The Jewish establishment goes to bat for Ray Kelly and the NYPD

US Politics
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KellyJCRC
(Photo: Robert Kalfus/Vos Iz Neias)

From the halls of renowned academic institutions to the steps of New York’s City Hall, calls for the resignation of New York Police Department (NYPD) chief Ray Kelly have only grown louder in recent weeks. The demands for Kelly’s resignation come in response to the torrent of revelations published by the Associated Press in recent months that exposed the NYPD’s program of spying on Muslims.

But Kelly hasn’t budged, and it’s hard to imagine Mayor Michael Bloomberg giving him the boot. Kelly’s allies are powerful, Bloomberg among them. And one influential group, the mainstream Jewish establishment, has also lined up behind Kelly.

In recent weeks, prominent Jewish institutions and figures have come out strongly for the NYPD and Kelly. The support exists despite the AP revelations that show, among other things, that the NYPD spied on people solely for practicing Islam and that the NYPD traveled to schools as far away as Yale to infiltrate Muslim student groups.

“Those statements of support from Jewish institutions are just playing into fear,” said Marjorie Dove Kent, the executive director of the grassroots group Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ). JFREJ is a member of the coalition group Jews Against Islamophobia, which also includes Jewish Voice for Peace and Jews Say No!

The most robust defense of Kelly was an Op-Ed published last month in The Jewish Week. The three authors, top officials for the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, wrote that Kelly was the best police commissioner the city had ever seen.

They praised the NYPD’s focus on Iran as a potential threat to the city, and said that “no evidence has been presented that NYPD Intelligence Division investigations violated” federal court-sanctioned guidelines for the NYPD’s counter-terrorism work. And as Kent notes, the fear of terrorism is a driving force behind the defense of Kelly; the Op-Ed specifically cites the foiled “Riverdale bomb plot” as one case where the NYPD’s prowess was demonstrated, despite evidence that the suspects in that case were entrapped. The JCRC officials also assert that “Jews are in the crosshairs and the NYPD understands it, plans for it and watches out for our community.”

The JCRC’s Op-Ed was followed weeks later by Senator Chuck Schumer’s defense of Kelly, which was amplified in a New York Daily News editorial. “There is nothing wrong with the NYPD collecting and assessing publicly available information from New York, New Jersey, the other 48 states or around the world in the effort to prevent another terror attack like 9/11,” said Schumer. “Looking at public information and following leads is perfectly acceptable as long as any one group, in its entirety, is not targeted based only on its religious or ethnic affiliation.”

The JCRC’s insistence that the NYPD follows federal guidelines has been disputed. And recent evidence has emerged that show that the NYPD focused on Muslims, and Muslims only–evidence that contradicts Bloomberg’s past statements.

The JCRC did not return requests for comment. But one important reason for the JCRC’s support is that the NYPD’s spying operation has focused on the alleged Iranian and Palestinian threat to Jewish institutions in New York City. The AP reported that an internal police memo published in 2006 recommended “increasing surveillance of thousands of Shiite Muslims and their mosques, based solely on their religion, as a way to sweep the Northeast for signs of Iranian terrorists.” The internal document also instructed the NYPD to focus on the Palestinian community, because even though most Palestinians aren’t Shi’a, they may support Iran-backed Hamas.

JFREJ’s Kent said that there are “definitely members of the Jewish community that see” the threat to Israel as one and the same as the threats to Jewish institutions in the US.

In contrast to the JCRC, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has spoken out against Islamophobia in the past, has stayed largely silent on the NYPD spying issue. Requests for comment from the ADL on this story were also not returned. (Commenting on the ADL’s silence on WBAI’s Beyond the Pale, Leonard Levitt, a long-time reporter who has written on the NYPD’s spying program, said, “it’s time for [the ADL] to go out of business”.)

But the ADL, which angered Muslim activists and allies when the group came out against the Islamic community center near Ground Zero, honored Thomas Galati last year (though it was before the AP revelations were published). Galati is a top-ranking officer for the NYPD’s intelligence division, the unit that has carried out the spying on Muslim communities. The press release announcing the honor notes that Galati “traveled to Israel with other senior police officials from the Northeast to attend a counter-terrorism training seminar sponsored by ADL.” The first AP report on the NYPD spying noted that the program was “modeled in part on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank.”

Additionally, critics of the spying program say that the Jewish establishment’s full-throated support for the NYPD’s actions may harm Jewish-Muslim relations in the city–something that the JCRC officials say they don’t want to happen.

But as Kent noted, “given the situation that we’re in right now, Jewish communities, Jewish institutional leaders coming out in support of the NYPD will definitely hurt relations between Jews and Muslims in New York.”

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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9 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    March 21, 2012, 5:10 pm

    NYPD has been reading too many episodes of “1984”. They’ve got Big-Brother-itis. And of course they and the FBI like to induce [what might pass for] criminal terrorist behavior [so they can prosecute it and "look good"] and what better way to do that than by looking in mosques for disaffected folks with bad judgment.

