Common Grounds

Cracks in the security apparatus

August 02, 2017



Two articles, 1) Farah Najjar and Zena Tahhan, Al Jazeera, on flaws in the security system; 2) Al Jazeera: “We won!”

Cracks in the security apparatus

Mounted police are added to the security measures outside Haram al-Sharif/ Temple Mount


Has Israel’s security apparatus failed?


By Farah Najjar and Zena Tahhan, Al Jazeera
July 28, 2017


Analysts say latest attacks in Israel and the occupied territories have exposed the cracks in Israel’s security system.


The latest attacks against Israeli forces and settlers in Jerusalem and the West Bank have once again exposed the cracks in the Israeli security apparatuses, experts and analysts say.


Elia Zureik, a writer and researcher on colonialism and surveillance, told Al Jazeera,


“Israel watches over the Palestinians in minute details; their lives and their movements. But this surveillance does not work all the time. There are loopholes. Such attacks are difficult to predict, and what happened at al-Aqsa is proof of that.


“The attacks are relatively infrequent, and still, they cannot be controlled, in one of the most advanced countries in the world. They have not managed to escape them.”

Over the past two years in what has been termed the Jerusalem Intifada (uprising), Palestinians – mostly acting on their own – have carried out routine attacks, largely against Israeli soldiers in the occupied territories. The attacks are widely seen by Palestinians as acts of armed resistance to oppression.


Since the uprising started, some 285 Palestinians have died in alleged attacks, protests and army raids. Simultaneously, Palestinians have killed 47 Israelis in car-ramming and knife attacks.


The majority of the attempted attacks have not resulted in Israeli casualties, and have ended with the killing of the Palestinian attackers. But recently, two Israeli guards were killed outside the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem in a shoot-out with three Palestinian citizens of Israel, who were shot dead. A few days later, three Israeli settlers were stabbed and killed by a Palestinian in the illegal settlement of Halamish in the occupied West Bank.


Despite the increased presence of Israeli forces in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and despite the state’s advanced security systems, Israel has not been able to control such sporadic attacks, raising questions about the effectiveness of the state’s security apparatus.


Hani al-Masri, director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy Research and Strategic Studies, Masarat, said that while Israel uses all measures to “spy on Palestinians – including mobile phones, social media accounts and all technologies, as a superior intelligence agency”, there are “loopholes in the system” when Palestinians carry out successful armed resistance operations.


“Thousands of Palestinians enter Israel on a daily basis without permits. This means that there are thousands who manage to break through the Israeli security system. So when there is a will, there is a way,” Masri told Al Jazeera.


Since its controversial inception in 1948, the state of Israel has prioritised security above all else. Sixty-nine years into its existence, Israel markets itself as a model for hi-tech security and defence systems, exporting its products worldwide.


By framing itself as a vulnerable state facing an existential threat, the state uses the pretext of security to control the more than six million Palestinians living within its borders and under its occupation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza.


Mainly through the Shin Bet, the state’s internal security service, and its army, Israel operates one of the most advanced security apparatuses in the region. The Shin Bet and the Mossad espionage agency have an annual budget of $2.4bn.


Some of the methods Israel uses to surveil and control its Palestinian population include the “Big Brother” law, which allows Israeli police access to communications data on citizens; CCTV cameras; wiretapping; mista’arvim (undercover Israeli units trained to assimilate with Palestinians for intelligence gathering), collaborators and biometric identification cards.


“In the old days it used to be just wiretapping the phone, but nowadays it’s more elaborate – they use things like drones today. They can also track down the signals from cellphones that Palestinians make and go after them, and they have an army of informers that spy on Palestinians in Israel itself and in the [occupied Palestinian territories],” said Zureik.


“In some Palestinian towns, this has become a joke; Palestinians know exactly who these spies are – they know them by name – and they would give them false information. So it doesn’t always work out the way Israel wants it to.”


