The NYPD and Israeli Police: Perfect Together

As my writings on this blog will show, I am not terribly fond of the New York City Police Department. Among other things, it is excessively militarized and has a very poor record on civil liberties. (I am not going to go into an exhaustive listing here, but a quick perusal of the link above should help the curious reader.) New York City residents are by now used to opening the morning newspaper and reading of yet another shenanigan, another abuse, another report on operational incompetence. Sometimes these are deadly, as today’s story about a bodega worker being shot dead by the Finest indicates. What is truly bizarre about this appalling record of general malfeasance is the contrast with the NYPD’s self-image: strutting, cock of the walk swaggering international terrorist fighters, keepers of the peace.  For one of the worst things about the aftermath of 9/11 has been the elevation of the NYPD to a fleet of Batmans in Blue. (And like Batman, they often find themselves ranged against those that might disturb the tranquility of the city’s banking operations.) As such, the NYPD thinks a great deal of itself. It aspires to be more than just a silly city police force; that’s for folks who aim low. No, it aspires to be an Interpol, FBI and Mossad rolled into one.

The latest story then, about the NYPD opening a ‘branch’ in Israel should come as no surprise, but it still manages to evoke wonder. Why is a ‘branch’ of a city’s local police force being opened in another part of the world? I think of banks, department stores, gyms and fast-food chains opening branches, but a police force? How does this improve New York City’s policing?

Unfortunately, I know the NYPD’s answer to that last question and it terrifies me. Presumably, they are there to ‘learn’, to ‘study local tactics,’ to share ‘methods and techniques for enforcing law and order.’ Unfortunately, their choice of locale and their partners in this enterprise are precisely the wrong ones for us citizens who will soon have to bear the brunt of this wondrous exchange of knowledge. Because if you want to co-operate with a police force, you might want to find one that is not associated with a nation that is engaged in illegal occupation, a business that, as an Israeli friend of mine once remarked, ‘is a national sickness, one that renders every national institution corrupt and complicit.’

Perhaps the NYPD will learn how to put up checkpoints, conduct grossly invasive searches–sorry, on that one, they will presumably teach the Israeli police a thing or two or three–and send themselves even further down the path of the militarization that they so obviously adore. Perhaps they will learn new interrogation techniques, especially refined and honed for dealing with a population viewed as the Other. The Black and Latino population of New York City trembles in anticipation; it’s bad enough to be Walking While Black in this city, but imagine what would happen if policing in this city induced a wholly new sensation for a select portion of this city’s population: What it feels like to be a Palestinian at a West Bank roadblock.

23 thoughts on “The NYPD and Israeli Police: Perfect Together

  1. It’s funny to describe land taken in wars—which you’ve won—as “illegal occupation.” I gather you don’t know very much about the Arab-Israeli conflict or about the fact that the Israelis accepted the idea of partition, in 1948, and that the Arabs rejected it, believing they could “push the Jews into the sea.”

    I agree that there is no reason why the NYPD need consult the Israelis. Unlike Israel, we are not surrounded by vicious dictatorships, whose main aim is to murder all of us. And also unlike Israel, our own “illegal occupation”—you know, the country we took from the American Indians and Mexicans—doesn’t seem to worry us too much.

    Jeez.

  2. Daniel — it’s Israel’s own fault that the land they’ve taken in wars is considered an ‘illegal occupation’. If they would just annex the land and be done with it this problem would go away very quickly.

    1. This is pretty confused logic.

      1. If you think that annexing the territories would get people to stop accusing Israel of illegality, I have a few bridges to sell you.

      2. How can it be Israel’s fault that it was attacked by Egypt, Syria, etc., and that *they* lost? You don’t want to lose wars? Don’t attack people. Especially not people with better armies than yours.

      3. I notice that you also ignored the point about the United States, all of which is “stolen.” I’m still waiting for all the Israel critics to give California back to Mexico.

      Please.

