The videos are all over YouTube. Masked Israeli soldiers storm a Palestinian family's home in the middle of the night. Parents, dressed in nightwear, are suddenly surrounded by heavily armed men in balaclavas.
Young children are forced awake. With a mix of bleary-eyed confusion and fear, they are made to answer questions posed to them in broken Arabic by these faceless, armed strangers. They are lined up in one room while the soldiers take photographs of them holding their identity cards. And then, just as suddenly as they arrived, the masked men disappear into the night.
There are no questions beyond identifying the people in the house. No one is "arrested". There's no obvious purpose; just a family's sense of security permanently wrecked.
To most people watching these startling videos, such scenes look like an Orwellian nightmare. And sure enough, Israel has given this procedure an Orwellian name: "intel mapping".
Last week, under pressure from the courts, the Israeli army announced that it had ended the practice of "mapping", unless - and this will be a loophole easily exploited - there are "exceptional circumstances".
Given that the families whose homes, privacy and dignity are invaded are not suspected of any offence, it is difficult to imagine what "exceptional circumstances" could ever justify these degrading and terrifying raids.Masked intruders
In announcing its decision, the Israeli army said that in the digital age, there were other tools it could use to gain intelligence on Palestinians, beyond randomly invading their homes with guns in the middle of the night. A statement added that it was a humanitarian gesture aimed at "mitigating the disruption of citizens' everyday life".
Except, of course, Palestinians are not Israeli "citizens"; they are subjects without rights living under a belligerent military occupation. And this is not about "disruption" - Palestinians aren't facing an unexpected train delay - but a form of collective punishment, and therefore a war crime.
As a report by three Israeli human rights organisations published last November observed, "it is highly doubtful that any instance of mapping could be considered legal under international law". Nonetheless, these home invasions are commonplace. They are integral to the Israeli army's policy of surveilling, controlling and persecuting Palestinians.
According to figures compiled by the United Nations, the Israeli army carried out around 6,400 "search or arrest operations" in 2017 and 2018 alone - with each operation potentially including more than one home. Research by Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, shows that the vast majority of such operations start between midnight and 5am.
"Intel mapping" operations have been particularly difficult for the army to justify on any kind of security grounds. That led earlier this year to unwelcome scrutiny from Israel's top court, which gave the army until August to divulge the wording of its "mapping" protocol. The army's cancellation of the practice last week means that the rationale for traumatising thousands of Palestinian families over many years will continue to be a secret.
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