In the 1970s and 1980s, Zureik added, Israel began using Palestinian women from Israel. “They could produce pictures to show the women in comprising positions and blackmail them for prostitution to turn them into collaborators. Also, for Palestinians to get a teaching position today, they must first get clearance from the Shin Bet. Almost all governmental institutions in Israel have an ‘Arab section’ purposed for monitoring the Palestinians in Israel and collecting information about them.”


In the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel uses both direct and indirect forms of control over the more than three million Palestinians who live under its military rule. This includes checkpoints, colour-coded license plates, nightly raids of Palestinian homes, and a heavy military presence.


Using social media, Israel also monitors Palestinians and arrests them for any material it considers “incitement”. Between 2015 and 2016, Israel arrested more than 400 Palestinians in the West Bank and Israel for online content, mainly on Facebook. One such case was that of Dareen Tatour, who was arrested after posting a poem on Facebook that called on Palestinians to resist Israeli oppression.


Sami Shehadeh, an activist in Jaffa, said he used to be called in on a yearly basis for questioning.  He told Al Jazeera


“There is complete control over our lives – over our expression of national identity, economic control, education system and our curriculums. People are checked whenever they enter public buildings such as malls, schools, municipality buildings, and Palestinians get searched more extensively than Israelis.


“Israel is a militarised society and its security is implemented in every aspect of our lives,” he added. “We’re not treated as a people with a national identity – we’re treated as a religious minority. Therefore, we do not study the history of Palestine in schools, and all subjects are taught in Hebrew. They strip us of our identity to try and control our minds.”

Israel also coordinates with the Palestinian Authority, a Ramallah-based semi-governmental body that governs parts of the West Bank, to foil attacks.


Still, loopholes remain. Despite the presence of dozens of military checkpoints between Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, some can only be crossed by car. Soldiers do not always stop each car to search it and check the IDs of the passengers, as some of the roads are used by settlers as well. This means that Palestinians can bypass the system and get into Israel, although they face imprisonment if caught.


And while the separation wall splits East Jerusalem and Israel from the West Bank, Palestinians have found ways, albeit dangerous, to climb over the wall – mainly to find work and a better chance at living.


Additionally, though it is generally difficult to obtain weapons in the West Bank, Palestinians have resorted to smuggling and manufacturing their own. In Israel as well, a black market for weapons is thought to be where the Palestinian citizens of Israel found their guns.


But Ofer Zalzberg, a senior analyst for Israel/Palestine at the International Crisis Group, says the fact that most of the Palestinians who carried out attacks over the past two years were unaffiliated to any particular movement makes it “much harder to collect intelligence about them”.


Women join the mass prayer outside the Lion’s Gate. Photo by Marc Sellem


“Security measures cannot be 100 percent foolproof, especially when attackers are willing to sacrifice their lives,” he told Al Jazeera.


Though Israel denies that the occupation and violence Palestinians face on a daily basis in the occupied territories is the main driver of attacks against its forces and settlers, analysts and locals say the attacks will continue as long as the oppression of Palestinians lives on.


“Security measures, no matter what they are, cannot prevent resistance, and this has been proven over the course of the years; it is not mere speculation,” Masri said. “We’re talking about anger on a national level – these sentiments of injustice do not stem from certain political/religious ideologies, they exist on a national level. Those who resist demonstrate the will of the majority of the Palestinian people”.


Shehadeh agreed: “These attacks are sporadic and there cannot be a security solution to them. If there is a solution, it will have to be a political one – one that needs to provide us with justice and equality.”



Farah Najjar is an online producer at Al Jazeera English and Zena al-Tahhan is an online journalist and producer for Al Jazeera English.



‘We won’: Al-Aqsa Mosque reopened to all Palestinians


By Al Jazeera
July 29, 2017


Worshippers of all ages enter mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem after Israel lifts restriction on men under 50.


Palestinians celebrate as a truck removes the last of the new security barriers Israel installed at the entrances to Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on July 27, 2017 Photo by Ahmad Gharabli/AFP


Thousands of Palestinians have re-entered al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem, after Israeli authorities lifted an age restriction it had placed earlier on Friday.


