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Inside GILEE, the US-Israel law enforcement training program seeking to redefine terrorism

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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 (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

Robert Friedmann (Photo: Israeli Embassy to the United States)

Robert Friedmann (Photo: Israeli Embassy to the United States)

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 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 books.

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, 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 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 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 have questioned how programs 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 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 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.

Both GSU and GILEE 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 everyday life.

GILEE Participants and List of Agencies and Institutions by 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,” and allegedly conspired 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 by Mondoweiss

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

An Israeli delegation visits the Georgia Bureau of Investigations in 2014. (Photo: Georgia State University)

An Israeli delegation visits the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) in 2014. (Photo: Georgia State University)

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 with terrorism.)

“Counterterrorism means disrupting the ecosystem of extremism,” he said. “Terrorism begins with rhetoric…we need a counterterrorism agenda to address incitement.”

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 the opposite.

Anna Simonton

Anna Simonton is an independent journalist based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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21 Responses

  1. pabelmont on January 5, 2016, 9:56 am

    So, ignoring Israel for a moment, police training and public-private surveillance is now secret (or semi-secret) in the USA, and law-enforcement training and philosophy is S or SS too? BlackLivesMatter seems the right group to go after all this, and the revision to the Georgia open records act is dangerous in the extreme, apparently putting policing (if not all government) outside the public purview. “Dear citizens: Just pay your taxes and don’t ask questions how they are spent and, by the way, shut up.”

    • jaspeace2day on January 6, 2016, 4:00 pm

      Great reporting! And just added Home Depot to my list of companies to boycott…bummer for them as our company does, or rather did, a lot of business with them…highly regrettable now that we know….

      • MoCHo on January 6, 2016, 5:12 pm

        Yes, I was just considering doing some shopping at Home Depot. So glad to know their complicity in police brutality here and in Israel. I, too, am adding them to my personal boycott list.

  2. John O on January 5, 2016, 11:27 am

    Why does this organisation – supposedly about policing – use photos of a Lockheed Hercules military transport in its publicity? (It was one of these planes, armed with a large cannon, that wrecked the Medecins Sans Frontieres hospital in Afghanistan recently.)

  3. Kay24 on January 5, 2016, 12:38 pm

    Why are our officers being trained by a ruthless occupier, who has been condemned by the rest of the world for the excessive violence against unarmed civilians, and has a history of being violently abusive to children, who are then kidnapped or dumped into their jails, to be abused and without access to legal representation? This is totally unacceptable, and unbelievably dangerous for Americans. We have already seen violence against innocent Americans by many police officers, so do we need our officers to learn these tactics from brutal zionists too?
    Who are these mysterious financial backers of this demented program, and why are they so cowardly as to keep their involvement so secret?

    • RobertB on January 6, 2016, 11:55 am

      Just think of how many US police departments have had such training….and on-going training by Israel’s brutal child killers?

      Can anyone provide a list of such Us police departments that have received training from Israel’s thugs?

      Does anyone know how many American officers have received such training… or is it a total secrecy?

  4. Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 5, 2016, 2:20 pm

    Not on topic, I know, but did anyone else see this story:

    “Aegean said: “An initially small group of passengers very vocally and persistently asked for two other Israeli passengers to be checked for security issues.”

    The airline said one of the men held an Israeli passport and the other had a valid Israeli residence permit. It did not mention their ethnicity.

    “While it is indeed unfortunate that they were possibly racially profiling the customers, indeed their fellow Israelis … safety must be first,” the company said.

    By the time the police arrived to check the two passengers’ passports, finding nothing suspicious, the outcry had spread.

    “It started with three or four people and by the end there were 60-70 people standing up, demanding that the pair disembark,” a company spokesperson said. “The pilot said anyone who does not feel safe to fly should disembark and would not be compensated. But by that stage, the two men were in a poor state and wanted to leave themselves.”

    (Note how The Guardian – which hid the story as much as possible – tries to give the impression that the Palestinians chose to ‘leave’ the aircraft).

    Could you imagine if the roles were reversed and a mob of Arabs demanded that two Jews leave a plane, even after having been checked? The EU would formally condemn it, Bibi would claim it as proof of ongoing European anti-semitism, and the airline would be forced to issue the most grovelling apology. As they should. It’s an absolute disgrace that Aegean gave in to the racist Israeli thugs. And while I can understand why the two Palestinians just wanted to get away from the braying mob, I do wish they’d stood their ground and said that they were going to fly, and if their fellow passengers didn’t like it, THEY could get off the plane.

