The Police Department of New York City (NYPD) is among the departments that have sent delegates to Israel. The first official delegation JINSA organized in 2002 included former Chief of the department Louis Anemone from the NYPD and Chief Joseph Morris of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The NYPD also sent five investigators to a training in Israel in 2002. The Jewish Community Relations Council sponsored NYPD participants on a “Israel Mission Trip” in 2016, that included retired NYPD Chief of Department Phillip Banks III; NYPD Inspector and 90th Precinct Commanding Officer Mark DiPaolo; retired NYPD Inspector and current National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) President Timothy Pearson; NYPD Captain and 66th Precinct Commanding Officer Kenneth Quick; and NYPD Patrol Borough Brooklyn North Deputy Chief Jack Trabitz.
More permanent cooperation between the NYPD and Israel has been established over the years. In 2012, the NYPD officially opened an office in Israel staffed with an NYPD detective, which remains in operation today.
Surveillance and Racial Profiling
Israeli checkpoints, roadblocks, and other physical barriers in the West Bank have formed so comprehensive an enclosure that it has been termed the “Iron Ring” around Palestinian life (Abujidi 2011). Following 9/11, the NYPD also installed a network of more than 8,000 cameras to provide 24-hour blanket surveillance over the city, known as the “Ring of Steel.” Camera networks have become a staple of both the US and Israeli surveillance arsenal, and law enforcement agencies from both countries regularly meet to share their expertise. American police officers on tour often visit the network of 400 cameras which blankets the Old City of Jerusalem operated by the Israeli company Mabat, and the head of the Israeli National Police toured the New York camera network with former NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly.
Resonance with Israeli logic is also evident in NYPD’s 2007 report Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat, which suggests that predominantly Muslim communities in the United States need to be monitored as “enclaves” for radicalization and as “incubators” for potential terrorists. The report also frames any Muslim criticism of Israeli violence against Palestinians as by definition extremist, irrational, and the result of indoctrination. JINSA initially praised the report, and the ADL gave a lifetime service award to the head of the NYPD’s intelligence unit who trained in Israel, Thomas Galanti. ADL former director Abraham Foxman explicitly justified surveillance of Muslims:
“Just like after 9/11, America is now questioning where the balance is between security and freedom of expression: should we follow the ethnic communities? Should we be monitoring mosques? This isn’t Muslim-baiting—it’s driven by fear, by a desire for safety and security.”
But civil rights groups and community organizations disagreed, denounced the demographics unit and criticized the report’s racist claims used to justify the sweeping surveillance of Muslim communities. Public condemnation and a lawsuit by the ACLU and the CUNY’s Clear Project prompted the city to officially suspended the program in 2014, and the settlement approved in 2017 prohibited racially motivated surveillance and infiltration by the police. In the United States, there is consistent pushback and an attempt to hold police accountable to constitutional protections from surveillance based on race.
Yet American law enforcement delegations regularly meet with the Israeli military and Shin Bet on their trips to discuss human intelligence methods such as the use of informants and infiltrating protests with undercover officials. IDF units, termed Mista’rvim (‘Arabized’ individuals in Hebrew), are regularly deployed to gather information on Palestinian protests and political activity, and serve as agent provocateurs to incite violence and carry out arrests and extra-judicial killings (Zureik 2016). An Associated Press Pulitzer Prize-winning investigation exposed NYPD’s “Demographics Unit” spying on daily life in Muslim communities in New York City. Informants known as “mosque crawlers” were deployed to visit mosques, bodegas, and student organizations, and kept extensive dossiers on Muslim communities. Founders of this program acknowledged that they were inspired by Israeli practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (Apuzzo and Goldman, 2013). The Israeli press was also quick to intuitively call the NYPD’s demographics unit the New York version of Mista’rvim.