Nearly three years have passed since, on 25 May 2020, four Minneapolis police officers were involved in killing George Floyd. Then, the iconic shots of Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd sparked a rejuvenated mass movement against structural racism in the police, specifically about using the “knee-on-neck” technique. The iconic photo meant that Chauvin became the poster boy for the technique. But subsequent video evidence indicated that at least three of the four cops involved in the incident had knelt on Floyd’s back or neck in the encounter – at the same time. This is important since, as we show in this investigation, the local police department had trained all four officers in training sessions that routinely involved the knee-on-neck technique. We also show that this technique is directly linked to training overseen, indeed certified, by Israeli institutions and used by police training officers in Minneapolis.
In response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Israeli National Police Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld tweeted that there is “no procedure” that allows an officer of the Israel police to “carry out an arrest by placing a knee on the neck of a suspect.”
This and similar interventions quickly punctured the outrage building over the death of Floyd and about the alleged role of Israel in the deadly technique that caused his death. Some posted photos of Israeli police kneeling on Palestinian necks, of which there are many. Still, they were overwhelmed by a chorus from pro-Israel sources turning the original allegation into one more instance of antisemitism. The Simon Wiesenthal Center tweeted about Palestinians setting “social media aglow” with their “lie.” The UK-based Zionist group, the Community Security Trust, blogged that “it’s a classic conspiracy theory, insofar as it takes two unrelated events, in this case, the killing of George Floyd and the relationship between American and Israeli police, and tries to link them.”
The Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg went further, tweeting that “those blaming Israel for US police brutality and that billionaire George Soros is funding the protests against Floyd’s deaths are both similar anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.” “What both these anti-Semitic theories share is that they take America’s systemic racism, which dates back to our founding, and try to offload its impacts onto outside Jewish agitators,” Rosenberg tweeted. The lack of actual adherents to the risible claim that Israel is responsible for creating racism in America did not detain such commentators.
And make no mistake, whenever someone accuses Israel of anything, the spin doctors, trolls and a mighty range of “antisemitism” campaigners are there to bat back the allegation as just one more instance of Judeophobia. Even sources on the left, including anti-Zionists, seem to have been suckered by this Israeli maneuver. They say Israel is bad enough; let’s not assist our enemies by making things up by indulging in “conspiracism,” which can be exploited by the Zionist movement.
In the UK, the backlash to the death of George Floyd led left-wing TV actress Maxine Peake to apologize for claiming that US police had learned their brutal tactics “from seminars taught by Israeli secret services.” Moreover, Labour Shadow cabinet member Rebecca Long-Bailey – one of the only leftists in the inner circle of new UK Labour leader Keir Starmer – was forced into resigning simply for referring to the actress as an “absolute diamond.” Usually, that’s it. The apologies are made, the victim is despatched, and the news cycle rolls remorselessly on.
Media coverage of Peake’s comment was almost universally dismissive, taking as a given the idea that her statement was an antisemitic conspiracy theory, not least because the Labour Party described it as such in its press statement about Long-Bailey’s sacking. So after five years of feverish Israeli campaigning to narrow the parameters of acceptable speech on Israel and Zionism, here we were. Even left-wing commentators were spooked, with several suggesting that although Long-Bailey should not have been sacked, the left should be “more precise” with its language. Some portrayed Peake as an actress who had political ideas above her station. They’re wrong. Peake was right, though perhaps not quite in the way she might have anticipated.
Criminalizing dissent, exporting terror
It is obvious what Israel’s strategy in the UK is because it has already been road-tested in France and Germany and has also been tried in the US. The target is to criminalize anti-Zionism and all resistance to Israel’s lobby as “antisemitic.” Barristers who form part of the UK’s Israel lobby have been busily manipulating Britain’s racial equality legislation via a statutory body, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, whose powers they rely on to render even identifying the Israel lobby’s smear campaigns unlawful.
Not only are the Israeli secret services – including Shin Bet (internal), Mossad (external) and elite units of the IDF – involved in training American police, but they do it regularly and intensively, including in Minneapolis, where police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd using the knee-on-neck technique.
To be clear, it is not just Israeli police departments that have been involved in training the Minneapolis Police Department or Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, which covers all of Minneapolis and its environs. There are multiple connections between the Hennepin County force and Israeli intelligence units. In its 2011 annual report, the pro-Israel lobby group JINSA (the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) described the first few years of their Law Enforcement Exchange Program as involving: “full co-operation of and access to the Israel National Police, Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the Mossad.”