    And note that not a single one of the Jewish Israelis said a word in defence of their fellow citizens. Not one.

    • eljay on January 5, 2016, 2:28 pm

      || Maximus Decimus Meridius: Not on topic, I know, but did anyone else see this story …

      Could you imagine if the roles were reversed and a mob of Arabs demanded that two Jews leave a plane, even after having been checked? The EU would formally condemn it, Bibi would claim it as proof of ongoing European anti-semitism, and the airline would be forced to issue the most grovelling apology. As they should. It’s an absolute disgrace that Aegean gave in to the racist Israeli thugs. … ||

      Yup, yup and yup. Jewish lives matter more than non-Jewish ones, even if all the lives are Israeli. That’s religion-supremacist “Jewish State” democracy for ya!

    • John O on January 6, 2016, 8:33 am

      Yes. I bookmarked it. It will come in handy next time a hasbarista claims that non-Jews are treated equally in Israel.

      Like you, I was appalled at the airline’s capitulation to the mob of bullies. They should have pitched the bullies out onto the tarmac. The consequences might have been informative – Zionist calls for a boycott of the airline would be a shot in the arm for BDS.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 6, 2016, 11:37 am

        Check Aegean’s Twitter feed. They made this ‘announcement’:

        “Athens, January 5th 2016 – Following related published articles, AEGEAN would like to note that on the scheduled AEGEAN flight A3 928 from Athens to Tel Aviv on January the 3rd, a number of Israeli passengers persistently and vocally complained about two Israeli co-passengers. The company undertook additional security checks, which, as expected, revealed no issues.

        This isolated and unfortunate event was quickly resolved thanks to the cooperation of the two passengers, who were offered tickets for the next flight to Tel Aviv, all expenses covered by the company.

        AEGEAN would like to express its gratitude to the two Israeli passengers for their understanding and cooperation, as well as its dissatisfaction for an unfortunate event that does not reflect our values and modus operandi. ”

        “an unfortunate event”? You’d think the plane was delayed due to a bad storm, rather than to Aegean choosing to appease a racist mob. Again, while I understand their actions, I am sorry that the two Palestinians ”chose” to ”leave” the plane rather than insist on flying, and let the racist Jews disembark is they were that bothered. Now they will not be able to bring a case against Aegean, and it also gave rags like The Guardian the opportunity to basically blame them, as they did in their disgraceful headline.

        On the plus side, Aegean’s ‘announcement’ was responded to by many people accusing them of moral cowardice and pledging to boycott the airline. Good. Aegean should be made to pay for their enabling of racial discrimination and thuggery.

      • John O on January 6, 2016, 1:12 pm


        This is also at least the third such incident involving Israeli airline passengers in recent months. There was the Ultra-Orthodox man (or men) holding up a flight because he happened to be seated next to a woman, and an incident involving an unfortunate flight attendant and some snack food.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius on January 6, 2016, 2:31 pm

        I remember those incidents. Kind of underlines why Israeli tourists are hated everywhere they go, including by people who couldn’t care less about the Palestinians.

        But what’s particularly disturbing about this incident isn’t the Israeli racism – that’s familiar to all of us – but the fact that the airline so shamefully colluded with them. And according to one site I read, the reason given for suspecting the passenger was that he ‘looked scary and had a very intense look’. Again, reverse the roles and we would have had a MAJOR scandal all over the media, and would be hearing about it as ‘proof of resurgent anti-semitism’ for god knows how long.

        Check out Aegean’s Facebook page (you don’t need to have an account yourself). It’s full of comments from people rubbishing Aegean’s cravan ‘explanation’ and saying they’ll never fly with Aegean. I reckon the airline has made a big mistake here.

  5. JLewisDickerson on January 5, 2016, 2:25 pm

    RE: “Following its inception, GILEE quickly became a vehicle for Friedmann’s Zionist advocacy, which has gained considerable clout over the years.” ~ Anna Simonton

    SEE: “Atlanta Police Department Commander Completes International Public Safety Training”, Elizabeth Espy, APD Public Affairs Deputy Manager, Atlanta Police Public Affairs News Release

    Atlanta Police Department Commander Completes International Public Safety Training

    News Release

    Zone 4 Major Rodney Bryant learns best practices on counterterrorism

    Atlanta Police Department Major Rodney Bryant completed a two-week public safety program and exchange focused on new public safety techniques and technologies. Organized by the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE), Major Bryant along with 16 other senior Georgia public safety officials learned best practices on counterterrorism measures.

