IDF recording license plates of Israeli anti-fence protesters

By Amira Hass, Haaretz – 2 March 2010

The Israel Defense Forces says it is using information on Israelis who demonstrate against the separation fence in a bid to deny them entry at nearby checkpoints. Israelis and others demonstrate every Friday at the villages of Bil’in and Na’alin.

A document was presented to a number of left-wing activists during the last three demonstrations. The activists were forbidden from crossing the Rantis checkpoint on their way to the two villages.

In the document entitled “Data of vehicles used by left-wing Israeli activists and anarchists to reach demonstrations in Na’alin and Bil’in,” registration numbers of 11 vehicles are listed.

The activists assume that the details were sent to the IDF by police who were present at recent demonstrations.

At the top of the document is an internal army phone number. It also appears that the IDF is observing the routes the activists take to reach the villages.

Activists told Haaretz that they cannot identify all the vehicles in the document; this may be because the information was collected during a demonstration as far back as December against the siege of the Gaza Strip.

On Friday morning, five activists in a white Subaru sedan hoping to cross at the Rantis checkpoint were stopped by a member of the Border Police. He was holding an IDF document containing a list of vehicles banned from reaching the territories. The order was signed by an officer named Aviv Reshef.

The white Subaru belongs to Shai Pollack, an activist against the fence who was not in the vehicle at the time. The vehicle’s registration number topped the list in the document.

Another vehicle whose number was also on the list was not prevented from entering the territories.

One of the passengers in the Subaru told Haaretz that “the soldier asked whether we belong to the anarcho-mobile.”

The activist said he did not know how the army learned that this was the term used by his colleagues in the car.

“Perhaps they are listening in on our phone calls, looking into our e-mails, or they have a snitch,” he told Haaretz. “We do not know and do not bother ourselves about these things. We are not an underground organization and our activities are open, but the army has recently been investing a great deal of intelligence effort in preventing us from demonstrating.”

Commenting on his vehicle being listed on the document, Pollack said that “I was not surprised that the army is taking yet another step against us, but it’s a small step compared to the oppression that is used against Palestinian activists.”

A week earlier at the Rantis checkpoint, Shai Gorsky was prevented from passing through with his car, which was also on an IDF list. Gorsky said the list was sending a message to the new protesters and the youth that join in the demonstrations that “they will be made criminals before they even get to there.”

During a demonstration three weeks ago, one of the activists noticed a man dressed in civilian clothes collecting information on vehicles at Levinsky Park in Tel Aviv, where activists meet for demonstrations. Activists say the police took down people’s ID numbers.

Police told Hagai Matar from the newspaper Ha’ir that “this is routine police work for Tel Aviv District officers.”

An hour later, the activists whose IDs were listed were prevented from crossing at the Rantis checkpoint.

Attorney Dan Yakir, the legal counselor for the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, told Haaretz that “the problem begins with the flawed attitude of the IDF, which considers demonstrations in the West Bank unlawful. Hence these questionable legal measures. If there is no suspicion that a violation is expected, there is no cause to collect information or pass it on to the IDF.”

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