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Military surveillance vehicle reappears to track Tel Aviv protest

The police and the army have yet to provide an explanation for the deployment of  a military surveillance vehicle – nicknamed the Raccoon – that followed the social justice protesters in Tel Aviv last week. It was not clear who the vehicle belonged to: it looks like an army vehicle but was operated by Border Police officers last week – or at least that is what the IDF claimed.

Last night (Saturday) the vehicle made another appearance in Tel Aviv, this time escorting the counter protest to the one organized by the establishment against “draft dodgers.” It made its way past the protesters as they gathered at the meeting point on Kaplan Street, and then parked not too far away from where the protest took place at Habima Square –  in a spot designated strictly for employee parking.

I tried to get close to the vehicle in order to figure out – by identifying its license plate – who it actually belongs to: the IDF or the Border Police. The former uses military numerals, while the latter uses police numerals. The Raccoon had no number on it at all. Shortly thereafter, a semi-undercover cop approached me (he was wearing civilian clothing but was overtly carrying a radio device on this left shoulder) and removed me from the area.

If this Raccoon is in fact a police vehicle, why was it not equipped with the appropriate police license numbers? Unless it is a combat vehicle, like a tank or APC (armored personnel carriers), which wouldn’t have license numbers? If it is in fact a military vehicle, why did the IDF lend it to the Border Police for actions taking place inside Tel Aviv?

MK (Hadash) Dov Khenin submitted a query questioning the government’s use of a military surveillance vehicle against peaceful protesters. He has yet to receive an answer. The police also deployed undercover cops – or more accurately, semi-undercover – who videotaped the protest and broadcast it in real time to their headquarters.

It was easy to identify them as a result of the antenna protruding from their backs. The only democracy in the Middle East looks much more Middle East than democratic recently. Whoever thought the occupation would stop at the Green Line should think again.

Translated from Hebrew by Mairav Zonszein.

Solidarity vs. militarism: The Zionist contract and the struggle to define J14 
Occupation comes home: What was an military surveillance vehicle doing at a protest in Tel Aviv last night?

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    1. Piotr Berman

      Is it legal to park a vehicle on a public street without displaying a licence plate? Someone should tow away the “Racoon”.

      Reply to Comment
    2. “The only democracy in the Middle East looks much more Middle East than democratic recently.”
      Recently? Lost in translation???

      Reply to Comment
    3. joe

      “The vehicle, known in the IDF as “Raccoon”, or by its English name “Stalker”, was introduced in 2001 and is mainly used along Israel’s border with Lebanon. As it turns out, the vehicle was actually operated by the police during the protest.”


      Reply to Comment
    4. Maor

      Is it a bad thing that the police wants to follow something that is happening in the streets from afar and to avoid confrontations with the protesters that as we’ve seen two weeks ago can be quite violent? Would you prefer thousands of policemen standing next to the protesters?

      It is the duty of the police to preserve order in the streets, and it seems to me that the police chose a good and safe way to do it while allowing citizens to protest.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Sowhat

      The Shin Bet wants to identify everyone on the New Israel Fund payroll before it gets shut down.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Philos

      “Is it a bad thing that the police wants to follow something that is happening in the streets” – LOL
      In Soviet Russia streets march on you… 🙂

      Reply to Comment
    7. Maor

      Philos – if the police wanted to gather information about the protesters, they could just go to the protesters’ facebook pages. They could watch the video of the protest. They could also PHYSICALLY be there. They could do whatever they do every day, 24/7, to follow people of interest. The point in having this intelligence equipment is to follow the demonstrations without having thousands of policemen at the sites, without creating opportunities for confrontations.
      In Soviet Russia they don’t do that – they send thousands of policemen to crack down the demonstrations violently.
      The assumption that everything the police in Israel is doing aims at preventing demonstrations that are legally authorized by the police is stupid, paranoid, but mostly stem out of bigotry.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Philos

      @ Maor, it’s not just the police in Israel. It’s the place anywhere. The very idea that protesters require a permit to protest (flying in the face of several so-called inalienable rights) and then must be monitored for “intelligence reasons” for using their so-called inalienable rights makes a complete mockery of democracy in any country that calls itself a liberal democracy.
      It doesn’t matter if it’s the police in Tel Aviv or London or bloody Moscow. Although in London, unlike in Tel Aviv or Moscow, you won’t see an army vehicle surveying the demonstrators. They know how to repress their people with a little more class and sophistication over in the West.
      And, finally, who am I bigoted against? Liberal democracies? The police? I’ll admit that I think that policemen or policewomen, regardless of their ethnicity, socio-economic background, sexuality, politics, religious beliefs and whether or not they like puppies, are violent, fascistic, bigoted and bullies who were not intelligent enough to progress in the army. So, they ended up in the police where they get to beat up unarmed, mostly poor, people most of the day.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Maor

      Philos, I’ll take back the “bigotry”, it was said on a more general note about excessive criticism/demonization of Israel.

      I perfectly agree with the need to authorize demonstrations. How would you feel if a group of people (let’s say, for this matter, a group of settlers protesting against the intention to evacuate five houses in Beit-El) gather around your house for a few days, setting tents, making noise and blocking your entrance? All citizens have rights. Being against permit for protests is an anarchist position in my opinion.

      I don’t agree with you about this surveillance issue, I think that you got it wrong – assuming that the police will surveillance because it’s their need/job, doing it with equipment from a far and not by attaching a policeman to every protester seems like a more sophisticated and non-violent way to do this than the examples you give. The fact that a particular mean is used by the Israeli army in the occupied territories doesn’t automatically make it illegitimate for other purposes.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Philos

      @ Maor, if I was a person of interest to the settlers and they felt that they needed to picket my house in a peaceful way (i.e., not blocking my non-existent drive way) then that’s the price I’d have to pay for being famous enough to get their attention.
      “The fact that a particular mean is used by the Israeli army in the occupied territories doesn’t automatically make it illegitimate for other purposes.” – I’ll remember that line the next time I hear a settler complain about the Yassam beating the shit out of them like animals….

      Reply to Comment
    11. Maor

      Philos, are the residence of streets blocked and noisy during demonstrations are “person of interest” to the protesters? I don’t think so. I think that even “real” persons of interest for demonstrators against something should have their rights and freedoms preserved. Anarchy is acceptable at your home, not in public.

      Please read the argument you quoted again, I don’t think you got it. If you need help, look up association fallacy.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Piotr Berman

      Maor, I agree that police can collect information in various public places. However, there are serious problem when security apparatus collects information using a method that is viewed as a secret.

      In Israel, a person can be detained without ability to know what is it about if his activity is deemed dangerous to the state and disclosure of the accusation would reveal secrets that are vital for the state. If Racoon is collecting information in a secret manner, and its very existence is deemed a secret, then this is quite ominous. Why Racoon is it so conspicuously ugly (unlike an actual racoon) is another question. Perhaps Racoon is a tool for both inviligation and intimidation.

      Reply to Comment

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