Yesterday’s social justice protests in Tel Aviv witnessed a new low for the Big Brother-national security state. Tel Aviv police employed an IDF battlefield command vehicle called suitably, Stalker (or Raccoon) and manufactured by Rafael, the Israeli weapons manufacturer. It is similar to the air-based AWACs, which spies on “the enemy” and coordinates communications for forces in the field.
This enormous truck was seen wherever demonstrators marched in Tel Aviv as it monitored the crowd. Besides listening in on communications of the protesters it can photograph individuals during the day and at night. It has a huge arm which can be raised 30 feet above the roof in order to gain the height necessary to surveill a target area. The vehicle is a common sight at protests on the West Bank where it’s used to amass intelligence on Palestinian activists. In that sense, the chickens of Occupation are coming home to roost.
The police would not confirm what the vehicle was or where they got it or who was operating it. The IDF claimed to have no idea what the journalists were talking about who inquired about it.
What this means though is that the Israeli State is using increasingly militaristic tactics to confront the ‘threat’ posed by the social justice movement. Just as the Palestinians targeted by Stalker are Israel’s “enemy,” now the social justice movement is seen as the State’s (or at least the city’s) enemy. Last week, police beat up women and arrested 90 demonstrators, then demanded that the court allow it to hold them throughout the course of their legal proceedings, which could last more than a year. Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai seems to have turned his city into a mini police-state.
But there is only law and order for a select few. If you’re an African refugee living in the city’s slums you can expect rioters to beat you mercilessly while the police do relatively little to stop them. Then you can expect hounding from the Border Police and eventually a concentration–er, detention camp and deportation back to the same chaos you faced in Sudan or Eritrea or Somalia.
Gal Mor, at the Israeli blog, Holes in the Net wrote:
Why introduce a military vehicle into the heart of a civilian population exercising its democratic right to protest? Did it collect information about the protesters? If so, what kind? If not, was it meant to intimidate?
MK Zehava Gal-On had the best line of the night by far:
[She] cracked on Sunday that “those who are complaining about how yesterday the police brought a military vehicle used to listen in on the protest don’t understand the size of this accomplishment: It was the first time the state has listened to the demands of the protest movement.”