In June 2021, Tamir Yadai, the chief of the Central Command of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), announced that the IDF would limit its “intelligence mapping” missions in Palestinian homes to exceptional circumstances.The decision comes after a successful multimedia campaign by Breaking the Silence, a Sigrid Rausing Trust grantee, which highlighted the mapping missions and pressured the IDF to to stop the practice.
The campaign stemmed from “A Life Exposed”, a report by three organizations, including Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHRI), also a Sigrid Rausing Trust grantee. The report analyzes the various elements of this practice based on dozens of testimonies given by soldiers who took part in these missions as well as hundreds of testimonies of Palestinians whose homes were invaded. In parallel to the campaign, the three organisations and lawyer Michael Sfard filed a petition to Israel’s High Court of Justice. The petition requested, in part, that the military be banned conducting these raids except by court order.
The practice required that Israeli soldiers enter Palestinian homes in the dead of night to register their occupants and draw maps of the household. The IDF defended these invasions as a critical aspect of maintaining national security, despite the fact that the Palestinians whose homes were raided were not suspected of any offenses nor did they have a warrant or court order. Evidence also suggests that after many missions, the information collected is then discarded, further weakening the claim that these missions served a purpose beyond mere intimidation. These raids occurred regularly for years; for instance, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated that the army conducted over 250 raids per month from 2017 to 2018.
The petition argued that the military seemed to be pursuing these invasions “for the general and amorphous purposes of gathering intelligence on every Palestinian home in the West Bank and at demonstrating a presence and for training purposes.” It also relied on the testimony of victims of 128 incidents, several of whom alleged that IDF soldiers had physically threatened their families and destroyed their property.
Home invasions will likely still continue to be a part of other IDF missions, which Breaking the Silence says may mean that more innocent people may be traumatized by such violations of privacy. The end of these intelligence mapping missions, however, illustrates the critical role civil society plays in fighting injustice and protecting human rights.
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