From Ferguson to Gaza: A Pattern of Increased Militarism and Brutality

By Baheya Malaty

malatyIn the summer of 2014, the people of Ferguson were brutally subjected to a military-style crackdown by local law enforcement following the murder of teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. Police officers who appeared more like combat soldiers pointed military-grade assault rifles at peaceful protesters. Paramilitary units dressed in camouflage fired tear gas into residents’ front yards, and armored personnel carriers (APCs) rampaged through the streets of residential neighborhoods.

In the summer of 2015, at a weekend pool party in McKinney, Texas, police officer David Eric Casebolt brutally took down a 15 year-old girl. Arriving at the pool party to which police had reportedly been called for noise complaints, Casebolt showed up on scene and did a barrel roll as if he were under fire. After cursing at the girl and violently slamming her into the ground, Casebolt pulled out his gun on the bystanders who attempted to diffuse the situation and get the girl out of harm’s way.

What do these two examples of American police brutality have in common? Both the tactics and military equipment deployed by the St. Louis County Police Department, in charge of “occupying” Ferguson in the summer of 2014, as well as the form of martial arts called Krav Maga which Casebolt used to take down the 15 year-old, originally came from Israel.

With more than 60 years of experience in military occupation, ethnic cleansing, settler colonialism, racial profiling, and apartheid, the Israeli security and intelligence apparatus has made a killing out of exporting their repressive tactics and militarized products to other nations. Israel’s war economy — which includes the exportation of drones and weapons, as well as military, police, and “counterterrorism” training — has not only profited from increased militarism and brutality across the globe, but it has also had a significant impact in shaping transnational policing norms. Israel participates heavily in international arms, drones, and policing realms and as a result more and more police departments across the globe are beginning to mirror Israel’s apartheid tactics. This rise in “emulating apartheid” has been particularly troubling in the United States, where the militarization of police forces has reached a terrifying peak.

Since the attacks of September 11th, more than 300 high-level sheriff and police officers from agencies across the country have been sent to Israel on privately funded trips to receive training from Israel’s military, intelligence apparatus, and police force. Over 9000 American police officials have trained with Israeli police and military units in “counterterrorism” response.

Three American organizations are primarily responsible for providing the majority these training opportunities and seminars: the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee’s Project Interchange, and the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. These organizations tout Israel’s long-standing expertise in dealing with terrorism and national security issues as they seek to facilitate relationships between two of the most racist, militarized, and brutal police forces in the world.

Many of the largest police departments in the United States have connections to Israel’s war economy. After 9/11, the New York Police Department (NYPD) created the now-disbanded “Demographics Unit,” which was designed to spy on Muslim and Arab citizens in New York. The NYPD’s Demographics Unit was modeled after an Israeli program which had been used to spy on Palestinians in the West Bank since 1967. In 2013, executives from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) traveled to Israel on a private trip to learn about drones and other surveillance technology. Just a year later, in May 2014, the LAPD added drones to its expanding collection of militarized weapons. The head IT person for the LAPD on the trip commented:

Now let’s be honest … This whole idea of best practices is just a euphemism for: We’re here to steal some of your great ideas. And a lot of great ideas and technology, indeed, you do have here in Israel. I would hope that you do not view this as a negative, because in this day and age of globalization, our needs are truly similar. In fact, we are much more alike than dis-alike. As civilized nations, we are all confronted with, in many cases, the same enemy: The ever-growing threat of terrorism and other major criminal elements.

The notion that American police officials should learn how to respond to “the ever-growing threat of terrorism” from an apartheid state which is engaged in an illegal and brutal military occupation of Palestine is deeply troubling. As Israeli policing norms are exported to the United States, we see an increase in occupation-style policing, which directly targets the populace with militarized tactics and equipment. Occupation-style policing does not  respect the right of people to engage in peaceful protest; rather, it views the people as a “problem” who need to be dealt with using force. Shakeel Syed, president of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, articulates the way in which American policing increasingly mirrors that of Israel:

Whether it is in Ferguson or L.A., we see a similar response all the time in the form of a disproportionate number of combat-ready police with military gear who are ready to use tear gas at short notice. Whenever you find 50 people at a demonstration, there is always a SWAT team in sight or right around the corner.

The exportation of the Israeli security and intelligence apparatus’ tactics to the United States has been complemented by programs such as the 1033 program, which provide local law enforcement departments with military-grade weapons, gear, and vehicles. With the motto, “From warfighter to crimefighter,” the 1033 program has facilitated a massive increase in the militarization of police agencies across the country. Now, our police departments are beginning to look more like standing armies.