  3. It was the colonial era British control of Palestine that is a major factor in this tragic situation. Put yourself in the place of the Arab. You would see Israel as an extension of that colonialism. It is something that surely engenders resentment. But the reality – or as they say “the situation on the ground” – dictates that a compromise is essential and there is no political will on either side for compromise.

    1. I guess you didn’t read my post. The Israelis accepted a compromise in 1948. The Arabs rejected it and launched the first of several wars. That they lost those wars is their own fault, not the fault of the Israelis.

      Unlike the Arabs, the Jews had just been subjected to mass extermination…one, which, incidentally, the Palestinians and their “Grand Mufti” supported. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Amin_al-Husayni)

      So, pardon me if I am not particularly moved by their resentment. And viewing a bunch of refugees from Auschwitz and Buchenwald, on a sliver of land the size of New Jersey, as “colonialists” when you are sitting on thousands upon thousands of square miles of land and oil, is demented to say the least.

    1. JP,

      Thanks for that link. A fascinating read. Many Israeli soldiers have written some very interesting perspectives on their work in the Occupied Territories. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz has published quite a few of these over the years.

  4. A 2 for 1 double whammy. go after the nypd and Israel in one fell-swoop. This is fringy stuff, and unfortunately to at least one reader, it undercuts your credibility on everything else. I am not going to wade into the well-covered Israeli debate, but I will say that I know a lot of good police officers, and I know their families, and I see a different side of them than you do. It’s probably tough for you to put yourself in a position to get to know them, I hope you’re never in a situation where you need to ask them for help.

    Out of curiosity, are there any exceptions to your perfect correlation to the extreme left party line? I am just wondering if there is ANY topic where you differ from the standard extreme fringe left trope.

    1. Yeah, notice how there’s no resonse to the substantive points that I have made. It is disheartening to see a philosophy professor throw out a bunch of strong claims and then ignore people, when they refute him. More like a sophist than a philosopher really. Can’t play the game? Then get off the field.

      Unfortunately, this is a pattern in this blog. (And, to be fair, on many others.) When I inquired, in good faith, as to the point of a previous post–a query that, I should add, comes from a credible philosophical tradition in its own right–there also was no answer. One gets the distinct impression that this is more about liking the sound of one’s own voice than actually engaging in substantive discussion.

      I am a philosophy professor myself, and when I put statements out in the public square I expect to be challenged and am up to it, when it happens. No one should be too “precious” for criticisms. The “ignore difficult criticisms until they go away” ethos here is the reason why I’ve de-bookmarked this blog. The only reason I even saw your reply, JR, is that I had earlier elected to “follow” this thread.

      Yuck.

      1. Dan,

        Sorry to see you go, but your last comment was ad-hominem in accusing me of ignorance. Should I get into a pissing match with you about the number of books I’ve read on Israeli history? Your post is so ignorant of history, and so riddled with logical fallacies that it does you no credit. An undergraduate wouldn’t make the mistakes you do. My priority on this blog is writing first and responding to comments second. Getting into an argument with you seemed like a terrible waste of time so I made a reasoned judgment and carried on with activities likely to be far more promising. I’m willing to engage in discussion but I have to see some way of getting off the ground. The ‘they didn’t accept the partition in 1948 so we are justified in doing anything that strikes our fancy’ argument is the most pathetic bullshit I’ve ever read in my life. Someone who makes that claim doesn’t get off the ground out here. Why start at 1948? What happened before then? Go read Tom Segev for starters. But only for starters. Perhaps you’ll understand what ‘colonialism’ has to do with Israel.

        Bye.

      2. My father was in the Haganah when he was a teen and fought in the War of Independence. Most of my family still lives in Israel and includes numerous 6 Day War and Yom Kippur War veterans. I’ve spent almost of a decade of my life in Israel. Beyond books, then, I know quite a bit from people who was actually there…and from personal experience.

