In my research I want to understand more about the Israeli security industry worldwide. I’m interested in security technologies such as walls, fences and cyber tools, but mostly in ideas. I ask questions concerning ideas about what security is about who is seen as an enemy and how one can stop him/her. I’m then looking into the ways that these ideas and technologies are being transferred from one (national) context to another. Such ideas are culturally constructed; they are influenced by how people and societies in general look at the world around them and how they categorize others. In the Israeli case the context is known; many of the security ideas and technologies have been developed and used against Palestinians. Ideas about who is the enemy are very clear; this is the Palestinian ‘terrorist’ out to hurt Israel and its citizens. While developed for national, military use, such security ideas and technologies are exported abroad in commercial transactions.
To give an example: on Saturday July 18th 2016, the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, that that begat world fame after the bloody attack by members of Al Shabaab two years ago, was reopened. A newspaper covering the opening reports: ‘IRG, the Israeli security company hired in 2014, insists that with its overhaul, Westgate is the safest mall in Nairobi today. Managing Director Haim Cohen’s team of ex-Israeli commandos has trained the mall’s security personnel assiduously. “Our life is security. The difference is not on the number of guys–we know how to recognize anything suspicious,” Cohen said. This example clearly shows how Israeli skills are transferred to a different context. In this case the Israeli security methods are used against similar ‘threats’ as Israelis are used to; Muslim terrorists such as Al Shabaab from Somalia .
Erella grassiani is an anthropologist at the University of Amsterdam. She is co founder of gate48-critical Israelis in the Netherlands.