Through the 1033 program, the very same weapons which have been used by the Israeli military for decades to disperse protests in the West Bank—tear gas grenades, triple chaser gas canisters, and stun grenades—have now found their way to American protests. At protests in Ferguson, Anaheim, and Oakland in the summer of 2014, police used all three of the former to disperse protesters. The LRAD (long range acoustic device) which was used to disperse protests in Ferguson was reportedly first used by the Israeli military in the occupied Palestinian city of Bethlehem in 2005.

Though American law enforcement’s relationships with Israel have contributed to a massive increase in militarization, the militarism and brutality that we see in our police force today is homegrown. As American citizens, the question before us is: what does it say about our police forces that they would seek training from an apartheid, occupying, fully-militarized regime? Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, comments, “If American police and sheriffs consider they’re in occupation of neighborhoods like Ferguson and East Harlem, this training is extremely appropriate—they’re learning how to suppress a people, deny their rights and use force to hold down a subject population.” When you look closely, the geography of the American police force looks like the geography of an occupying military.


Baheya is an anti-Zionist, anti-racist, and feminist student organizer. In the summer of 2015, they co-led a project in Palestine called BINAT: Play for Peace, which was aimed at providing young refugee girls and women with access to leadership training and development as well as strategic community building and political organizing networks through soccer. On their campus, they are passionate about organizing and educating folks on the intersections of cisheteronormativity, militarism, and colonialism.

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The Monthly Rag: Block 3 2016

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Beware of the Street Signs: The Hidden Realities of Colonialism in Berlin

By Baheya Malaty

IMG_0551When you think about racism and oppression in Germany, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? More than likely, your mind will jump to the Holocaust and Nazism. This is an understandable first thought: the Holocaust represents one of the most massive genocides in human history, and Nazism one of the most terrifying fascist regimes to ever come to power. Over the past nearly three weeks in Berlin, it seems that every day we have stumbled on some recognition of the Nazi past, be it the plethora of museums dedicated to educating people about Nazism’s crimes against humanity or the tiny golden “stumbling stones” that dot the city’s sidewalks, honoring the victims of the Holocaust. Visitors praise Berlin as a city that has recognized and atoned for its dark past. The first time I visited this city, aged 14, our tour guide took us to the site of Hitler’s bunkers and proudly proclaimed that Berlin was a city that had reclaimed its history. “Look,” she said. “Within 500 meters of Hitler’s bunkers, you can see the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, an organization which fights for the rights of the physically disabled, and a gay bar!”

Throughout my time in Berlin, I’ve been curious about the ways in which a singular narrative of oppression in Germany—which takes the Holocaust and Nazism as the chief and/or only example of racism—has erased other narratives of oppression. When a society goes to great efforts to apologize, atone for, and learn from a singular catastrophe without employing an intersectional lens, what other “catastrophes” are erased? In “Troubling Categories I Can’t Think Without: Reflections on Women in the Holocaust,” R. Ruth Linden problematizes how Holocaust scholarship often “privileges the experiences of one group…while turning our gaze away from other groups” (24). In this way, she argues, several categories of people who were targeted by the Nazi regime—including the Sinti, Roma, gay men, Communists, Jehovah’s Witness, Slavs, people convicted of crimes, and Hutterites—have been “marginalized in Holocaust discourse” (24). Expanding on Linden’s thinking, we must also question how Holocaust discourse in Germany itself marginalizes other narratives of oppression. Our “Africa in Wedding” tour gave me a lot to think about along these lines. Led by our wonderful tour guide Josephine “Josy” Apraku, the tour examined a (not so) different form of oppression: that of German colonialism and its legacy in the so-called “African quarter” in Wedding, a neighborhood of Berlin.

IMG_5682Josy began our tour by explaining that, contrary to what most people who come on her tours believe, this would not be a tour of the African quarter. Rather, this tour would take us through what can be more appropriately called the colonial quarter, referred to this way because 24 streets in the area are named in reference to the history of German colonialism in Africa. As we walked through the rain, Josy guided us past street signs which read “GhanaStraβe,” “TogoStraβe,” and “SwakopmundStraβe.” The latter is a reference to the city in Namibia, Germany’s first settler colony in Africa. In Swakopmund, the German colonizers constructed Germany’s first-ever concentration camp, built for the exploitation and murder of the Herero people. The idea for the concentration camp was borrowed from British colonizers, who had constructed similar work camps for the internment and exploitation of indigenous people in the British colonies, and was later used as model for the concentration camps that Hitler would build across Europe.