        You may think my remarks are “ad hominem,” but when you throw around “illegal occupations” and the like, you are insulting those—including my own family—who built the State and who owe their lives to it. Lots of people can get insulted, not just those on the Arab side of the argument.

        As there are still no substantive replies to any of the key points, just counter-ad-hominems and the instruction to “read books,” I will assume that you don’t have any. Best of luck with the blog.

        –DK

      1. Do you appreciate the same distinction if someone takes issue with the teacher’s union, but not the teachers? It doesn’t appear so, but maybe you do. I only bring that up as the most obvious example based on past and recent posts.

  5. I still do appreciate your contributions, and even though I disagree with them probably more often than not, I like to try to put myself in someone else’s shoes. I hope that you don’t mind me pushing and prodding here and there. If you ever want me to stop, just say the word.

  6. The argument that “The Zionists accepted the 1948 partition, the Palestinians didn’t” doesn’t fly, for a couple of reasons. One is that Ben Gurion had no intention of being content with what the partition actually gave him; the archival evidence indicates that he and his colleagues were determined to acquire as much land as they could IN ADDITION to that, by force and intimidation. And Ben Gurion was a moderate! The leadership of the Irgun and Lehi, and those further to the political right, were clear about their claim to the whole of Palestine.

    The other reason is that it’s crazy to expect the Palestinians to accept a decision, made by outsiders, that gave more than fifty percent of Palestine to a highly exclusive group that made up less than fifty percent of the population of Palestine, and most of whom had just arrived. Up until the 1920s, the Jewish population of Palestine was tiny, although the British mandatory regime treated them as if they were not just equal, but superior, to the Palestinians in political importance. (A standard British colonial strategy, overdetermined here by the pro-Zionist sentiments of key British statesmen, who made no secret of their desire to see a Jewish state emerge in Palestine, for reasons I need not go into here.) The dramatic growth in the Jewish population in Palestine took place in the final years before 1948.Throughout this process, the British mandatory administration was in control over the borders. The Palestinians had no say on this immigration. Suddenly these newcomers (who still make up less than half the population) are given 55 percent of the country, and the Palestinians are expected to say “Fine”? The 1948 partition is acceptable only as a historical fait accompli, as a lesser evil than the current situation.

    This is not somebody else’s propaganda; Israeli historians from Ilan Pappe on the left and Benny Morris on the right have documented it quite comprehensively, to say nothing of Palestinian scholars like Edward Said and Rashid Khalidi.

    As for the idea that “the Arabs” should simply have given away a “sliver” of their vast domain to compensate for the crimes of European Christians and fascists, that falls into the old Golda Meir fallacy of “There is no such thing as a Palestinian.” How convenient! Historically inaccurate, but more convenient, certainly, than giving the Zionists a piece of Bavaria or Utah.

  7. Dan,

    The logical fallacies don’t stop coming, do they? What do your family’s feelings have to do with the argument here? Red herring much? My father fought two wars for the Indian Armed Forces. By your argument, I should feel hurt every time anyone criticizes the Indian Air Force, or Indian govt. policies. Who cares whether you, or I, or anyone else gets ‘insulted’? That is irrelevant to the argument being made here.

    I assure you, this is merely a tiny sample of those errors that riddle your first two comments. Oh, another one: it seems that according to you, the descendants of the ‘refugees of Auschwitz and Buchenwald’ are justified in continuing the process of illegal settlements and whatever else strikes their fancy, because a religious leader of the Palestinians supported the Holocaust. Therefore, today’s Palestinians must suffer for the sins of their forefathers, while today’s Israelis’ must get a free pass because of the sufferings of their forefathers. This is ludicrous, to say the least.

  8. The back and forth regarding Israel and the Palestinians leaves me a bit puzzled. There is still no reply to the points Daniel Kaufman made regarding why Palestinians should be highlighted as an aggrieved party given that:

    1. The United States took a 1/3 third of it’s current territory in a trumped up war against Mexico in 1846-1848 (vigorously opposed by then-Congressman Abraham Lincoln, who argued that we were the aggressor)

    2. The repeated violations of treaties with American Indian tribes. The most famous instance of this is the theft of the Black Hills in South Dakota, for which American Indians have turned down Supreme Court mandated recompense (see United States vs. Sioux Nation of Indians).

