“Big Brother” in Jerusalem’s Old City

Israel’s Militarized Visual Surveillance System in Occupied East Jerusalem

In this flash report, Who Profits examines the ‘Mabat 2000’ visual surveillance program implemented in the occupied Old City of Jerusalem by the Israeli state and for-profit. Launched in the year 2000, ‘Mabat 2000’ – an acronym in Hebrew which stands for "technological & surveillance center," and also a word which means “gaze” – is the Israeli police’s most comprehensive visual surveillance project in the Old City, saturating every street and alleyway with Close-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras.

Who Profits documented the involvement of the public Israeli conglomerate, C. Mer Group, in the installment, maintenance and implementation of software used for ‘Mabat 2000’. In addition, the involvement of four corporations in the provision of surveillance hardware was documented: VideoTec, a private Italian company; Dahua Technology, a publicly traded Chinese company; Sony Corporation, a publicly traded Japanese conglomerate, and Evron Systems, a private Israeli company.

Since its occupation and subsequent annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel has pursued aggressive policies of land grab and displacement, declaring the whole of the occupied city as its “undivided capital” in contravention of international law. Successive Israeli governments have expanded municipal boundaries, built 12 illegal settlements to house over 200,000 Israeli settlers, facilitated the occupation of Palestinian homes in the Old City and adjacent neighborhoods, and developed an intricate web of bypass roads and a light rail network to create an integrated infrastructure for consolidating Israeli control.

In parallel, Palestinians are systematically cut off from the city and their development is suffocated. Approximately 323,700 Palestinians live in East Jerusalem as permanent residents, 67% of whom live below the poverty line. Between 1967 and 2016, Israeli authorities revoked the residency status of more than 14,500 Palestinian Jerusalemites. Meanwhile, the Municipal Planning Authorities implement an active policy of house demolitions. Since 1967, Israel has demolished over 2,000 houses in East Jerusalem. As Israeli building permits are extremely difficult to obtain, over 100,000 Palestinian residents live under the constant threat of demolition.

Such policies and practices are enabled by a violently repressive security apparatus, designed to suppress any form of resistance to Israel’s occupation, while engineering a “façade of normalcy.” Out of 5,640 Palestinian political prisoners incarcerated in Israeli jails, some 500 are from East Jerusalem. Children face a “concentrated campaign of arrest” by Israeli authorities. In 2017 alone, a total of 1,138 children were arrested, many of whom have been placed under house arrest. This apparatus, of militarized surveillance, increasingly integrates hi-tech panoptic mechanisms and algorithms which are controlled jointly by public security bodies, chiefly the Israeli police, and state funded private security companies (PSCs).
This flash report investigates the multiple layers of panoptic surveillance and control mechanisms operating in East Jerusalem, paying special attention to ‘Mabat 2000’ project and exposing corporate complicity in it. The report sheds light on the project’s central position within Israel’s broader security apparatus in the occupied city. It looks at specific government policies that facilitate the installation of cutting-edge visual surveillance networks by the police and PSCs across occupied East Jerusalem. Moreover, the report illustrated how former members of Israel’s security institutions privatize knowledge and generate profit through corporations. Finally, the report reveals the system’s adverse impact on Palestinians and the ways in which the site of the Old City and its Palestinian residents are being used as a testing ground as well as a marketing tool by Israeli and international corporations.