Although the Holocaust discourse in Germany has marginalized other systems of oppression, there can be no doubts about the strong links between Nazism and German colonialism. A major part of the Nazi agenda was to reclaim the lost German colonies. Furthermore, Hitler was inspired by many of the racist theorists whose writings were used to justify German colonialism. One such “theorist” was Carl Peters, a key individual at the helm of German colonization in East Africa. Peters, who was in a sexually abusive relationship with an African woman, became infamous after he discovered that this woman had been having a relationship with an African man. Upon learning this, Peters had both of them executed and burned their villages. In 1939, Hitler chose to name a street in the colonial quarter after Peters, as he saw him and his racist theory as an important source of inspiration for Nazi ideology. Sometime after the fall of the Nazi regime, city officials were tasked with renaming and rededicating the street. In Germany, the chosen method for renaming public relics of Nazism is that whatever public space is in question will be renamed after someone who resisted Nazism. City officials chose to keep the street name the same as what Hitler had named it, Petersallee, but rededicate it in memory of Dr. Hans Peters, a Berlin doctor who helped Jews to hide and escape during Nazi rule. Much to our chagrin, Josy informed us that during the process of the re-dedication of Petersallee, no mention was made of the legacy of German colonialism from which Hitler derived the name. This is exemplar of the way in which the recognition and atonement of Nazi crimes has erased the legacy of German colonialism which had always been a critical part of Nazi ideology from the start.

IMG_5679As we continued our tour, hiding beneath giant oaks in order to avoid the rain, Josy taught us about another critical legacy of colonialism, which is often erased: the ways in which the earliest women’s rights movements in Germany were driven by colonialism. Through aligning themselves with colonialism, white German women were afforded more political power and freedom. They were enlisted by and participated in the colonial project in several critical ways. In Showing our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out, May (Opitz) Ayim quotes Baroness Zech, the director of a German colonial school for women, as she articulates the mission contract for German women:

Her energy should not take the form of a free, tomboyish nature, but through true femininity she should put the stamp of her nature on the new overseas Germany; she should not merely strive and work out there, but she should be imbued with the spirit of pure Christianity, the high priestess of German breeding and custom, the bearer of German culture, a blessing in the foreign land: German women, German honor, German devotion across the sea. (27)

As Ayim further discusses, racism, sexism, and colonialism went hand-in-hand. The notion of a pure, chaste, white German woman, whose primary responsibilities were to carry on the “master race” through reproduction and to impose the German culture and moral code onto the “savage” natives, was used to enlist white German women in the colonial project. First and foremost, white German women were encouraged to move to Germany’s colonies in order to increase the white population; thus, they were essentially enlisted as “birthing machines.” Ayim argues that at the end of the 18th century in Europe, the new bourgeoisie offered a new feminine ideal that was “characterized more than ever by passivity” (11). This new ideal, that went hand in hand with the rise of capitalism, relegated women to the domestic sphere, where their chief duties were giving birth, raising children, and caring for the home (13). It was this ideal of femininity which was used in service of and allowed for the continuation of German colonization in Africa. In addition to their enlistment in the colonial project as birthing machines, white German women also participated in the act of “civilizing” the native population. While German men were primarily involved in the colonial military and administration, women took up the project of imposing a set of German ethical, moral, and cultural codes onto native societies.

IMG_0562On our first full day of class in Berlin, our tour guide Carolyn Gammon warned: “When in Berlin, beware of the green spaces.” This saying is a reference to the plethora of green spaces in the city, underneath which lie relics of Nazi crimes against the Jews: makeshift cemeteries in which the dead were piled on top of each other, the remains of a burned synagogue, and so on. Following our “Africa in Wedding” tour, we might add: “When in Berlin, beware of the street signs.” In Winter Shorts, Clementine Burnley and Sharon Dodua Otoo discuss the way in which people seek to deny the reality of racism. Burnley writes, “I believe that people invest more effort in denying racism than in dealing with it because facing the purpose for which institutional racism is constructed, is painful.” (13). In this way, people seek to hide or mask the realities of racism and colonialism in their daily lives, those unpleasant reminders that things are far from perfect. The ghosts of colonialism and racism appear eerily similar: in the United States, the tribute paid to victims of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the Statue of Liberty is completely hidden; in Israel, the side of the apartheid wall visible to Jewish Israeli citizens is masked by hills featuring beautiful flower gardens; and here in Berlin, the names of racist German colonists appear “innocently” on street signs. These ghosts are disguised as street signs, green spaces, monuments, and statues; they are a part of our everyday realities, and yet their true meanings remain hidden. As we learned from Josy, if we are to interrogate and dismantle systems of oppression such as colonialism, we must start by educating ourselves on how these systems permeate into and influence our everyday. We must always search for those tiny, hidden windows to the truth.


