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Occupation comes home: What was a military surveillance vehicle doing in TLV last night?

Protesters taking part in the #J14 march last night couldn’t help noticing a large army vehicle near the route of the protest, on the corner of Ibn Gvirol and Frishman streets (basically under my house). The car, nicknamed Raccoon, is a modified Hummer with special surveillance equipment. It is often used in the occupied territories against unarmed Palestinian protesters (you can see it used in army training in this link).

IDF surveillance vehicle, usually in service in the West Bank, used against #J14 protesters in central Tel Aviv (photo: Ariella Azoulay)

Update: Before reaching the corner of Rabin square, where this picture was taken, the vehicle waited opposite the Defense Ministry on Kaplan St., accompanied the march to Azrieli junction, and only then reunited with the procession at Ibn Gvirol.

Bystanders and families tried to peep inside the military car, in what seemed like a sign of days to come in Israel – more evidence that the occupation does not end with the Green Line. If there is no democracy in Ramallah and Nablus, there will be none in Tel Aviv.

Civilians looking into IDF surveillance vehicle, parked along the route of J14 protesters in Tel Aviv (photo: Ariella Azoulay)

Update: Apparently, the Raccoon was developed by Rafael – the Israeli government company that develops advanced weapons systems, under the much more appropriate name STALKER: “Mobile Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition & Reconnaissance (ISTAR) System”. Rafael’s site includes the following description of the Stalker:

STALKER is the ideal choice for a multi-mission response, whether as a completely autonomous forward observer or integral part of the maneuvering force.

Equipped with day/night electro-optical sensors, RADAR, long-range acquisition capabilities, and GPS-based navigation support.

STALKER supplies the information required to construct a highly accurate, real-time situation picture.

STALKER can be mounted on a variety of vehicles, in a flexible mounting configuration, for a wide range of scenarios ranging from open country to rugged mountainous terrain and urban environments.

Main Features:

· Operable by only three crew members
· Very short (few minutes) deployment and retraction time
· High-accuracy target coordinate finding and display on assortment of
· RADAR/EOS handshake for EOS slewing to target and closure of sensor-to-shooter loop via Stalker’s C2
· Integral battle planning, scenario recording and After-Action Review capabilities
· Programmable automatic search capability
· Independent operation of RADAR and EOS
· Can be integrated on a wide variety of vehicles
Stalker Family systems can be configured for military as well as homeland security applications

Update II: A military spokesperson told the site mako.co.il that the Raccoon didn’t belong to the army, but to the Border Police, a quasi-military unit under the command of the Israel Police, deployed mostly in the West Bank, but which also carries out missions west of the Green Line. The police refused to comment on the deployment of  the surveillance vehicle inside Tel Aviv.

I have changed the headline of  the post to reflect this new information. 

Update III: MK Zehava Galon from Meretz wrote on her Facebook wall: “Those criticizing the police for deploying a surveillance car in the demostration yesterday don’t understand the achievement here – it’s the first time the government is listening to the protest!”

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    1. Aaron

      The US government has done lots worse to its protesting citizens, with no occupation to blame it on. The Ohio national guard once shot four unarmed protestors to death, US citizens all. The state of Ohio was not occupying territories at the time. Other democracies have also done much worse to their citizens than Israel, again, with no occupation for people to blame it on. So, it’s not the occupation.
      A reminder: If these are territories are (belligerently) occupied territories, then they they are eo ipso *not* part of a “de facto single state,” nor are they a “colonial project.”

      Reply to Comment
    2. aristeides

      Aaron – the territories ARE a colonial project and in the process sof becoming a de facto single state, Israel being in violation of the rules govering the occupation of territories.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jonathan

      Aaron, in the months following June 1967 it could have been argued that the West Bank was a “belligerently occupied territory”. But that was 45 years ago.

      Israel’s authorities have behaved like a colonial power in the West Bank for so long now that they appear to have forgotten that Israel is supposed to be a democracy – at least in part of its territories.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Kolumn9

      What’s the problem? The border guard/police deployed a vehicle to keep track of where the protesters were so that they would know where to deploy units when violence broke out. Is it the color of the car that is the problem for you? You are exaggerating the importance of this.

      Reply to Comment
    5. max

      According to Haaretz the police has been using such vehicles for quite some time, so this is a 1st for a protest.
      I presume that the 1st time police arrived on horses, and then on Vespa to a protest was also a 1st…

      Reply to Comment
    6. Aaron

      If the territories are colonies, then fine, start calling them colonies and stop calling them occupied. Because they can’t be both.
      Jonathan, if the territories are no longer occupied, then don’t call them occupied territories (I’m not saying you ever did), and point it out when the +972 contributors make such a fundamental mistake.

      Reply to Comment
    7. If the territories are colonies, then fine, start calling them colonies and stop calling them occupied. Because they can’t be both.

      Why not? They are both occupied *and* colonized. Same as any colonized country.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Prometheus

      Prior to 1967 the territories belonged to Jordan.
      So what Israel occupies is a part of Jordan and nothing else. Palestinians have no word in this dispute.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Aaron

      If all colonized countries are occupied, then “occupation” has lost almost all of its meaning. Belligerent occupation is an established juridical category, and its everyday meaning flows from that. In principle, it’s a completely normal and legal status. As far as I know, colonies aren’t considered legal or legitimate anymore. If you say, “This is an occupation,” you’re not saying whether it’s right or wrong, just or unjust. If you say, “This is colonization,” you’re saying it’s wrong.
      Occupation is by definition temporary: It ends when the war ends, whoever finally ends up with the territory. That’s the situation described in UNSC Resolution 242. The occupier and the occupied each have fairly well-defined legal rights and obligations. Colonies, on the other hand, are in theory perpetual. That’s one of the contradictions that’s most relevant here.
      Of course you could say that something is a mixture of the two, with some “de facto single state” mixed in as well. That might be accurate (I don’t think it is, but whatever), but if so, then the more that it’s colonization, the less that it’s occupation, and vice versa.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Aaron

      I should emphasize the “whoever ends up with the territory.” If Israel is almost sure to end up with, say, the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem in a final status agreement, that doesn’t mean that the Jewish Quarter is not occupied. The Israeli occupation of the Jewish Quarter is temporary, even if it’s likely to lead to permanent jurisdiction.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Piotr Berman

      Don’t they have industrial designers? This is the most ugly vehicle I have seen in quite a while.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Aaron

      Prometheus, if Judea and Samaria legally belonged to Jordan until 1967, then they belong to the Palestinians now (the PLO, I think). Jordan claimed to transfer its rights to the Palestinians.
      The reality is that Jordan had no rights to transfer to anyone, because its annexation of Judea and Samaria was not generally recognized and had therefore had no international legal significance. Judea and Samaria were res nullius since the British ended their role as Mandatory.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Prometheus

      First let’s see what the term “occupation” means:

      Military occupation is effective provisional control[1] of a certain power over a territory which is not under the formal sovereignty of that entity, without the volition of the actual sovereign.

      Now, tell me please, who was the legal sovereign of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea from between 1929 and 1979 ?

      Reply to Comment

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