Israel’s occupation tactics catch on | Ben Lynfield

The Israeli military’s surveillance practices in the occupied West Bank reverberate within the country’s pre-1967 borders and threaten the already embattled democratic aspects of Israeli governance.

For left-leaning Israelis who favor a territorial compromise that would end the current de facto annexation of the West Bank, the leak is proof of their longstanding argument that the occupation of another people corrupts values Israelis. But it is the right allied with the security establishment and the ideological settlers who set the tone in today’s Israel and they care less about civil liberties when security can be invoked.

The Calcalist newspaper sparked an uproar last month when it reported that police were using spyware it said came from controversial company NSO to monitor the cellphones of citizens who posed no security threat. This included individuals associated with protests last year calling on Benjamin Netanyahu to step down over corruption scandals.

The scandal escalated significantly on Monday after Calcalist reported that NSO’s Pegasus spyware had been widely used by police against elected officials, leading figures in the economy, people serving in government offices and people close to then Prime Minister Netanyahu. Some ministers have called for a state inquiry commission.

Even with the outcry, it’s unclear whether the surveillance will be shut down altogether or simply morphed into a new form.

At stake in policing, the scandal is the extent to which Israelis want to live in a state with democratic trappings that controls the security forces or a country in which the security forces and their settler allies wield real power. As long as Israel runs what is essentially a military dictatorship in the West Bank that will go unquestioned by most citizens (with a few notable exceptions) just a 20-minute drive from Parliament, the Knesset, the effect of training on values, practices and norms will likely be palpable.

In fact, the police commissioner who initiated the spying on citizens, according to Calcalist, was Roni Alsheikh, the former deputy head of the Shin Bet internal security service which also monitors the West Bank.

According to media reports, the police failed to obtain judicial approval for their targets or did so retroactively in a way that concealed their use of the spyware.

Calcalist reported that the abuse was widespread and spanned several years and that Alsheikh stacked SIGINT, the police intelligence unit, with veterans of Army Intelligence Unit 8200, who spies on Palestinians in the West Bank, among other fronts.

One particularly egregious case reported by Calcalist involves an anti-Netanyahu activist whose phone was tracked by police. Police discovered that the man, who was married, was using a gay dating app. According to the newspaper, the police read his conversations and told the officers the places and times of his appointments so that they could monitor them in order to blackmail him.

Reports about it brought back painful memories to a former soldier who this week agreed to share with me some of his experiences monitoring Palestinians in the West Bank for Unit 8200, Israel’s equivalent of the US Security Agency. national.

The former soldier, who in 2014 joined a group of Unit 8200 veterans who refused to do reserve duty to monitor Palestinians, asked that his name not be published for fear of social repercussions.

He said police targeting a gay man for blackmail inside Israel was exactly what his unit did to Palestinians in the West Bank to force them to become collaborators or seek information on suspects with which they were related by family or otherwise.

“During our basic Arabic training, we learned many words for LGBTQ in Arabic so that when you gather information and they use this slang, you know what it means. It can be used to make blackmail in the sense of “if you don’t do what we want, we will disclose it”, he said.

“We, the 8200, were asked to gather information on people who were innocent but could be used as leverage,” the former soldier said. “We are collecting intelligence on people who had done nothing wrong other than being related or neighbors to someone in whom the State of Israel had an interest.”

Some seem to bring with them “the same methods and the same mentality” after finishing their service in the unit and joining the police or the Shin Bet, so that the occupation spills over into Israel proper, he said. -He suggests.

This spillover from the West Bank is also occurring as some 8200 graduates and other intelligence units continue to play important roles in Israeli high tech, including, it seems, NSO.

There seems to be a correlation between an occupier’s mentality towards the Palestinians and an insensitivity to human rights in the world.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces are further stepping up their surveillance in the West Bank with new technologies, according to individuals who recently completed their military service and testified to the anti-occupation group of IDF veterans known as Breaking the Silence.

Again, all of this happens just a short drive from the Knesset.

It may be that only an end to the occupation of Palestinians can both give them the better future they deserve and help Israel come to terms with the web of security and surveillance that entangles and endangers it.

Michael A. Bynum