Narkewicz: Cancellation of police chief’s trip not a boycott of Israel

  • David Narkewicz

Staff Writer
Published: 12/23/2018 11:18:22 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Mayor David Narkewicz said Friday that the city’s decision to not send its police chief to a counterterrorism seminar in Israel did not constitute a boycott of Israel by Northampton.

In a statement, Narkewicz said he took this step following conversations with local Jewish leaders concerned about the broader implications of the move.

The trip was scheduled from Dec. 2-11. The decision to withdraw on Nov. 27 was made in part so that the organizer, the Anti-Defamation League, could find a replacement, which it did.

“Northampton has and will continue to have strong cultural, religious, academic, and business ties with Israel. Members of our community have family members in Israel and many travel to and from there regularly,” reads part of the mayor’s statement. “Our city and local academic institutions have a history of participation in ongoing civic and educational exchanges with Israel and other nations throughout the Middle East and the world. The recent decision not to send our Police Chief to Israel for counterterrorism training does not change any of that.”

In his statement, Narkewicz also mentioned a recent meeting with members of Congregation B’nai Israel and Rabbi Justin David, who approached him about the issue.

“We had a really good conversation,” he said. “Some were perceiving this as some kind of larger boycott of Israel.”

As a result of this conversation, he said he would issue a statement clarifying that the decision to not send Police Chief Jody Kasper on the trip was not part of a larger boycott of Israel.

“It was really about the specific trip itself,” he said.

On why he and the chief decided to cancel it, the mayor pointed to the many opinions he’d received about the trip.

“It’s a complex issue,” he said.

One of the organizations that lobbied against the chief‘s trip was Jewish Voice for Peace. Rachel Weber, an organizer with the group, said in an email that “Israel uses these programs to rebrand 50 years of occupation and 70 years of dispossession into a model for our communities. As Jews, we asked our city to stand against occupation and apartheid as a model for Northampton and for the people of Israel/Palestine.”

Speaking with the Gazette, Weber said the group that came to the mayor to urge him to cancel the Israel trip did not do so as part of a boycott.

Narkewicz noted that, next month, a member of the Northampton Police Department will be part of a delegation participating in a U.S. State Department-funded program called “Professional Fellows: Citizen Participation in Government” that will travel to Israel and Jordan.

“Led by the Institute for Training and Development (ITD), the program focuses on citizen and government partnerships, democratic practices, human rights, and adherence to rule of law through an exchange among young professionals from ethnically and culturally diverse regions of urban and rural areas of Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia, and urban and rural regions of Massachusetts, including Boston, Holyoke, Northampton and Amherst,” wrote the mayor. “The Northampton Police Department hosted professional fellows from Israel and Jordan this spring as part of the multi-year exchange.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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