The Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter at Tufts University is pushing a resolution forward that seeks to remove the school’s ability to do police training programs in Israel. The group alleges that participation in such Israeli programs is offensive to minority students on its campus who they say are disenfranchised by TUPD’s enforcement.
The resolution by Tufts SJP asks the school to “commit to stop sending TUPD officers on military training trips abroad and apologize for sending the former police chief on a military training trip to Israel in 2017.”
The vote is being held online and a decision is expected Wednesday. Tufts SJP didn’t immediately respond to this reporter’s request for comment.
The group has expressed outrage over the former head of TUPD Kevin Maguire’s participation in a December 2017 trip to Israel, which was reportedly sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, an organization dedicated to fighting all forms of hate.
In a statement to this reporter, executive director of media relations at Tufts University Patrick Collins said that while the school supports students’ rights to free speech on campus, it doesn’t believe in SJP’s portrayal of TUPD officers.
“The student referendum process, which is non-binding, is independent of the university, and we respect students’ right to make their voices heard on this or any issue,” Collins said. “However, we strongly disagree with any characterization that the Tufts University Police Department (TUPD) is ‘militarized.’ TUPD has made community policing a priority for many years and has policies and training in place that emphasize that everyone – regardless of background – must be treated with dignity and respect.
He added, “The university, as part of its efforts to advance its goal of being an anti-racist institution, is currently engaged in a review of public safety at Tufts to benchmark best practices for campus policing, examine the power dynamics of policing at Tufts, including how the police are perceived by Black community members and other community members of color, and consider what is needed to keep our community safe and secure. The university and its Department of Public and Environmental Safety Department are committed to providing a safe and secure environment in which students, faculty, staff and visitors can live, work and learn safely.”
Collins defended the ADL trip and said that only one member of TUPD, who has since left the school, attended. Moreover, Collins said that the purpose of the trip wasn’t about militarization.
“The Anti-Defamation League-sponsored trip to Israel—which over 200 different federal, state and local agencies from across the U.S. have participated in over the years—was not a military training program, nor was it intended to serve as an endorsement of any particular policy or policing strategy. The trip occurred in December 2017 and was attended by executives from law enforcement agencies throughout New England. One member of the Tufts police department, who has since left the university, attended the conference, the only time that the university has sent an employee to it.”
The Anti-Defamation League didn’t respond to this reporter’s request for comment.
During his 2017 trip, Maguire and others reportedly received counterterrorism training and took part in seminars with Israeli officials.
“Details about the trip were largely suppressed; the only specifics were that attendees would participate in a ‘counter-terrorism seminar’ – a weighted label carrying implicit statements of its own. In the past, it has been reported that trips of this kind allow participants to exchange knowledge of and resources for surveillance technology, technology for military checkpoints, weapons, methods of racial profiling, and suppression of social justice movements,” SJP wrote in their petition to urge the student government to vote in favor of their motion.
The group’s movement, “the Deadly Exchange coalition,” has garnered the support of more than 35 clubs that ‘unequivocally oppose military-training trips for police and demands justice and accountability.’
Staunch Israel defender IsraellyCool’s David Lange wrote in May that “Palestinians and Israel-haters are engaged in a concerted effort to co-opt the Black Lives Matter cause in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, in order to create even more antagonism towards Israel.”
After Floyd was killed, the national outcry against police brutality led to some suggesting that what they observed in the video of the Minneapolis police officer keeping for minutes his knee on Floyd’s neck was prompted by the Minnesota law enforcement officers receiving training from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
Despite these claims, Lange asserted that Israel’s training of U.S. law enforcement is solely focused on counterterrorism techniques, adding that “the training even tackles the issue of whether law enforcement operations could violate civil rights.”
At Tufts, there is concern from the student body that TUPD has unfairly targeted students of color more.
Maguire, when he resigned from Tufts, said in a statement, “I personally have always enjoyed my interactions with students, even when we might not have seen eye to eye. I saw those moments as learning opportunities — both for students and for me.”
Middle East analyst Yoni Michanie calls the “Deadly Exchange Campaign” ‘a modern blood libel that operates under the guise of progressivism.
“It assumes that the difficult reality that Palestinians are forced to endure every day should be attributed to the Jewish state and not to the Palestinian leadership,” said Michanie, who served in the IDF. “The same leadership that has prioritized terrorism and bloodshed for decades rather than a peaceful resolution to the conflict. Not only does this campaign whitewash the crimes of the Palestinian Authority against their own people, it presents a distorted and inaccurate description of US-Israeli cooperation.”
Follow Jennie S. Taer on Twitter @JennnieSTaer.