While Israel seeks to brand Jerusalem as its eternal and undivided capital, the existence of 300,000 Palestinian Jerusalemites lays bare the apartheid reality of the self-proclaimed Jewish State’s claim. For Israeli military and security firms, occupied East Jerusalem’s unique situation presents unique opportunities to develop new methods of enforcing occupation.
Ofek Aerial Photography is one of these companies. This firm has sold a Google Street View-style mapping system to Israeli military and police agencies used to plan operations in occupied East Jerusalem to the smallest detail. Called mobile mapping, the technology can be used for anything from measurements for home demolitions to shooter-style video game simulations of full-force military invasions.
The mobile mapping system “acquires two main features, spherical imagery and 360 degrees that can show all the streets and allows you to put overlays and take measurements, and laser scanning that allows you to see the exact same area,” said Ori Isenberg, a representative of Ofek Aerial Photography who I spoke to at the Intelligence, Terror and Special Forces conference last week.
The system was particularly useful during the prolonged assault on Shuafat neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem last summer following the murder of the Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir. “There was no mapping in East Jerusalem,” Isenberg said. “They [Israeli military] didn’t know what the doors are made from, if you have bars on the windows, if you have some vehicle going through the street because it’s too narrow… When they type the coordinates of the house they see exactly what they need to see.”
The demand from Israeli agencies for this technology is so reliable that Ofek Aerial Photography mapped out occupied East Jerusalem unprompted. “We know that someone will buy it. In East Jerusalem we are doing it for free,” he said. “We do have all of Jerusalem, especially East Jerusalem.”
Isenberg described the range of his company’s clientele. “We have clients all over all the sectors,” Isenberg said. “[They are] very diverse, from military to not military.”
As Ofek Aerial Photography continues to photograph, there has been what Isenberg called a “commercial priority,” in mapping in occupied East Jerusalem and Palestinian areas inside Israel. As the company correctly predicted that maps of occupied East Jerusalem would be profitable, the same goes for any Palestinian area, regardless of which side of the Green Line they are on.
Isenberg hinted that the technology may be used to photograph the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. When I asked him if this is happening, he replied, “You are not the first one.” Military figures are in frequent contact with Ofek Aerial Photography. “The military, every few weeks they are coming, asking more questions [and] going back to think about it,” Isenberg said.
Ofek Aerial Photography also has contracts with the World Bank. “We have projects – now we are starting in Zambia. We just finished huge projects in Ghana,” Isenberg told me.