Israel’s position as a pariah state seems assured with revelations that at least four US police departments – including the policing of Ferguson, in St Louis County – have been coached in the ‘counter-terrorism’ techniques used by the IDF in the occupied Palestinian territories.
US commentators have been drawing telling parallels between Israeli operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and their own combat-ready law enforcement officers, who they claim increasingly resemble an occupying force.
And the links with Israel have been highlighted by the paramilitary-style response of St Louis County police to the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, which followed the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by the local force on 9 August.
Some eyewitnesses say that the 18-year-old boy was trying to surrender to police when he was shot six times. His body was left in the street for hours, during which time a crowd gathered demanding answers from the police, who responded by deploying K-9 units and riot squads.
This sparked days of riots in Ferguson, culminating in the deployment of the Missouri National Guard to restore order to this St Louis suburb.
However, in addition to the disturbances in Ferguson itself, the boy’s death has provoked protests across the nation, with institutional racism, breaches of human rights, police brutality and the militarisation of law enforcement the primary targets.
With images of Israel’s latest carpet bombing of Gaza still fresh in the memory – an operation which has more than ever threatened grassroots US support for the Jewish state – Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent riots have come at the worst possible time for Israel’s supporters.
Tear gas tips
And this is because the IDF-style counter-terrorism tactics, and the weapons used by the police, have highlighted the links between the policing of minorities in the US and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. Palestinians and US minorities now have a common interest, as Palestinians were quick to show when they tweeted tips on dealing with tear gas and with their messages of solidarity.
Even before Ferguson, Israel’s Operation Protective Edge had already sparked protests across the US, led by organisations such as Jewish Voice for Peace, which is behind grassroots campaigns – such as this one in Colorado – to hold Jewish community leaders to account. US support for Israel is likely to come under further scrutiny as evidence emerges that Israel has committed war crimes in Gaza.
Indeed, support for Israel among young Americans has been waning for some time, according to polling research by Gallup and focus group studies, but the latest bombing has significantly also hit support among the Evangelical Christian community. Unsurprisingly, studies suggest that support for the Palestinian cause is much higher and growing among non-white Americans.
Grassroots support for Israel, though still strong, appears to be on a long-term declining trend. Throw in the suppression of the US black population – an fact so apparently obvious it has become the subject of satire – using Israeli techniques and the same US-made weapons as those used to control the Palestinians, and this could begin a real shift in American opinion on the Jewish state.