Hennepin County police were involved in this program on multiple occasions. Since 2011, in addition to JINSA, Israel lobby groups, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the American Jewish Committee (AJC), and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have run U.S.-based exchange programs for thousands of officers. Israeli intelligence agents, especially from Shin Bet, have been prominent teachers at these events. For example, an ADL trip to Israel in 2016 included a briefing from Alan Moss, formerly a senior Shin Bet officer. In November 2017, JINSA tweeted a photo of Roni Alsheich, former Deputy Chief of Shin Bet, offering advice to officers in Washington at the lobby group’s DC HQ.
Following the hysteria around Peake’s comments, there was an effort to minimize Israel’s involvement in training US police. For example, the UK’s Channel 4 News Fact Check suggested that there had only been one seminar in Minneapolis with Israeli police. This, too, is untrue. The Sheriff of Hennepin County, Pat McGowan, first made an official trip to Israel in January 2004. Later that year, he hosted a conference in Minneapolis where Israeli security officials provided training. When his successor Richard Stanek became Sheriff, McGowan subsequently traveled to Israel for training in 2006.
Stanek has a history of racist behavior and employing excessive force. In a 1992 deposition, “he admitted that he had told racist jokes and made derogatory statements about blacks while on duty.” He first went to Israel with AIPAC, the most well-known U.S. Israel lobby group, returning later with JINSA in 2011. In 2017, a JINSA conference in Minneapolis was hosted to learn “from five of Israel’s leading experts on counterterrorism.”
The technology of terror
Several responses to Peake, including Channel 4 News Fact Check, attempted to downplay Israel’s role in originating and popularizing the knee-on-neck technique routinely used in the US and by Israeli authorities against Palestinians. But, practically unnoticed across the US and UK media is that the technique is a staple of Krav Maga, the close combat training style invented by the Israeli occupation forces.
Krav Maga is unlike other martial arts in that it was developed by the Haganah, one of the Zionist terrorist groups responsible for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel. Furthermore, its teaching by former members of the Israeli occupation forces is overseen by the Israeli Defense Ministry, with the particular intention of promoting Israeli interests.
The Israeli Association for Krav Maga was created in the late 1970s. Krav Maga was introduced to US law enforcement in 1981 when the association and the Israeli Ministry of Education held the first international instructor’s course at the Wingate Institute for Physical Education, an IDF training center. 23 American enthusiasts attended it. As a result, the US Krav Maga Association was formed in 1983. The second of its two goals is to promote “good relations between the United States and Israel.”
One of those responsible for overseeing Krav Maga training of senior Israeli security officials and others worldwide is Israel Cohen, a former Israeli secret services officer. The Krav Maga Minneapolis Facebook group describes him as “our dear friend.” Videos on the website of the International Krav Maga Federation (Headquarters: just south of Tel Aviv) and hosted on YouTube show Cohen applying the knee-on-neck technique. Krav Maga instructors have attempted to defend the technique, even after the murder of George Floyd. For example, former IDF sergeant Jonathan Fader, who runs a Krav Maga business in Vancouver, demonstrated the “appropriate” use of the technique, which he said “is a necessary tool.” “People need to understand how difficult it is to control another person,” he added. The Zionist regime certainly understands.
In Hennepin County, Minnesota, today, there are at least three Krav Maga training centers, all members of the International Krav Maga Federation, and all have instructors specifically qualified to teach the police. The Krav Maga Minnesota website notes that the “head instructor,” Michael Rozin is a “certified law enforcement” instructor. Furthermore, it states that the club is a division of Rozin Security, a company that Rozin owns. Another group, Krav Maga 101, advertises that it can train police personnel. The third group, Krav Maga Minneapolis, is headed by two instructors, both of whom are certified to teach the police and are also “certified security cyclists with the International Police Mountain Bike Association.”
The Krav Maga training of police on bikes in the area started in the spring of 2012 at the International Police Mountain Bike Association Conference in St. Paul, the next-door city to Minneapolis, which together form a single metropolitan area. The organizers thanked the “generous assistance” of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD); over thirty MPD officers attended. The event included a” Krav Maga for public safety cyclists” seminar. One of the three instructors, Dante Pastrano, gained his Law Enforcement training certificate during three trips to Israel to learn Krav Maga.