The Islamic Waqf religious authority that administers the compound announced that all gates would be opened to Palestinians of all ages.


Earlier in the day, Israeli police prevented access to the holy shrine for men under the age of 50 and closed some of the compound’s gates.


The announcement came just a few hours before Friday prayers began. Thousands of men prayed in the streets and just outside the compound’s gates.


Mass prayer outside the metal detector gates, which disappeared shortly after they appeared. Photo by Mahmoud Illean/AP


According to religious officials, 10,000 worshippers made their way inside al-Aqsa Mosque compound for noon prayers.


Small protests against these restrictions broke out after prayers in different towns and cities in the occupied West Bank.


Police fired water cannon and tear gas at protesters in Bethlehem, and there was a high police presence near al-Aqsa Mosque compound.


The Palestinian Red Crescent said it received 225 cases of injuries across the West Bank and Jerusalem.


Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from outside the Damascus Gate, said the situation there had been “largely peaceful”.


“There’s been a few skirmishes around Lion’s Gate and Wadi Joz, but in general everything has passed relatively peacefully,” she said, referring to a Palestinian neighbourhood north of the Old City.


In Bethlehem, approximately 200 Palestinians held prayers in front of the Separation Wall.


Israelis fired live rounds, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at the crowd, the Red Crescent said.


Later on, a young man was shot to death by Israeli soldiers after an alleged stabbing attempt south of Bethlehem near the Gush Etzion settlement block.


However, local witnesses said that Israeli soldiers fired at 24-year-old Abdullah Taqatqa when he was 20 metres from them.


Protests also broke out along the Gaza Strip‘s border, resulting in the killing of 16-year-old Abdelrahman Abu Humeisa by the Israeli army.


Seven other Palestinians were wounded by live fire in east Jabaliya, north of the strip and east of the Bureij area, in the middle.


Checkpoint clashes

In Ramallah, clashes broke out after prayers near the Qalandiya checkpoint, one of the main barriers that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem.


“We saw Israeli security forces use concussion grenades as well as a lot of tear gas,” Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler said, reporting from Qalandiya. He said live rounds had also been used.


Tensions remain high in East Jerusalem, with a fortified Israeli military and security presence.


In an act of civil disobedience, Palestinians have held prayers day and night outside al-Aqsa Mosque compound for the past two weeks in protest at Israel’s increased surveillance measures and obstacles to free movement at the entrances and gates.


WATCH: Palestinians celebrate removal of Israeli security at al-Aqsa (2:39)


On Thursday, Palestinians made their way inside the compound for the first time in 13 days after the Israeli government removed newly installed security cameras and metal detectors.


The scenes of jubilation, with many describing the day as a victory for the Palestinians, quickly soured after Israeli forces fired stun grenades and tear gas inside the compound at the Palestinians, wounding more than 100.


The Israeli measures were installed after an attack carried out by three Palestinian citizens of Israel on July 14, who shot and killed two Israeli policemen.


The Palestinians were then chased inside the compound and shot dead.


Israeli authorities closed the compound for two days, angering Palestinians, who feared that a change in the status quo of the holy site would see it going under the control of Israelis.


In more than 12 days of protests, Israeli forces wounded more than 1,000 Palestinians during clashes, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.


Three Palestinians were killed last Friday during Day of Rage protests across the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.


Later that night, a Palestinian assailant climbed over the fence of Halamish, a Jewish-only settlement in the West Bank, and killed three Israelis in their home.


The compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, has been the site of much contention in recent years.


‘It is our social place’

Palestinians view al-Aqsa Mosque compound as more than just a religious site, Ahmad Buderi, a Jerusalem affairs commentator, said.


“It is a place where we meet, a place where we bury our dead people, a place where we get married,” he told Al Jazeera. “It is our social place. It is where we play football in the afternoons.”


Palestinians knew that they would bear the responsibility of protecting the mosque, Buderi said, adding that the Arab and Islamic world can do nothing.


“The Palestinians joined together and forgot about their political and social differences, and that’s how we won,” he said.





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