    It seems clear that the only reason anyone pays attention to this issue is because Israel’s neighbors are sitting on vast reserves of oil and thus can get the world’s attention. That doesn’t speak to the specific issue itself, but it clarifies why we ignore any number of other peoples in the world with grievances, including those within our own country. This is a grievance of convenience. Charity begins at home, by giving back things like the Black Hills.

    In terms of the point that was made regarding Israel just annexing the land, this is not the sort of thing where we change the color of the jerseys and everyone goes home satisfied. Moreover, Jordan itself annexed the West Bank in 1950, and the Palestinians themselves acknowledged King Abdullah I bin al-Hussein of Jordan (whose father was Sherif Hussein of Mecca) as monarch at the Jericho Conference in 1948. So why aren’t the Palestinians just Jordanians on the wrong side of the river, as a result of Israel crushing its belligerent neighbors?

    Next, Samir fulminates with charges of ad hominems by indicting Kaufman and stating that the latter makes errors unworthy of an undergraduate. Strong stuff indeed. Samir then ends with:

    “The ‘they didn’t accept the partition in 1948 so we are justified in doing anything that strikes our fancy’ argument is the most pathetic bullshit I’ve ever read in my life. Someone who makes that claim doesn’t get off the ground out here. Why start at 1948? What happened before then? Go read Tom Segev for starters. But only for starters. Perhaps you’ll understand what ‘colonialism’ has to do with Israel.”

    First, Kaufman never said that the military victories of Israel justified anything and everything. As for starting at 1948, let’s take a look at what the Palestine Liberation Organization has to say on their own website:

    “The PLO has accepted that Israel’s 1967 Pre-Occupation borders (the “Green Line”) shall serve as the international border between the states of Palestine and Israel.”

    http://www.plomission.us/index.php?page=core-issues-3

    So much for pre-1948 (actually 1949, since the Green Line is the armistice line).

    Kaufman’s citation of his and his family’s experiences are not a red herring. The issue is one of history and information and the testimony of someone from the area shouldn’t be dismissed, but fruitfully engaged.

    This comment of Samir’s is also puzzling:

    “…the descendants of the ‘refugees of Auschwitz and Buchenwald’ are justified in continuing the process of illegal settlements and whatever else strikes their fancy, because a religious leader of the Palestinians supported the Holocaust. Therefore, today’s Palestinians must suffer for the sins of their forefathers, while today’s Israelis’ must get a free pass because of the sufferings of their forefathers. This is ludicrous, to say the least.”

    Nobody’s asking for a free pass. Just some constructive engagement and direct answers. And the Mufti wasn’t just some errant “forefather.” He was admired by many, including Arafat.

    1. Michael,

      Thanks for your comment, and sorry for the late reply. I do hope you realize that the US annexation of Mexico remains irrelevant to either the supposed illegality of Israeli occupation or its current perniciousness. I blame Exxon for polluting the Gulf of Alaska and you respond with “Sorry, that won’t wash; you didn’t criticize Mobil’s polluting the Atlantic.” What does that have to do with my claim?

      Since the illegality of Israeli occupation is what seems to have exercised Dan and yourself so much, let us grant that it is legal. Granted. Now, is it humane? Is it pernicious? Do the Palestinians suffer? I think it is, and I think they do. That is what my argument rests on. And what about the continued, obnoxious settlement of the West Bank, which is a criminal act under international law (including the 1994 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Israel was a signatory: see Article 8(b)(2)(viii))?

      I suggested we look earlier than 1948, because every defender of Israeli policy parrots this old tired line, “they didn’t accept a fair partition, and so, well, they got what they deserved.” In response to which, please read Satadru Sen’s comment above.