    “The Atlanta Police Department has supported the GILEE program since it was founded in 1992. “I am huge supporter of the GILEE Exchange Program since I visited Israel myself as a participant in this program, said Police Chief George N. Turner. “GILEE is an excellent tool to help educate and train our officers about to responding to multiple threats.”

    Major Rodney Bryant is the commander of Zone 4 and has more than 20 years of law enforcement experience. The Department regularly participates in global public safety exchanges. The Atlanta Police Leadership Institute is a leadership program that prepares all ranks for promotional opportunities. The APLI program includes training on international law enforcement issues where officers learn tactics on preventing acts of terror, responding to suspicious objects and organizing volunteers for emergency response. Additionally, this year the Atlanta Police Department has hosted several international police agencies including the Nicaraguan National Police and Israel National Police Department. . .


    • JLewisDickerson on January 5, 2016, 2:34 pm

      P.S. ALSO SEE: “Israel trip an eye-opening experience for Jefferson chief”, By Adina Solomon,, 07/18/11

      [EXCERPTS] 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 . . .


  6. lysias on January 5, 2016, 3:22 pm

    I believe Ali Abunimah discussed this program in his 2014 book The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

  7. Les on January 5, 2016, 7:27 pm

    Genuine supporters of law and order are invited to join the Abdel Aziz v. Treasury lawsuit.

    Martin F. McMahon & Associates is proud to announce the filing of a lawsuit against the United States Department of Treasury requesting the court require Treasury to do its job in investigating American 501(c)(3)s and other tax-exempt entities which are sending money to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to promote wholesale violence and ethnic cleansing.

    A pdf version of the complaint can be found here.

    Media references can be found at Courthouse News, Haaretz, Al Jazeera English, Al Jazeera Arabic, Law and Disorder, and Mondoweiss, among others.

    Individuals interested in joining the lawsuit as plaintiffs can do so by contacting [email protected].

    There is a $150 administrative fee to join.

    Once the law firm gives you permission to join the suit as a plaintiff, payment of the administrative fee can be made by mailing a check to Martin F. McMahon & Associates, 1150 Connecticut Ave. N.W., Suite 900, Washington, D.C. 20036 or by credit or debit card via Paypal at the link below:

    • Michael Rabb on January 6, 2016, 8:17 am

      “Huge tax deductions are being taken that support ethnic cleansing of Palestinians,”

      Treasury’s “double standard” in enforcing its own regulations has led to the proliferation of the Israeli settlement enterprise, and has resulted in up to $1 trillion in lost U.S. tax revenue.

        “I want a court, somewhere, somehow, to hold accountable those who have financed my pain of dispossession and exile; to hold accountable the financiers of Israel’s wholesale theft of another people’s historic, material, spiritual, and emotional presence in the world,” the complaint says, quoting one of the plaintiffs, Palestinian-American writer Susan Abulhawa.

  8. rosross on January 6, 2016, 5:42 pm

    There is something quite bizarre about having Israelis train police when Israelis an occupier, coloniser and apartheid State which uses criminal violence to punish the Palestinians for resisting.

    It’s akin to sending US police to North Korea for training in crowd control.

  9. Boo on January 6, 2016, 6:15 pm

    “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.”

    Yeah, that worked out well.

    Link to Time Magazine article on Atlanta Olympics domestic terrorist bombing

  10. traintosiberia on January 6, 2016, 11:36 pm

    The best offense in any war irrespective of the length and time in duration is to get someone to fight your war and make him feel good about it . Friedman has achieved this for the Zionist.
    It invokes the same name Zionist does ,it borrows the ideas,it plants the narrative,it teaches the same hatred,it steals the same third party money,it forces the legislative branch ,it corrupts the language ,it stifles the dissent,it inserts itself in the fabric of the same third party that goes out on a limb to fight Freidman’s war .
    Did Hitler have this kind of arrangement with a Vichy representative to coordinate the labeling of the Jews and of the Gypsies as threat to the safety of the Aryans?

  11. talknic on January 7, 2016, 4:17 am

    Washington: The US saw 984 police killings in 2015, well over double the average number reported annually by the FBI over the past decade.

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