The Israeli military’s Home Front Command is recruiting former internal security (“Shin Bet”) agents to a body charged with “formulating courses of action, content, and messages for the various sectors, as part of the COVID-19 messaging efforts among the Arab” citizens of the country.
Journalist Yoav Etiel reported on the Walla! news website that the military Home Front Command is recruiting “experienced” former Shin Bet operatives “who specialized in the Arab-Israeli community.” According to the official announcement, “The campaign will be charged with formulating a status report for each of the different sectors of the population in order to help the relevant divisions in the Home Front Command.” According to the report, the Home Front Command is seeking to recruit former Shin Bet agents with a regional emphasis on the Galilee, Golan Heights, Wadi Ara area, Triangle, and East Jerusalem areas. According to the Walla! article, The military’s call specified that the intelligence gathering will be entrusted to current and former Shin Bet staffers, be focused on visible sources of information and “field sources,” and that “acquaintance with Arab society and culture is required.”
MK Aida Touma-Sliman (Hadash – Joint List) said the report paves the way for more legal violations against Arab citizens. In addition, Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel – has sent an urgent letter to the Israeli prime minister, attorney general, and commander of the Israeli military’s Home Front Command demanding that they block the military’s recruitment of current and former agents from the Shin Bet security agency in order to gather intelligence on Palestinian citizens of Israel as part of efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Adalah General Director Hassan Jabareen, who sent the letter, said, “The Israeli military’s recruitment of former members of the Shin Bet security agency to gather intelligence on Arab citizens not only exceeds the legal powers and authority of the military’s Home Front Command, but also proves once again that Israel continues to view us as a hostile security threat – just as it did decades ago when Arab citizens were subject to military rule between 1948 and 1966. If Israel’s government really wants to stop the spread of COVID-19 among Arab citizens, it must see us as equal citizens. At the very start of this crisis, Adalah warned that when the government involves security institutions in a civilian emergency, it pushes us down a very short road to repression and violation of basic human rights.”
This latest involvement of the Shin Bet in a strictly civilian matter is not unique, said Adalah. In addition to the COVID 19 surveillance case, it also recently became clear that, despite Adalah’s 2004 Supreme Court petition against the Israeli Education Ministry’s practice of consulting with Shin Bet officials in the appointment of teachers to the Arab school system, the ministry nevertheless continues to do so. State authorities had pledged to the court on that occasion that the Shin Bet would no longer intervene in the appointment of teachers in Arab schools.