The Reverend Traci D. Blackmon stated the following in a recent interview for National Public Radio:

when the young people went to the street in Ferguson and encountered military tanks and snipers and police in riot gear, that's not customary for the St. Louis area.

It was because the young people were tweeting and streaming what was happening in Ferguson that young people in Palestine began tweeting and streaming back, and they were sharing, when police make this gesture, this is what it means. Next, they were going to use tear gas, and this is what you're going to need to protect your eyes and your skin from tear gas.

They were able to do that because they recognized those hand signals and gestures from the Israeli military. And then that is when we found out that many of our police forces were going to train with the Israeli military.

In trying to research this I did find that a St. Louis police chief received training from Israelis in 2011 and that thousands of other US police have as well.

What I'm asking for here is any detail or evidence to support the statements in bold specifically. Are these tweets or posts documented, and what were the specific "hand signals and gestures" that Palestinians recognized? In a book for which Blackmon wrote a forward, minister and activist Elle Dowd also states that people "were making homemade gas masks from instructions tweeted to us from Palestine" but does not provide details nor mention the gestures or signals used by police.

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    I would note that there's an explicit claim ("Some Palestinians recognized hand gestures that American police were using as similar to those used by Israeli military and conveyed this information to some Americans") and an implicit one ("This is because the American police had learned these hand gestures from their training sessions with the Israeli military"). However, if the explicit claim is true, that does not necessarily mean the implicit claim is true: for instance, they might both have picked them up from a third source, such as the US military.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Jun 26 at 19:25
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    Very unlikely this is true. (1)If there really was a common hand gesture used by the police prior to shooting tear gas it would be easy to find on google(2)if the Palestinian were so familiar with that signal they knew to put on their home made gas masks then the Israeli police would change the gesture (3)it is very unlikely people in Ferguson were in such close contact with Palestinians. It would have been around 3-5 AM for them when the riots and tear gassing were going on. Do Palestinians care so much about Ferguson that they were up at that hour to advise the Ferguson rioters?
    – Schmerel
    Commented Jun 30 at 4:24
  • @Schnerel I don't think point #3 is valid because I don't think the original quote implies it happened in real time. But of course there are reasons to doubt the claim which is why I asked the question.
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jun 30 at 12:04

1 Answer 1


There is a lot of media coverage from 2014, about how Twitter was used by Palestinians to express sympathy with protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. There were also Palestinians in America who traveled to Ferguson, in order to participate in the protests. Remember that the protests were ongoing for several weeks.

Detailed reporting dating from the September 2014 from sources as varied as The Telegraph UK, Al Jazeera, Times of Israel, Mondoweiss, the American Friends Service Committee ("When I showed up to protest in Ferguson and introduced myself as a Palestinian, people there immediately met me with respect"), and others is available online. In some, there are descriptions of tweets from Palestinians in Palestine to people in Ferguson, and in one instance, some of the tweets are reproduced. Every one of those articles say that Palestinians expressed solidarity or gave advice on how to deal with tear gas. Neither descriptions of the tweets nor tweets mention:

hand signals and gestures that Palestinians recognized


when police make this gesture, this is what it means.

The only examples of tweets from Palestinians to people in Ferguson that are available now are from The Telegraph. The title of the article (linked above) is "Palestinians tweet tear gas advice to protesters in Ferguson". They provided general advice about avoiding tear gas, what to do if exposed to it, and expressions of solidarity.

one tweet by maria barghouti

two tweets by rajai

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    Nice answer considering the needle-in-a-haystack nature of the question. Thank you!
    – Brian Z
    Commented Jul 3 at 16:04

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