MalatyBaheya Malaty is a rising junior at Colorado College studying Race, Ethnicity, and Migration Studies and Feminist and Gender Studies. As co-leader of Students for Justice in Palestine and the Feminist Collective (FemCo), they are passionate about challenging Zionism and engaging in creative activism in solidarity with Palestine using a feminist lens. They are known to many of their friends as “Dad,” due to their superb barbecuing skills, knowledge of sports, classy button-up shirts, and their general Dad sensibility. Their dream is to one day develop a program through which students of color can travel to Palestine and learn about the occupation through a comparative, transnational, and feminist lens. Their alternative dream is to become a stay-at-home Dad.

#WhichHillary: Activists Respond to Clinton’s White Feminism

By Baheya Malaty (FGS ’18)

Which HillaryAt Hillary Clinton’s most-recent lavish private fundraising event in South Carolina, Black Lives Matter activist Ashley Williams interrupted the event by holding up a sign which read, “We have to bring them to heel.” The sign was a reference to a speech made by Clinton in 1994 in support of a crime bill that caused an astronomical increase in the mass incarceration of Brown and Black Americans. In support of that bill, Clinton referred to young people of color involved with gangs as “super predators.” In the aftermath of Williams’ direct action, the hashtag #WhichHillary has become a popular one for activists who seek to critique Clinton’s campaign, which has championed itself as dedicated to the fulfillment of women’s rights. Utilizing the frameworks introduced by Bushra Rehman and Daisy Hernandez in Colonize This!: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism will illustrate the contradictions and hypocrisies of Clinton’s brand of feminism, which she has used to great effect in her campaign.

Bushra and Hernandez write, “When the media vilifies a whole race, when a woman breaks the image of a model minority…or when our neighborhoods are being gentrified, this is… where our feminism lies” (378). Thus they articulate the concerns of young feminists of color who initially felt partially liberated by white feminism, but who also felt uncomfortable with and excluded by white feminist analyses and spaces. On Twitter, @erniesfo echoed this tension: “The Hillary Clinton who says she supports Latinos or the one who supports a coup in Honduras? #WhichHillary.” Political commentator and journalist Ali Abunimah wrote, “#WhichHillary, the one who claims to be a lifelong child advocate or the one who never saw an Israeli massacre she didn’t applaud?” Rehman and Hernandez can help illuminate the tension between Clinton’s seemingly advocating progressive policies while simultaneously upholding oppressive ones:

We’ve grown up with legalized abortion, the legacy of the Civil Rights movement and gay liberation, but we still deal with sexual harassment, racist remarks from feminists and the homophobia within our communities. The difference is that now we talk about these issues in women’s studies classes, in classrooms that are multicultural but xenophobic and in a society that pretends to be racially integrated but remains racially profiled. (378)

Clinton and her supporters have thus celebrated her dedication to women’s rights without recognizing the many ways in which her policies been anti-feminist and extremely harmful to women and children.

Activists using the #WhichHillary highlight the ways in which Clinton’s pro-women agenda is not pro-all women; rather, it specifically pertains to the concerns of Western, white, middle and upper class women. In this way, they illustrate how Hillary is not much of a feminist at all, and her championing of women’s rights is more of a marketing scheme than a legitimate political platform. Along these lines, Astrid Henry examines what is lost when people attempt to market feminism:

Without its critiques of white supremacy and privilege, heterosexism, and capitalism—not to mention its continued insistence on examining the ways in which sexism and misogyny continue to operate in the world—feminism becomes nothing but a meaningless bumper sticker announcing “girl power” (390).

Clinton, who has advocated for women’s rights but has also supported legislation which contributed to the mass incarceration of Black Americans and worked with neoconservatives to derail a democratically elected government in Honduras, is emblematic of this brand of feminism. Clinton’s feminism ultimately does little to address actual feminist concerns; therefore, it operates as a “meaningless bumper sticker” through which Clinton can draw support by presenting as a “pro-woman” candidate.