      Lastly, Dan invoked hurt feelings and insults in his response. Irrelevant again to the argument. Utterly.

      best,
      Samir

      1. Samir,

        Thanks for the reply. You will note that I specifically stated (in order to avoid a Tu Quoque fallacy) that my observation of a double-standard regarding the United States and Israel in terms of our apparently getting to rob, cheat, and steal from others while condemning Israel for occupying land conquered in self-defense “doesn’t speak to the specific issue itself.”

        A Tu Quoque, while technically a fallacy, is often instrumental in highlighting the seriousness with which a party attends to its stated beliefs. After all, why listen to someone who doesn’t take their own advice? They may indeed in the end be correct, but they’ve apparently yet to convince themselves. In terms of the United States, the depth of our beliefs in terms of the rectification of injustices involving the seizure of land is very thin indeed. Just ask the Sioux. Or the Cherokee. Or the Chickasaw. Or the Choktaw. Or the Creek. Or the Seminole. Or the nation of Mexico. Etc, etc. Think of it like a person who knew that their spouse was a spectacularly successful thief and did nothing about it going on a lecture tour admonishing audiences about the sacredness of property rights- and then being surprised at the yawns they received.

        On to human suffering. I’m sure lots of people are suffering in lots of places all over the world. The question is, why do the concerns of Palestinians get to jump the line and go to the front of the queue in terms of American policy rather than people who live in America itself (like, you know, our neighbors the Sioux)? And why, in terms of peoples outside the United States, are the concerns of Palestinians more important than, say, the Uyghurs of Xinjiang or the Tibetans, both of whom are repressed populations and both of whom are suffering under massive Hanification by a nation whose manufactured goods we avidly consume?

        In terms of American policy, the answer is quite simple. We don’t really care about the Palestinians, just like we don’t really care about the Sioux, the Uyghurs, the Tibetans, or anyone else. We care about the people who care about the Palestinians, and those people DO have something we want and need: oil. In terms of the Uyghurs and the Tibetans, we make some noises every now and then regarding human rights and then move on to the really important questions of economics. Singling out Palestinians (whose ethnographic distinctiveness (and thus territorial claim) from peoples like the Jordanians is anyhow dubious) by speaking about their sufferings while conspicuously ignoring other aggrieved peoples sounds like nothing more than special pleading. I am sympathetic to the argument that points out that not being able to help all is no argument for helping none. However, I have yet to hear an argument about why the United States should care more about the Palestinians than the Uygurs or the Sioux which doesn’t, at bottom, reduce to oil.

        The talk of illegality is all very nice, but both the United States and Israel have “unsigned” themselves from the Rome Statute and the United States Senate never ratified the treaty anyway. So, in what sense are we using the word “criminal” in terms of this statute? Moreover, since we ourselves are now proud, recognized experts on torture, it is unclear from what position of moral superiority we would even address issues covered by the International Criminal Court. In addition, nations like Saudi Arabia, who exert significant pressure on the US on behalf of Palestinian concerns, have never even signed the treaty.

        Sen’s comment doesn’t really apply. Who cares what so-and-so intended or did not intend? The fact is that the PLO accepts the Green Line. Stamping one’s foot and insisting that this is just a fait accompli is meaningless. Many geopolitical boundaries are exactly that. We have no problem accepting this in virtually everyone else’s case (and forcing others to accept it in our own), so why the constant exceptions with Israel? Why does Israel get mysteriously held to a higher standard than other nations? Are we in a contest to be more aggrieved than the PLO by means of an Armchair Intifada? And if so, why, exactly? The Sioux and the Uyghurs are still waiting for an answer.

        In terms of Dan’s “hurt feelings and insults,” answering a charge of being uninformed with cries of “ad hominem!” while dismissing eyewitness testimony and describing the other person’s views as unworthy of an undergraduate is doublespeak and just rank balderdash (and no, that’s not an ad hominem- just a descriptive statement).

        Regards,
        Michael

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