[News] Georgia-based program sent thousands of American cops to Israel for counter-terrorism training
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Jan 6 17:31:46 EST 2016
Inside GILEE, the US-Israel law enforcement training program seeking
to redefine terrorism
Anna Simonton <http://mondoweiss.net/author/anna-simonton> on January 5,
The recent wave of heightened Islamophobia in the U.S. is not limited to
the violent rhetoric
and cruel policies
of conservative politicians; it’s also being drummed into police through
a Georgia-based program that has sent thousands of American law
enforcement officials to Israel for counter-terrorism training.
In an unusually candid discussion about the Georgia International Law
Enforcement Exchange <http://www2.gsu.edu/%7Ecrirxf/gilee.htm> (GILEE),
program director Robert Friedmann recently declared that, “There is no
Islamophobia. There is knife-o-phobia,” as he presented decontextualized
video clips of Arabs stabbing Israeli police officers.
Friedmann’s audience was not his usual group of high-ranking police,
military, and government officials. Rather, he was speaking to a small
number of civilians at a December 7th, 2015 luncheon held by the Atlanta
chapter of the American Jewish Committee (AJC). The talk, titled “How
Safe Is America from ISIS?” offered a glimpse into the racist ideology
underpinning the trainings that police nationwide have undergone.
Robert Friedmann’s Zionist advocacy
Friedmann, who emigrated from Romania to Israel as a child in 1950, came
to the U.S. in the 1970s to study sociology, and found his niche in
researching community policing
<https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Photocopy/142192NCJRS.pdf> as a
professor of criminology at at Georgia State University (GSU). He
founded GILEE in 1992, initially to train local law enforcement in
Israeli counterterrorism tactics he believed were necessary to ensure
security for the 1996 Olympics. The program has grown by leaps and
bounds, and now serves as a foreign exchange program for U.S. and
Israeli police; in multiple delegations throughout the year, law
enforcement officials from the U.S. travel to Israel for
counterterrorism training, and Israeli police come to Georgia to learn
about community policing and drug interdiction. According to Friedmann’s
AJC presentation, 24,000 participants have engaged in 330 programs and
180 delegations during GILEE’s 23-year life.
Following its inception, GILEE quickly became a vehicle for Friedmann’s
Zionist advocacy, which has gained considerable clout over the years. He
served on the board of the southeast region’s American-Israel Chamber of
Commerce, is on the professional advisory board of the Israel-based
International Institute for Counterterrorism, and is included in the
Israeli embassy’s speaker’s bureau. He also authored an e-newsletter
during the Second Intifada, through which he shared his analyses of
“Palestinian terrorism” with 400,000 subscribers. Friedmann later
published a collection of the newsletters in two
Friedmann has simultaneously gained stature within law enforcement and
academia, serving on the International Association of Chiefs of Police
and the Georgia Security Council. In 2007, GSU awarded Friedmann an
endowed chair worth $1 million and created specifically to support
GILEE, which is listed as a research center within the university’s
Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.. The same year, the Georgia
General Assembly passed two resolutions commending the program. Georgia
Governor Nathan Deal hosted
GILEE’s 20-year anniversary in the governor’s mansion.
The heraldry is surprising, even in a state like Georgia, given how
blatantly Friedmann’s ideology hews to the extreme. The GILEE website
features StandWithUs propaganda
<http://www2.gsu.edu/%7Ecrirxf/Gaza-2008.pdf>, articles by Alan
Dershowitz (along with some penned by Friedmann who blasts Hamas for
alleged war crimes while mentioning nothing of Israel’s innumerable
breaches of international law), and a bizarre tract
<http://www2.gsu.edu/%7Ecrirxf/Yad-Vashem.htm> on the importance of
including Holocaust education in police training.
Secrecy surrounding GILEE funding
GILEE’s rabid brand of Zionism is as transparent as its operations are
secretive. In 2011, GSU students sought information to determine how the
program impacts policing in the United States. Their public records
request was denied and met with unexpectedly intense backlash. State
Attorney General Sam Olens told a local news station (whose parent
company sponsors GILEE) that the students were aiding terrorists
Olens also introduced a sweeping revision
<http://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/display/33209> of Georgia’s
Open Records Act, including new exemptions that covered some of the
information students had requested. The General Assembly passed Olens’
bill shortly after his TV interview in which he slandered the students.
That was enough to derail public scrutiny of GILEE for a while. But over
the past year, as the movement for Black lives has forced the problem of
police brutality into a national spotlight, journalists and activists
like GILEE serve to militarize U.S. law enforcement.
Mondoweiss requested public records pertaining to GILEE and met with
similar roadblocks that GSU students did in 2011.
GSU told Mondoweiss that no school funds are allocated to the program;
it’s funded entirely by private donors. But GSU refused to disclose who
those donors are, citing an exemption to the Open Records Act that
covers the personal information of donors to institutions of higher
education. GSU interpreted “personal information” to mean not only the
names of individuals, but of corporations and foundations as well.
However, GSU did disclose donation amounts, which show that GILEE has
raised $4.4 million since 1992. This seemingly low figure may be
explained by the fact that some, if not all, of the exchange trips are
paid for in part by public funds.
A 2009 letter <http://www.rockdalecounty.org/docs/8F3a.pdf> from
Friedmann to an employee of the Rockdale County, Georgia, Sheriff’s
Office shows that only 25 percent of the employee’s $6,000 trip to
Israel was covered by GILEE. The rest was funded by a grant
<https://www.bja.gov/ProgramDetails.aspx?Program_ID=70> from the
Department of Justice that Friedmann apparently helped to secure.