  2. DICKERSON3870
    March 21, 2012, 5:43 pm

    RE: “The press release announcing the honor notes that Galati ‘traveled to Israel with other senior police officials from the Northeast to attend a counter-terrorism training seminar sponsored by ADL.’ The first AP report on the NYPD spying noted that the program was ‘modeled in part on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank.’ ~ Alex Kane

    SEE: Israel trip an eye-opening experience for Jefferson chief, By Adina Solomon, onlineathens.com, 07/18/11

    This summer, Jefferson Police Chief Joe Wirthman went on a two-week trip 6,000 miles away, traveling across Israel with a delegation of state law enforcement officers as part of the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange.
    “It was an awesome trip,” he said. “A trip of a lifetime.”
    GILEE, which partners with Georgia State University, sends a different group of Georgia officers every summer to
    work with Israeli law enforcement and border control.
    Commerce Police Chief John Gaissert and University of Georgia Police Chief Jimmy Williamson also have gone in past years.

    The object of the program is to learn how Israeli police deal with terrorism every day…
    …After his trip, Wirthman is trying to think one step ahead with the Jefferson Police Department, preparing for the type of threatening situations Israel faces 24 hours a day, he said.
    “Hopefully it’ll never happen, but in this world, ‘never’ isn’t a word,” Wirthman said. “We’re not invincible here.”
    He’s also witnessed how people live their daily lives with the constant menace of terrorism, he said.
    Wirthman met one man who sends each of his children on a different bus to school. In case one of the buses is bombed, only one of his three children will be harmed.
    “I don’t know if I could raise my family under those conditions,” said Wirthman, who has three kids of his own.
    And nobody in Israel grumbles about it, he said. Instead, they have a strong national pride many Americans had only after 9/11, he said…”

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – link to onlineathens.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      March 21, 2012, 5:46 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: Sheriff Ortiz goes to Israel, by Eva Ruth Moravec, mysanantonio.com, 07/07/11

      (excerpts)…For one week last month, Bexar County Sheriff Amadeo Ortiz swapped his cowboy hat for a
      yarmulke as he visited Israel on an organized trip with other law enforcement leaders.

      “I’ve always had an interest in Israel,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “It was a great conference.”
      Ortiz joined 16 other sheriffs, police chiefs and organization heads, including Houston Police Chief Charles McClelland, on a week-long trip, courtesy of the Jewish Institute for National Security’s Law Enforcement Exchange Program…
      …Ortiz said he was impressed by Israel Defense Force soldiers, who he said are trained as soldiers and as police officers.
      “If we ever deploy troops along the Texas border, they should have training in being a soldier and in law enforcement,” he said…
      …The junket was Ortiz’s second organized trip to Israel: last year, Bexar County footed the bill to send him to an international conference on homeland security, he said…

      SOURCE – link to blog.mysanantonio.com

    • DICKERSON3870
      March 21, 2012, 5:50 pm

      P.P.S. LASTLY, SEE: The Dogs of War: The Next Intifada, By Uri Avnery, Counterpunch, 9/03/11

      (excerpt)…The second (“al-Aqsa”) intifada started after the breakdown of the 2000 Camp David conference and Ariel Sharon’s deliberately provocative “visit” to the Temple Mount. The Palestinians held non-violent mass demonstrations. The army responded with selective killings. A sharpshooter accompanied by an officer would take position in the path of the protest, and the officer would point out selected targets – protesters who looked like “ringleaders”. They were killed.*
      This was highly effective. Soon the non-violent demonstrations ceased and were replaced by very violent (“terrorist”) actions. With those the army was back on familiar ground.
      All in all, during the second intifada 4546 Palestinians were killed, of whom 882 were children, as against 1044 Israelis, 716 of them civilians, including 124 children…

      ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to counterpunch.org

      * TAKE NOTE, OCCUPY WALL STREET “RINGLEADERS”! ! !

  3. Les
    March 21, 2012, 6:48 pm

    I don’t see how an umbrella group like the innocuous sounding Jewish Community Relations Council of New York can be representative of anything. It’s one of those Jobs R us outfits which functions for the benefits of the paid staffers who know they are obliged to do the bidding of the paid officers. Those officers may use their organization to rubber stamp Islamophobia but should we take it seriously that the Workmen’s Circle and the Union for Reform Judaism has officially endorsed Islamophobia?

    • weindeb
      March 21, 2012, 10:01 pm

      You ask “…but should we take it seriously that the Workmen’s Circle and the Union for Reform Judaism has officially endorsed Islamophobia?” We should indeed. Poison is poison is poison whether in teaspoon or tablespoon size, and in this case represents the easy corruption even of at least supposedly liberal organizations.

  4. piotr
    March 21, 2012, 9:01 pm

    The first impression is that there is no much wrong in just having more information.

    However, training in Israel is the first warning. Israeli security agencies assume that they deal with ENEMIES and do not give a damn if enemies are entrapped, humiliated etc. Quality community relationship is not the strong point there. But in North America harmony of community relations is an important value and important assets.

    Sting operations in particular are a very sinister tool. They make some Machiavelian sense: be afraid of anyone trying to recruit to a radical organization. But given enough resources and no scruples the government always can find some disturbed individuals down on luck and on money and manufacture a plot. One of the participants of Riverdale plot was always hungry and was attending meetings basically for free meals. In Florida, “plotters” managed to have shoes purchased by “al-Qaeda”. “Unmasked plots” are used to villify communities and organizations.

  5. dahoit
    March 22, 2012, 7:57 am

    Unfortunately,the French shooter reenforces this illegal and racist policy,as it feeds the fear.I read today that this French guy was arrested in Afghanistan by the coalition and was released.Hmmmm.

  6. Justice Please
    March 22, 2012, 11:55 am

    “the mainstream Jewish establishment, has also lined up behind Kelly.”

    Jews of conscience, rise up!

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