Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed deserves praise and respect for not being coy when Black Lives Matter and ATLisReady leaders demanded that he cut off cooperation between the Atlanta police and Israeli law enforcement.
Reed simply said no.
“There was a demand that I stop allowing the Atlanta Police Department to train with the Israeli Police Department. I’m not going to do that,” Reed told reporters about the meeting he held Monday, July 18. “I happen to believe that the Israeli Police Department has some of the best counterterrorism techniques in the world, and it benefits our Police Department from that long-standing relationship.”
We commend Reed for his determination to do what is in the best interests of his police and his citizens — ensure that officers receive the best training possible — and for his steadfast support of Israel in the face of offensive efforts to connect America’s racial issues to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It’s important to understand that Reed’s no-hesitation decision didn’t happen by chance.
First, it reflects the value of the expertise Israel shares around the world in areas from cybersecurity to water. In the case of law enforcement, the most important of several training programs happens to be based only half a mile from Atlanta City Hall: the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, founded by Robbie Friedmann at Georgia State University.
In a quarter-century, more than 1,350 public safety and law enforcement officers, about half of them from the United States, have graduated from GILEE’s training exchange programs, and more than 25,000 people have attended security briefings, seminars and workshops organized by GILEE.
The AJT has been lucky enough to attend a few of those briefings, and the information and expertise are incomparable. Cutting off Atlanta police from such knowledge would make citizens less safe.
Still, politicians don’t always make the best long-term decisions when facing intense pressure, as the Black Lives Matter protests have applied in July. It says something about Reed’s character that he resisted the pressure, but it also says something about successful efforts over the years to educate Reed about Israel.
Reed has been involved with American Jewish Committee programs for more than a decade, including the Black-Jewish Coalition. He first traveled to Israel 10 years ago this summer on an AJC Project Interchange trip (financed, we’re proud to say, by AJT owner and Publisher Michael Morris and Belinda Morris). As he told the AJT at the time, he had his eyes opened to the beauty and value of Israel.
It was not Reed’s last visit. Just last year he participated in a business mission of 33 Georgians organized by Conexx, the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the state Economic Development Department, and he made a point to visit Atlanta’s Israeli sister city, Ra’anana.
Reed is a prime example of AJC’s efforts to recognize up-and-coming leaders for travel to and education about Israel, including the Palestinian conflict. Project Interchange participants have time behind closed doors with Palestinians to get their perspective, so, unlike those protesters making demands, Reed has direct knowledge of Palestinian grievances.
The mayor also is proof that while Israel, like the United States and every other liberal democracy, is far from perfect, it has a great story to tell. The more people who hear that story and see the nation firsthand, the more friends Israel wins.