Israeli soldiers standing guard at the Qalandiyah checkpoint in the West Bank on March 7, 2018. ABBAS MOMANI/AFP

Israeli Army Setting Up Extensive Database With Personal Details of Palestinians Collected at Checkpoints

After Haaretz reported that soldiers are erecting random checkpoints to collect personal details of Palestinians, the military explains it's part of Israel's use of big-data to foil terror attacks

The personal details of West Bank Palestinian men that the army recently began collecting is intended for an anti-terror database. Career and reserve officers said the hope is that the information, from randomly selected individuals, can be used to foil terror attacks and to help the security forces to operate after such attacks.

>>> Israeli army erects West Bank checkpoints to collect Palestinians' personal details

As Haaretz reported Wednesday, the army recently began to collect personal details of West Bank Palestinian men. Soldiers set up temporary checkpoints, requiring young men who pass through to fill out forms listing their name, age, telephone number, identification number, type of vehicle and license number. They also must submit a photocopy of their ID and giving both the origin and destination of the trip that brought them to the checkpoint.

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The details are collected randomly, from young men — women, children and old people are exempt — who aren’t suspected of a crime or who have a police record. Soldiers who took part in the activity say the aim is to obtain as many details about the people they detain as possible.

The checkpoints operate in the early morning, when large numbers of Palestinians are on the way to work, further exacerbating the usual rush-hour traffic jams.

The soldiers at each checkpoint must submit at least 100 completed forms for each shift, while the quota for the foot patrols is 30.

Soldiers in compulsory service, not to mention soldiers doing reserve duty, have bridled at the new policy, questioning the invasion of privacy that it entails as well as the disturbance to daily life.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has hinted on several occasions about Israel’s use of “big data” to foil terror attacks. But until now the information was scraped from social media and signals intelligence by the army’s Unit 8200 and the Shin Bet security service.

The outgoing chief of Central Command, Maj. Gen. Roni Numa, spoke about the Israel Defense Forces dealing with “lone-wolf assailants.”

“In the past three years we have dealt with changes in the Palestinian arena,” Numa said. “In addition to organized terror and spontaneous terrorism we’ve learned to deal with for dozens of years, we’ve had to find a solution to ‘inspired terror.’ During this period intelligence and operative tools were developed. Since the outbreak of the recent terror wave hundreds of intentions to carry out attacks were detected and thwarted.”

Ron Zaidel of Breaking the Silence said this was “ratcheting up the surveillance of the general Palestinian population.”

“It seems this is a project to set up an extensive databank. Another example that ruling millions of Palestinians requires us to improve the soldiers’ methods in order to deepen the occupation and protect the settlements,” he said.

Meretz party Secretary General Mossi Raz said “the IDF is again using practices of intimidation and threats over civilian population, creating an illegal reserve of personal details. Instead of our children serving the IDF they are carrying out policing jobs that would put dark regimes to shame.”

The IDF said its forces were carrying out inspections in the West Bank as part of “an operative perception and to prevent error, while attempting to disrupt the residents’ routine in a minimal way. The detained drivers are asked a few questions, used for security needs. In contrast to the report, there is no quota the soldiers have to fill.”

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