Public Security Minister Admits Police Follow Activists on Facebook

Yizhak Aharonvitch defended the practice in response to questions by Labor MKs Stav Shaffir and Merav Michaeli about the tactics police use against social justice protestors.

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch admitted Monday night that Israel Police is following the Facebook accounts of social justice activists to gain information about the protests they are planning.

"The job of the police is to be prepared for these kinds of demonstrations: what size of a force to prepare, what kinds of units, whether it is necessary to bring special units," said Aharonovitch. "They are aided by all social media. I don't deny it. It's open to the public and to the police and it is part of intelligence gathering."

Aharonovitch didn't rule out the possibility that junior-ranking commanders had gathered evidence against social justice activists using their Facebook accounts but made clear that such behavior was against his own policy and the policy set by Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.

"It is possible that this is the local policy of a commander who did this. This isn't the policy of me, the police commissioner or of police command," said Aharonovitch. The minister's comments came in response to questions addressed to him by Labor MKs Stav Shaffir and Merav Michaeli in speeches before the Knesset. Shaffir, one of the leaders of the social justice protests, speculated during her speech that, "the government, which was afraid of the outcome of the social justice protests, tried to neutralize it by means of the police – the body that is actually entrusted with safety of the country's citizens.

"The police did many unusual things: Undercover policemen were sent to the tent encampments, activists' personal information was gathered through their Facebook profiles and activists were summoned for investigation even before a demonstration occurred," said Shaffir. She also mentioned that the government was currently engaged in legal proceedings against more than 40 protest activists.

In her speech, MK Michaeli addressed Aharonovitch, asking, "Is following the Facebook [profiles] of ideological young people who went out to protest against government policy the job of the police in a democratic state? Is this the way to suppress legitimate protest, through questionable means like these?"

Aharonovitch responded sharply to Michaeli's words.

"The role of the Israel Police isn't to suppress," said Aharonovitch. "This is a terrible word that I don't accept. The police has no intention of suppressing freedom of expression and freedom of assembly." He added, "The fact is that thousands of processions and thousands of demonstrations were held."

Daphni Leef being arrested.Credit: Alon Ron
Public Security Minister Yizhak Aharonvitch and Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

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