Israel’s security agency defends using tool that sent threatening messages to Palestinian protesters in 2021

Israel’s internal security agency Shin Bet is defending the use of a sophisticated surveillance tool that was used to send threatening text messages to Palestinian protesters during unrest at Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy site two years ago.

A prominent civil rights group has asked Israel’s Supreme Court to halt the practice, saying the threatening messages got past the Shin Bet authorities. He also noted that the messages were erroneously sent to people not involved in the riots.

In a May 4 presentation, the Shin Bet asked the court to drop the case. He claimed the tracking technology was a legitimate tool within his authority.


It described the failed messages as an isolated error, said it identified “several specific flaws in the way messages are sent,” and updated its guidelines to prevent similar errors in the future.

He described the tool as “proportionate, balanced and very reasonable”.

The messages were sent to hundreds of Palestinians in May 2021, at the height of one of the city’s most turbulent periods in recent years. At the time, Palestinian protesters were clashing with Israeli police at the Al Aqsa mosque in violence that helped fuel an 11-day war between Israel and militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

map of israel

A location map showing Israel and the Palestinian territories. Israel defended a surveillance tool that sent threatening messages to Palestinian protesters two years ago. (AP Photo)

Using cell phone tracking technology, the Shin Bet sent a text message to people it believed were involved in the clashes and told them “we will hold you accountable” for acts of violence.

Recipients included both Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem, who hold Israeli residency rights, and Palestinian citizens of Israel. While some recipients had participated in the clashes, others, including people who lived, worked or prayed in the area, received the message erroneously and said they were surprised or frightened. Israeli Jews in the area are not reported to have received the message.


The Association for Civil Rights in Israel has warned that such mass messages could have a “chilling effect” on Israel’s Palestinian minority and says the Shin Bet should properly investigate anyone suspected of violating the law.

Two of the group’s lawyers, Gil Gan-Mor and Gadeer Nicola, released a joint statement accusing the Shin Bet of using “intrusive surveillance tools” to intimidate citizens and communicate that they are under surveillance.

“Sending a threatening text message to a citizen is not an option in a democratic country,” they said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl