Posted: Monday, June 25, 2018. 8:28 am CST.
Posted: Monday, June 25, 2018. 8:25 a.m. CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Lisa Shoman: It isn’t called the Belize Police Force anymore.
The Belize Police Department (BPD) probably sounds less forceful and more “service oriented”. It’s a good change and the Police.gov.bz website proclaims its mission as “Working in partnership with the community for a safer Belize” and features great photos of the Police canoe teams, football teams, Police doing martial arts training, and with young people.
But there is a proposal to put the FORCE back in to the BPD and until last week, maybe even now, most Belizeans are unaware of that proposal. Apparently, GOB has either invited, or accepted the invitation by the state of Israel to offer and conduct a course for the BPD called “Police and Community”. Sounds good, you think? Well maybe not so fast.
This would be the very same Israeli state that just one month and one week ago Belize rightly condemned for shooting at and killing unarmed protesters in Gaza including a 21 year old paramedic, Razan Al-Najjar trying to remove a wounded protester from torn wire fencing. Shot her in cold blood right through her medical vest.
The UN General Assembly voted on June 13, two weeks ago to condemn Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, in a vote of 120 in favor and 8 against. Belize was one of those 120. In protest, Belize said that it “strongly condemns the use of force by the Israel Defense Force against Palestinian civilians, who have a right to peaceful protest.”
Belize called “for an end to the violence, and for restraint to be exercised by the Israeli military.” And we expressed our sympathy “to those who have been injured and to the families of those who have died,” So what are these people coming to teach OUR police? About how to work “in partnership with the community for a safer Belize” ? And what will WE say to those injured and the families of those who are injured or die, after being trained by operatives of this state?
Even in the nation most friendly to Israel, its primary ally, the United States of America, in Durham, North Carolina, the City Council unanimously voted on 16 April 2018 to ban training and exchanges between Durham’s police department and the Israeli military. The objections to it, among others were that “Israeli defence force brutalise and terrorise the people of Palestine and so does the Durham police department. Here they brutalise and terrorise black and brown communities”. Activists in that city argued that training of US police with Israeli military invites violations of civil rights, police brutality and murder of innocent citizens.
Although Belize does have diplomatic relations with both Israel and Palestine, and we always affirm that position that the Israel-Palestine conflict must be resolved peacefully through negotiations between the two parties, nevertheless we must never forget what the state of Israel stands for. It is effectively an apartheid state, no better than South Africa used to be. Furthermore, we do need to recall our history with our aggressive neighbor, Guatemala, and its relationship with Israel. Realpolitik demands it. In 1975, Israel agreed to provide arms, heavy weapons, aircraft and a munitions factory to Guatemala along with training and intelligence-gathering technology.
At the time, the US was refusing to sell arms to Guatemala. Assad Shoman argues persuasively that without that support, the GAF would have been unable to threaten Belize or defeat the freedom fighters, and that “the Guatemalan claim to Belize would have ended long ago.” Assad also reminds us that when the Israelis trained the Guatemalan Armed Forces, they told them to “treat the Indians like we treat the Palestinians”.
So should we be treated like Palestinians in Gaza ? Is that what we want our Police to be taught? The Artists for Peace and Common Sense Appeal to us not to stand idly by and allow our Police to receive training from the representatives of that state.
On Tuesday, the state of Israel is celebrating seventy years and in honor of that, Alon Levi, the Israeli Deputy Chief of Staff, at the Embassy in Mexico will be in Belize to open the course involving the Police Department.
There will be a peaceful march and a protest on Tuesday organized by Artists for Peace at 3 pm when Artists for Peace meet at the Administration Building in Belmopan to present a letter of protest to the PM and to the National Assembly, and then march to the Police Academy where the ceremony starts at 4 pm.
I plan to be there with the Artists for Peace.
We want PEACE, not FORCE. PEACE YES, FORCE NO.
This is our moment and opportunity to stop this.
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