Monitored in Jerusalem: How Israel Succeeded in Making Surveillance Technology Racist

Israel placed surveillance cameras throughout the city of Jerusalem. (Photo: Djampa, via Wikimedia Commons)

By Fayha Shalash

“Imagine that you live in a cage or a box and everything you do is monitored around the clock “.

That’s how a resident of the city of Jerusalem described his daily life. Israel placed surveillance cameras throughout the city to monitor the movements of Palestinians who live there.

Rami Alfakhori, a resident of the Old City of Jerusalem, hardly lives a single day without the disturbance of Israeli surveillance cameras, which aim to monitor only the Palestinians while explicitly condoning the actions of the illegal Israeli settlers.

One day, he stood on the roof of his family’s house in the Bab Hatta neighborhood. He noticed that the neighboring house, which was recently seized by settlers, had a surveillance camera installed on the roof, while another camera was placed nearby to reveal a different angle.

“The presence of surveillance cameras in Jerusalem started immediately after the occupation of the city, but it has increased dramatically since 2014, when popular protests escalated,” Alfakhori told The Palestine Chronicle.

These cameras, according to experts, are characterized by high technologies and extreme accuracy. They also take advantage of the close-packed houses in the Old CIty of Jerusalem, to detect the greatest number of movements inside and around them.

“We are now confined inside our homes, and we are forced to close the windows and curtains all the time, even during the summer,” Alfakhori continued.

“Moisture is a well-known problem in the ancient houses of the Old City. They would need constant ventilation, but we don’t care about it as much as we fear exposing the privacy of our lives”, Alfakhori added.

In Occupied Jerusalem, surveillance technology is used to hinder the lives of Palestinians and to send their children to prison for trivial reasons such as holding the Palestinian flag, walking in a certain street, or even going to school.

Many Israeli surveillance cameras are also present in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Israeli police officers monitor everything that happens inside, which is considered by Palestinians as another violation of their freedom of worship.

The racism that inspires Israeli actions is evident from the fact that the surveillance cameras do not record a single attack by settlers or police forces.

Selective Footage 

Palestinian activist Osama Barham says that surveillance cameras in Jerusalem are used against the Palestinians, not to help them.

“If they were placed in West Jerusalem – which is controlled by settlers – the same way they are placed in East Jerusalem – inhabited by the Palestinians – they could constitute a deterrent for settlers’ illegal actions”, Barham told The Palestine Chronicle.

He explained that the Israeli occupation authorities always act under the pretext of “security reasons”. By doing so, they keep violating the privacy of Palestinians living in the city, by placing them under the microscope of its surveillance.

“For example, if a resident of the Old City went to the Israeli police after a dispute occurred with his neighbors, they would not use cameras at all. They are not meant to serve the Palestinians”, Barham continued.

“Even if a road accident occurs, the Palestinian victim isn’t provided with the camera recordings, because the Israeli occupation authorities consider it an internal matter”.

Even more disturbing is the fact that Israel uses surveillance cameras to justify its crimes against Palestinians in Jerusalem, especially in the case of extrajudicial executions.

Israel authorities usually release footage of the perpetrators of armed operations, but it never shows the moment when the Palestinians are executed.

‘Broken Cameras’? 

When in 2020, Israeli occupation forces shot and killed Iyad Al-Hallaq, who suffered from autism, in the Old City of Jerusalem, they claimed that the only camera that monitors that angle was broken.

However, when Israeli soldiers killed another young man in the same place, they published video recordings of him shooting at the soldiers from several angles.

Barham told The Palestine Chronicle that al-Hallaq’s legal team desperately tried to obtain recordings proving his execution in cold blood. But their efforts were in vain.

When Israeli soldiers attacked mourners at the funeral of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh – who was killed by an Israeli sniper in Jenin last May – Palestinians also tried to obtain surveillance camera recordings.

The request was rejected. However, the chairman of the Jerusalem Prisoners Committee Amjad Abuasab, told The Palestine Chronicle that Israeli authorities used these recordings to detain some of the mourners. According to Israeli authorities, the detained Palestinians were ‘guilty’ of raising the Palestinian flag.

“Israeli forces constantly arrest Palestinians in Jerusalem by monitoring cameras and consider it complete evidence, although they don’t take this footage into account when illegal settlers carry out their attacks,” Abuasab added.

- Fayha' Shalash is a Ramallah-based Palestinian journalist. She graduated from Birzeit University in 2008 and she has been working as a reporter and broadcaster ever since. Her articles appeared in several online publications. She contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.
(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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