Links between Israeli security services and the Hennepin and Minneapolis police are even more extensive than this suggests. In testimony to Congress in 2015, Hennepin County Sheriff Stanek revealed the Sheriff’s Office and Bloomington Police Department (just south of Minneapolis) “work hand in hand” with Rozin Security, the private security firm staffed by ex-IDF and Shin Bet officials mentioned above. The head of the firm Michael Rozin is the Krav Maga instructor discussed above, who was trained in security by the Shin Bet. Rozin was a Sergeant in the Israel Occupation Forces between Sep 2001 – Feb 2005 and was in a Special Operations Unit he states was called “Barkan,” though there is no public record of such a unit. After security and Krav Maga training, Rozin set up his security firm in 2010 and, by July 2015.
Extraordinarily, since 2016, he has been a “special deputy” with the Hennepin County police and has a police email address.
In addition to Rozin, there is an instructor for Krav Maga Minneapolis, Jeffrey Garland, who was for 20 years a police officer in Maple Grove, Hennepin County. Over in St Paul, Minneapolis’ twin city, Murray Prust is a serving officer who “is a certified … Instructor under Tamir Gilad.” Gilad served in the IDF for three years. So it is not just that Minnesota police are trained in brutal Israeli techniques, but there are even serving police officers providing such training.
Activist groups in Minneapolis, such as Communities United Against Police Brutality, have campaigned for years for tighter control on “fear-based” police training – meaning the use of overwhelming force to subdue targets, such as is found in Krav Maga. After multiple police killings in April 2019, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey outlawed such training.
The local police union reacted to the mayoral ban by pledging it would underwrite the cost of training for officers who wanted it. Mayor Frey responded by announcing that any officer found to have taken such activity would be subject to disciplinary action. Nevertheless, Krav Maga instruction for law enforcement officers is still offered in multiple sites in Hennepin County, including in Minneapolis.
After the murder of George Floyd, local media reported a police admission that “neck restraint,” listed as a “non-deadly force option,” was still in the Minneapolis PD policy and procedure manual. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that Hennepin Technical College, “which trains about half of Minnesota’s police officers,” taught a form of the knee-on-neck technique “until at least 2016,” according to Mylan Masson, former director of police education at the college.
It is not clear if it ever stopped entirely. Masson is also on record as stating that the “MPD does not typically teach the ‘knee-on-neck,’ but instead teaches ‘knee into shoulder blades’ as a restraint tactic.” “Not typically” is not even a total denial. In 2019 a $250,000 contract was approved between the Minneapolis PD and Hennepin Technical College for the training of cadets. Among the instructors at Hennepin Technical College since 2005 is the aforementioned Krav Maga instructor Jeffrey Garland. The Star Tribune also reported explicitly that all the officers involved in the death of Floyd had been trained and that the state college system educates approximately 80% of Minnesota police officers. No wonder three of the four officers attempting to subdue George Floyd knelt on him simultaneously.
In short, Maxine Peake was right. There are multiple instances of police in Minneapolis and Hennepin County involvement with Krav Maga training, routinely involving the knee-on-neck technique. The training is overseen by the Israeli-based International Krav Maga Federation and is closely aligned with police, military and intelligence organizations in Israel. But one of Israel’s tactics in fighting scrutiny of its ideology and policies is to smother exposure of these facts by using its front groups, assets, lobbyists and supporters in the media to shout “antisemitism.”
Peake, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Black Lives Matter activists, and all others who dared to mention Israel were the subject of a foreign propaganda campaign whose key messages have been embedded into media discourse as well seeping into activist groups on the left, including in BLM in the US and the top of the British Labour Party. Israel’s advocates believe they can criminalize all criticism of the state, but the war has just begun.
Feature photo | Illustration by MintPress News
Professor David Miller is a non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs at Istanbul Zaim University and a former Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol. He is a broadcaster, writer and investigative researcher; the producer of the weekly show Palestine Declassified on PressTV; and the co-director of Public Interest Investigations, of which spinwatch.org and powerbase.info are projects. He tweets @Tracking_Power – though he has been shadow-banned by Twitter.