Pro-Israel donors support for GILEE
As for GILEE’s coffers, a separate look at the tax records of The Marcus
Foundation, the personal charity of Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus,
proved it to be a major GILEE funder.
Marcus (who served with Friedman on the American-Israel Chamber of
Commerce board) donated $720,000 to GILEE between 2008 and 2013. If the
numbers provided by GSU are comprehensive, his contributions constitute
38 percent of GILEE’s total funds raised for those years.
Marcus also gives generously to the pro-Israel lobby group, CAMERA,
along with Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and is active with the
Zionist Organization of America <http://zoa.org/dinner2014/>.
Both GSU <http://www2.gsu.edu/%7Ecrirxf/JGA07.pdf> and GILEE
<http://www2.gsu.edu/%7Ecrirxf/FOM3.pdf> have publicly acknowledged
other donors in the past, including UPS, Georgia Power, Equifax, and The
Intercontinental Hotels Group. They both named Jim Davis, CEO of
National Distributing Company––a wholesale alcohol distributor––as a top
contributor, though his donations are harder to trace. His personal
charity, The Covenant Foundation, has donated large sums to the Jewish
Federation of Greater Atlanta, with the stipulation that a portion go to
GILEE. GILEE received at least $12,000 in this roundabout way in 2012.
GILEE participants reveal corporate-state partnerships
Corporations have also participated in GILEE’s programs, which are not
limited to law enforcement officials. GSU would not disclose the names
of participants, but provided a list of the organizations they represented.
Some companies would seem to be a natural fit, like security consultants
Fortress Consulting LLC. But some unlikely participants call into
question the scope of the program and its impact not only on policing,
but on corporate-state partnerships in the surveillance and control of
GILEE Participants and List of Agencies and Institutions
by Mondoweiss <https://www.scribd.com/user/27012941/Mondoweiss>
For example, Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), an elite business
association that has held undue sway over Atlanta politics since the
1950s, sent a vice president
on a GILEE delegation to Israel in 2011.
In an effort to gentrify downtown Atlanta, CAP has funded a network of
thousands of surveillance cameras
shared by police and private businesses, deputized an “ambassador force
<http://www.atlantadowntown.com/initiatives/ambassadors>,” and allegedly
to shut down the city’s largest homeless shelter.
What lessons has CAP learned from the Israeli surveillance state? It’s
hard to say. GSU refused to disclose GILEE training materials, and
instead offered a list of 28 “topics covered in training.” The list
ranges from the concrete: “Border Policing,” to the abstract: “New
Economy and its Effects on Public Safety.”
But it’s topics like “Urban Policing,” “Community Policing,” and “Drug
Interdiction,” that touch on GILEE’s true impact. Not only do U.S. law
enforcement agents travel to Israel to learn from an occupying force how
to control a population subjected to apartheid, Israeli police come to
the U.S. to learn what control of marginalized peoples––communities of
color, immigrants, targets of the Drug Wars––looks like here.
List of GILEE Training Topics
These communities are seemingly viewed as interchangeable by GILEE
proponents, otherwise, what would Israeli and American police have to
learn from one another? The existence of GILEE affirms what leaders in
the U.S. have historically denied: that communities of color are treated
as enemies of the state within their own country.
As people mobilize to change this, GILEE participants share innovations
in maintaining control.
GILEE and the expanding definition of terrorism
During his presentation at the American Jewish Committee Luncheon,
Friedmann advocated for expanding the definition of terrorism. (This is
not a new position for Friedmann––in 2010 he equated academic boycotts
“Counterterrorism means disrupting the ecosystem of extremism,” he said.
“Terrorism begins with rhetoric…we need a counterterrorism agenda to
Part of that agenda, he said, should be prosecuting people for YouTube
videos that “incite” terrorism.
He described a video of an imam in Israel saying, “You need to
understand the plight of the Palestinians,” as an example.
“You know what direction it’s going,” Friedmann explained. “Incitement
is not always violent. Sometimes it’s quite sophisticated.”
Maybe it’s no coincidence, then, that Clayton County police––whose
deputy chief went to Israel with GILEE earlier this year––recently
arrested Latausha Nedd
a local activist, on charges of making terroristic threats and criminal
solicitation for online videos in which she expressed anger over police
brutality against Black people.
It turns out that several of the videos in question were private video
chats that were hacked by a white supremacist group called No Thiefs
Allowed, which emailed edited clips to the Clayton County Police
Department. Nedd is awaiting trial on bond.
Another GILEE graduate made a unilateral decision to illegally blockade
a public road
in a gentrifying neighborhood to prevent black teenagers from using it
as a route to and from school after a white neighbor complained of “gang
members” on the street.
These cases may or may not be the direct result of GILEE’s influence.
But as long as GSU refuses to disclose comprehensive data about the
program’s participants and funders, we are left to piece together what
information we can about an organization that is shaping how police
treat perceived threats in the U.S. and Israel alike.
As Friedmann wrapped up his talk at the AJC luncheon, he contended that
civil liberties stand in the way of combatting terrorism, implying, as
he had all along, that only Muslims commit terrorist acts.
“The problem is, because of the First Amendment, the FBI won’t go into
mosques,” he said.
During the Q and A, a lone dissenting voice questioned the
overwhelmingly anti-Muslim tone of the presentation.
“If we demonize every Muslim, we encourage radicalism,” a man said.
Friedmann deftly redirected the statement, saying that it’s the job of
the Muslim community to discourage radicalism.
“To date, there is not a single, unequivocal condemnation of the
September 11 attacks [from the Muslim community]” he said.
In the wake of Ferguson and police killings of unarmed Black people
nationwide, demands have arisen for better police training, training
that challenges racial and cultural bias. GILEE, it’s clear, is doing
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