What if Israeli Soldier 'David the Nahlawi' Was an NYPD Officer?

David Adamov's aggressive behavior toward Palestinians, caught on film, wouldn't have been out of place in New York, but he probably would have had backup.

Haim Handwerker
Haim Handwerker
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A police lieutenant swings his baton at Occupy Wall Street activists in New York.
A police lieutenant swings his baton at Occupy Wall Street activists in New York. Credit: AP
Haim Handwerker
Haim Handwerker

NEW YORK — The "David the Nahlawi affair" — a controversy surrounding a viral video of Israeli soldier David Adamov cocking his rifle at a Palestinian teenager in Hebron — is no doubt bothersome, whether you are for or against him. If anyone needs more proof that the occupation is a bad thing, this affair provides it.

But wait a minute, let’s think what would happen if something similar were to happen in New York City. Of course, it’s impossible to compare the West Bank to New York.

New York is not an occupied city (unless your reference point is the pre-colonial period). There’s no army in the streets to speak of. But there are plenty of police.

The heavy police presence was Rudy Giuliani’s idea when he was mayor. If the city were flooded with police who acted aggressively against every act of public disorder, there would be less crime in the streets, according to the theory he adopted.

Giuliani's approach proved effective. Once edgy, New York is now considered a very safe city. But perhaps, if you have plans to visit the Big Apple, you’d better know something about the interaction between residents and the New York Police Department.

Almost every American knows not to mess with the police. You don’t argue with police; you don’t confront them. You maintain physical distance and certainly don't touch them. Getting too close can only end in confrontation. A superfluous word can end in arrest. If you curse a police officer, and it doesn’t matter whether he cursed you first, you will be arrested. You're liable to get hit.

Of course, it’s against the rules, but it happens. I’ve personally seen people get into verbal confrontations with police and find themselves handcuffed. You can be thrown onto the pavement or pushed into a wall. If an officer feels threatened, even if it's just for show, he can pull his gun on you.

It’s happened often here that police rushed to pull the trigger when it seemed they could have shown restraint.

What you see in the movies is not far from reality. Too many police in the United States have short fuses, and perhaps rightfully so. The criminals here are too quick to pull the trigger, too.

It was troubling to see David Adamov, from the Israel Defense Forces Nahal Brigade, go around confronting Palestinian youths on his own. In New York, when police go out on operational duty or just routine street patrols, they always go in pairs.

In many instances, when they smell trouble — for example, a drunk who gets a little out of hand — five or six patrol cars arrive on the scene, sirens wailing. It really is like the movies.

Do they need so many cops to deal with one drunk? The idea is that a mass of police officers will overwhelm the “perp” and prevent the situation from deteriorating.

There’s another reason, too: A lone officer who feels threatened is likely to take extreme measures — perhaps the IDF could learn something from this.

When police make a routine traffic stop — it’s happened to me — the driver is asked to remain in the car. Two officers approach. They stand on either side of the car. Their hands rest near their hips, close to their weapons, in case the driver does anything unexpected.

It used to scare me. I've gotten used to it, but I still feel a little uncomfortable when an officer strokes the butt of his gun as he approaches me.

In the wake of Bill de Blasio’s recent election as mayor, the NYPD committed to being friendlier to the public.

As part of the effort, they asked the public to tweet photographs of police and civilians interacting pleasantly.

The result was a wave of tweets showing cops hitting and harassing people. Needless to say, someone in the NYPD's public relations department got a little too creative.

Best advice: If you’re coming to New York and you see a cop, say "good day" nicely and be on your way.

Images tweeted to the NYPD's Twitter account.Credit: Screenshot

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