In Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt famously argued that one of the hallmarks of Nazism was the supremacy of the police over the military, even in—especially in—occupied territories. Nothing quite signaled totalitarianism’s obliteration of the distinction between the domestic and the international, its aspiration to world rule, as this.
Above the state and behind the facades of ostensible power, in a maze of multiplied offices, underlying all shifts of authority and in a chaos of inefficiency, lies the power nucleus of the country, the super-efficient and super-competent services of the secret police. The emphasis on the police as the sole organ of power, and the corresponding neglect of the seemingly greater power arsenal of the army, which is characteristic of all totalitarian regimes, can still be partially explained by the totalitarian aspiration to world rule and its conscious abolition of the distinction between a foreign country and a home country, between foreign and domestic affairs….Since the totalitarian ruler conducts his policies on the assumption of an eventual world government, he treats the victims of his aggression as though they were rebels, guilty of high treason, and consequently prefers to rule occupied territories with police, and not with military forces.
So what, oh what, would she have made of this?
The New York Police Department opened its Israeli branch in the Sharon District Police headquarters in Kfar Saba. Charlie Ben-Naim, a former Israeli and veteran NYPD detective, was sent on this mission.
You don’t have to fly to New York to meet members of the police department considered to be the best in the world — all you have to do is make the short trip to the Kfar Saba police station in the Sharon, where the NYPD opened a local branch.
Behind the opening of the branch in the Holy Land is the NYPD decision that the Israeli police is one of the major police forces with which it must maintain close work relations and daily contact.
Ben-Naim was chosen for the mission of opening the NYPD branch in Israel. He is a veteran detective of the NYPD and a former Israeli who went to study in New York, married a local city resident and then joined the local police force. Among the things he has dealt with in the line of duty are the extradition of criminals, the transmitting of intelligence information and assistance in the location of missing persons, both in the United States and in Israel.
It was decided, in coordination with the Israeli police, that the New York representative would not operate out of the United States embassy but from a building of the Sharon District Police headquarters, situated close to the Kfar Sava station. The NYPD sign was even hung at the entrance to the district headquarters, and Ben-Naim’s office is situated on the first floor of the building. One of the walls bears the sign: “New York Police Department, the best police department in the world.”
It’s true, as Nathan Newman has pointed out to me, that the FBI already has offices around the world. But in the US, it has always been state and local police that truly wield the coercive power of the state. Only ten percent of all prisoners in this country are in federal jails; the rest are in state and local cells.
“New York Police Department, the best police department in the world.” Oh, the field day Arendt would have had with that!