Amnesty International: We never reported that "neck kneeling" is taught by Israelis to US

The organisation has clarified that its report does not constitute evidence to support the allegations at the centre of the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey

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Amnesty International has clarified that it has never reported that "neck kneeling" is a technique taught by the Israeli secret services, after a 2016 report from the organisation was used in support of actor Maxine Peake’s allegation that Israeli secret services taught US police the technique that was used in the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. 

The shadow education secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, was today sacked from Keir Starmer’s shadow cabinet for sharing an Independent interview with Peake containing the above claim. The Labour leader has described the allegation as an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory”. 

The former shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has said in Long-Bailey's defence that "criticism of the practices of the Israeli state is not anti-Semitic", and that she therefore should not have been sacked for sharing an interview containing these criticisms. Meanwhile, those defending the former party leadership candidate online have been widely sharing a 2016 report from Amnesty International which states that thousands of US police officers have received training from the Israeli military and secret services; indeed, it is not disputed the the Israel Defense Forces have shared training with US police departments.

Those who find this allegation anti-Semitic do not dispute that international police forces share training in a manner of deep concern to international human rights watchdogs. What they do object to is the singling out of Israel in this allegation, when there is nothing to suggest that Israel played any greater part in Floyd’s death than the many other countries that share training with the US, and which also use aggressive restraining techniques. Why is the tragic killing of a black man at the hands of the police, in a country with a long history of racial discrimination and excessive force in policing, now being blamed on the world’s only Jewish-majority state, they ask?

Amnesty International has now issued a clarification that its report does not show any evidence of “neck kneeling” as a technique taught by the Israeli secret services, nor evidence that the Minnesota police force received training from the Israeli secret services.

In a statement to the New Statesman, the organisation said: “For years, we’ve documented appalling crimes under international law and human rights violations meted out to Palestinians by members of the Israeli security forces, though the precise nature of the training offered to US police forces by Israeli officials is not something we’ve documented.

“Allegations that US police were taught tactics of ‘neck kneeling’ by Israeli secret services is not something we’ve ever reported and the article in question has rightly been amended to acknowledge that.

“The US police themselves have a longstanding record of using excessive force against members of the public - including Black Lives Matter protesters, something we reported on earlier this week.”

Peake herself has now retracted her earlier comments, saying in a statement: “I was inaccurate in my assumption of American police training and its sources. I find racism and antisemitism abhorrent and I in no way wished, nor intended, to add fodder to any views of the contrary.”

Ailbhe Rea is political correspondent at the New Statesman

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