Steve Tamari, a 65-year-old historian of the Middle East at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, to the ground while he was filming the protest at Washington University in St Louis. Tamari was left hospitalized with “multiple broken ribs and a broken hand,” according to his statement on X. 

On May 1, Congresswoman Cori Bush tweeted a condemnation of the police violence “inflicted upon [her] friend Steve Tamari for standing against Netanyahu’s genocide,” claiming it indicates “the brutality communities face around the world when they dare to demand peace & justice.”

On April 30, at the University of California, Los Angeles encampment footage showed a violent pro-Israel mob attacking protesters with pipes, mace, rocks, chemicals, and fireworks.

According to NPR, police fired rubber bullets at student protesters and yet delayed their response to the mob that attacked the peaceful students at around 11 p.m.

Aidan Doyle, a 21-year-old junior at UCLA said that he will probably never forget the delayed intervention and the university officials’ decisions. 

In one of his public Instagram posts, he recalled police arriving at around midnight or 1 a.m. and lining “up on the hill alongside the counter-protesters” and doing “nothing.” 

“The treatment of the protesters by the cops was horrible and unforgivable,” he said. “But it was nothing compared to what the counter protesters did, assaulting 80, 90, 100 of us.” 

Doyle was hit in the face with a rock and a plastic traffic cone.

“I saw a girl, probably 20 years old, being struck in the face by men who are counterprotesting,” Doyle said. “It was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen.”

After the attack, Doyle returned to the encampment the next night on May 1, when more than 200 protesters were arrested, and many were rushed to the ER after police fired rubber bullets at close range.

According to data by Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), since October, police have arrested protesters and “dispersed crowds much more frequently at demonstrations with counter-demonstrators,” but “in cases where student demonstrators have gathered unopposed, police have intervened against pro-Palestine demonstrations more than five-and-a-half times as often as pro-Israel demonstrations.”

On May 30, students at Wayne State University’s encampment were also met with violent arrests. According to a witness from Wayne State’s Student for Justice in Palestine, police threw one student to the ground “with a hand over his neck” and ripped off the hijabs of 3 young women. 

On May 21, police with face shields and helmets pushed University of Michigan students to the ground and used chemical sprays to dismantle their encampment. The violence resulted in the arrest and hospitalization of students. 

“I repeatedly said that my family has been killed, and that is why I am here. And as I was saying that through the megaphone, police officers snatched the megaphone out from my hand,” Palestinian American student Salma Hamamy said in an interview. “Instead of meeting with us at the table and meeting with us at the encampment, they decided to meet us with violent force and chemical attacks.”

Evidently, law enforcement’s use of violence against pro-Palestine protesters who are standing for peace and justice compared to its late and ineffective response to the Zionist mob at UCLA is linked to U.S. police training in Israel and the history of police racism and brutality against minorities.

U.S. and Israel’s deadly exchange

In their 2018 report titled Deadly Exchange, JVP and RAIA reveal that U.S. law enforcement’s official training in Israel started months after September 11 to exchange “best practices” in “counter-terrorism.” 

The report breaks down how the U.S. exchange with Israel “endangers us all.” 

It highlights how this cooperation augments oppressive U.S. police practices such as expanding surveillance, which includes “comprehensive visual monitoring in public places and online, and the heightened infiltration of social movements and entire communities.” 

Since the beginning of the genocide, many social media users speaking up for Palestine have been surveilled, censored, fired from jobs, and banned online. Human Rights Watch reviewed over a thousand cases of Meta’s censorship of Palestine content back in December of 2023 that reveal six key patterns: “content removals, suspension or deletion of accounts, inability to engage with content, inability to follow or tag accounts, restrictions on the use of features such as Instagram/Facebook Live, and ‘shadow banning,’ a term denoting a significant decrease in the visibility of an individual’s posts, stories, or account without notification.”

More than 300 cases were not able to appeal removed content or accounts because of a malfunction.

“Meta’s censorship of content in support of Palestine adds insult to injury at a time of unspeakable atrocities and repression already stifling Palestinians’ expression,” said Deborah Brown, Human Right Watch’s acting associate technology and human rights director. “Social media is an essential platform for people to bear witness and speak out against abuses while Meta’s censorship is furthering the erasure of Palestinians’ suffering.”

According to JVP and RAIA, the exchange between U.S. police and Israel also justifies racial profiling, marking Black and Brown people as suspects, “particularly Arabs and Muslims, and refining the policies, tactics, and technologies that target communities and social movements that seek racial justice.” 

Lastly, it reinforces the suppression of protests by treating protestors as the “enemy combatant” and controlling coverage of state violence. 

Eran Efrati, the executive director of RAIA, who was once a combat soldier for the Israeli military and a witness to Israel’s occupation of Palestine, told Al Jazeera that U.S. police are given live demonstrations of violence and repression during patrols in East Jerusalem, protests across the West bank, and at the Gaza border.

“Delegates meet with the Shin Bet and chief officers in Israeli military prisons to discuss investigation tactics, with Palestinian Authority agents and police, to learn about how Israel uses their collaboration in suppressing Palestinian dissent, and with representatives from the Department of Defense and others to learn about Israel’s security expertise,” Efrati said.

A 2016 report by Amnesty International reveals that the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs have funded training in Israel and the occupied territories for police chiefs, assistant chiefs and captains.

As Amnesty points out, they are trained by an occupation notorious for countless human rights violations. 

“Amnesty International, other human rights organizations and even the U.S. Department of State have cited Israeli police for carrying out extrajudicial and other unlawful killings, using ill treatment and torture (even against children), suppression of freedom of expression/association including through government surveillance, and excessive use of force against peaceful protesters,” the report stated. 

It noted incidents of Israeli police’s suppression of freedom of expression like shooting and attacking journalists covering protests as well as arrests made for social media posts and peaceful gatherings bringing up the occupation. 

“Police have harassed and arrested Israeli whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu repeatedly since he served his full sentence in 2004,” Amnesty shared. 

Vanunu, a peace activist and former Israeli nuclear technician, who opposed weapons of mass destruction, spent more than 11 years in solitary confinement after he was sentenced to 18 years in prison in 1986 for revealing details of Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the UK press. 

During the Great March of Return protests, between March 30, 2018 and the end of 2019,  thousands from Gaza demonstrated to end Israel’s blockade and for Palestinians’ right of return. The demonstrations took place every Friday and on special days at five locations along the fence. Minor protests were held during the week at the beach and at other locations near the fence at night.

Israeli forces responded to these protests by stationing over a 100 snipers, tanks, and drones along the fence. According to the UN, in total, 214 Palestinians, including 46 children, were killed, and over 36,100, including nearly 8,800 children were injured. 

The IDF was also accused of intentionally targeting Palestinian journalists as well as medics taking care of injured protesters.

Videos that have circulated online reveal recent demonstrations in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government being met with police violence as well. 

As police brutality at U.S. encampments increases with no national outcry, it becomes clear who officers are serving and where this training exchange is leading the country. U.S. pro-Israel officials’ vilification of protesters standing against Israel’s genocide in Gaza and the use of violence by law enforcement are intertwined— mirroring Israel’s history of blatant oppression to further serve and escalate it in both occupied Palestine and the U.S.

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