Despite opposition, GOB accepts Israeli Police Training

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

Even though there was strong opposition against training provided by the Israeli police to members of the Belize Police Department, the Government of Belize (GOB) has proceeded with the program. Training began on Tuesday, June 26th and will culminate on July 4th. A group of Belizean protesters wrote to Prime Minister Dean Barrow and spoke to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Wilfred Elrignton in an attempt to stop the training from taking place. They denounced the State of Israel for its atrocities against the Palestinians and their strong alliance to Guatemala and even led a protest outside of the Police Academy in Belmopan City on the same day the training was launched.

The protest was spearheaded by a group of Belizean artists, including writer and former Ambassador of Belize, Assad Shoman, Yasser Musa among teachers and students. The training came via the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Israeli State, founded in 1948. Called ‘Police and Community,’ it is being called a goodwill gesture from the Israeli Government to the local Belizean law enforcement.
Protesters arrived at Belmopan at 3PM, one hour before the program was inaugurated. Shoman was there to join the crowd and shared his perspective on the issue, saying that Belize should not support the Israeli’s treatment of Palestinians. “We have all seen on (the news) how the Israeli treat the community that they have usurped in Palestine,” said Shoman.

Photo by Yasser Musa

Adding to the disapproval is the fact that Israel is a very close ally of Guatemala, a country in a territorial dispute with Belize. Protesters fear that if Israelis get direct access to Belize’s law enforcement apparatus, they could share such information with their Guatemalans counterparts. Shoman also added that Israel never supported the resolution for Belize’s independence. “There is a reason for that, it is because of Israel that the regime of Guatemala, the military was able to survive. In 1977, when U.S President Jimmy Carter put up a ban against selling arms to Guatemala, because of their human rights record, as well as the situation with Belize, Guatemala had nowhere to go and would have lost the war against the guerrilla, who supported us by the way; who supported our independence and would have been unable to threaten Belize,” said Shoman. “But Israel stepped in and gave them all the weapons and training and everything they need. So the close relationship between those two countries remains strong until today. As you can see, Guatemala defied international law and moved its embassy to Jerusalem to please Israel.”

The National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), one of the nation’s most powerful bodies, through a press release sent on Monday, June 25th, declared that it was astounded to learn that the Government of Belize has authorized the Government of Israel to carry out such course for the Belizean police. “We register our strong objections to this abhorrent act, which is likely to endanger the human rights record of the nation-state Belize,” the release said.

The NTUCB pointed out that in the United States of America, despite the federal government’s slavish support for Israel and the atrocities it commits, the Durham City Council of the State of North Carolina, voted on April 16, 2018, to ban training and exchanges between Durham’s Police Department and the Israeli Military. “We know that racial profiling and its subsequent harm to communities of color have plagued policing in our nation and in our community. Israel’s Defense Force brutalizes and terrorizes the people of Palestine, and the Durham Police brutalize and terrorize black and brown communities,’” said the NTUCB.

Photo from Channel 5 Belize

However, GOB defended its position in accepting the Israeli training, emphasizing that it has nothing to do with military tactics. Minister of State in the Ministry of Police, Elodio Aragon Jr. said that the program is about building trust through community outreach. “It’s about community policing in essence. It is about imparting the knowledge for police officers to be better oriented in dealing with the community,” said Aragon. “It all has to do with community policing.”

Aragon added that Belize receives training offers from different countries. “We deal with the United States, with all kinds of countries who have relations with Belize,” he said. “We get training from the Americans, Mexicans, we get training from all countries that are willing to offer and we believe we can get certain knowledge from them.”

Aragon ended by stating that there is nothing to be concerned about when it comes to the training with the Israelis. He said that there greater issues to be worried about, but that he respects everybody’s rights to protest and voice their opinions.

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