Palestinians condemn new revelations from Israeli surveillance


Activists from Palestinian groups recently designated by the Israeli government as “terrorist organizations” expressed outrage and determination on Monday following revelations that their phones had been hacked with Pegasus spyware, and amid the revelation of a extensive facial recognition surveillance campaign in the West Bank by the Israeli occupation forces.

“This is part of a systematic attack on human rights defenders and the values ​​of democracy and freedom.”

“It is difficult to describe the feeling of invasion and invasion of privacy,” Ubai Al-Aboudi, one of six Palestinian activists whose cell phones were found to be infected with Pegasus, spyware made by the private Israeli company NSO Group and used to target journalists and dissidents around the world—noted in an interview with Haaretz.

Al-Aboudi, executive director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development, a progressive civil society group and one of six Palestinian NGOs designated “terrorist organizations” by the Israeli government last month, responded to a report published Monday by Amnesty International’s Security Lab and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, revealing that their devices had been hacked.

The report, which analyzed data collected by human rights group Front Line Defenders, notes that the hacking took place before Israel designated the six groups as terrorist organizations.

“For three days after discovering the attack, my wife could not sleep,” Aboudi said. “Everyone thought about the personal things they talked about. Planting spyware is organized state terrorism designed to control Palestinian civil society.

Deborah Brown, researcher at Human Rights Watch, tweeted Monday, “When in doubt, technology fuels apartheid.”

Pegasus’ new revelations followed a report published Sunday in The Washington Post that the Israeli government is leading a massive effort in the illegally occupied West Bank to monitor Palestinians using facial recognition technology built into surveillance cameras and smartphones.

According to To post:

The surveillance initiative, rolled out over the past two years, partly involves a smartphone technology called Blue Wolf that captures photos of the faces of Palestinians and combines them with a database of images so large that a former soldier described it as the military’s “Facebook secret to the Palestinians.”

The phone app flashes in different colors to alert soldiers if someone needs to be detained, arrested, or left alone. To build the database used by Blue Wolf, soldiers participated in photographs of Palestinians, including children and the elderly last year, with prizes for the highest number of photos collected by each unit. The total number of people photographed is unclear but, at a minimum, numbered in the thousands.

The program was exposed by two members of the Israel Defense Forces who belong to the veteran-based human rights group Breaking the Silence. One of the IDF’s whistleblowers told the To post she felt compelled to speak out because she believes such surveillance is a “total violation of the privacy of an entire people”.

Another former IDF soldier said he was deployed to take as many photos of Palestinians as possible and upload them to Blue Wolf. He told the To post that if children were often willing to pose for photos, the elderly, especially women, would resist and that photographing them against their will was a traumatic experience.

Yaser Abu Markhyah, a 49-year-old Hebron resident whose family has endured Jewish colonization, ethnic cleansing and repression of the Israeli occupation for five generations, said mass surveillance deprives Palestinians of the little that they can afford. rest of their private life.

“The cameras only have one eye – to see the Palestinians. From the moment you leave your house until the moment you return home, you are on camera.

“We don’t feel comfortable socializing anymore because the cameras are still filming us,” he told the To post, adding that he does not allow his children to play outside.

Issa Amro, one of Abu Markhyah’s neighbors, noted the number of Palestinian families who have left the neighborhood due to Israeli restrictions and surveillance.

“They want to make our life so difficult for us to leave on our own, so that more settlers can settle in,” Amro told the To post. “The cameras only have one eye – to see the Palestinians. From the moment you leave your house until the moment you return home, you are on camera.

Blue Wolf and Pegasus revelations come days after U.S. Department of Commerce blacklisted NSO Group “for engaging in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

The agency said that Pegasus and Candiru, another Israeli company, “developed and supplied spyware to foreign governments which used these tools to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businessmen, etc. activists, academics and embassy workers “.

Digital rights group Access Now pointed to new revelations from Pegasus as proof of the need for a moratorium on spyware sales, a move urged by activists including the exiled NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“Over the past year, spyware allegations and disclosures have made headlines almost daily,” said Natalia Krapiva, technical legal advisor at Access Now, noted in a report. “From Palestine to Hungary, governments have had unrestricted access to the private information of regime activists, journalists and critics without any clear legal basis thanks to technology like Pegasus. “

“We need an immediate moratorium on the sale, transfer and use of these invasive surveillance technologies,” she added.

Al-Aboudi, who has dual Palestinian and US citizenship, said he would fight those responsible for hacking the activists’ phones.

“As a father, husband, human rights activist and American citizen, I will explore all options to hold those responsible for this hack accountable for their violations,” he said. Recount Irish weather. “For me, this is part of a systematic attack on human rights defenders and the values ​​of democracy and freedom.”



Thelma J. Longworth

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