Israel can monitor every telephone call in West Bank and Gaza, says intelligence source

‘Harsh invasion of privacy’ provides Israeli Security Agency with a system of control over the Palestinians


A woman uses her phone in a courtroom in Nablus, occupied West Bank in February 2021 (AFP)

Lubna Masarwa, Middle East Eye, 15 November 2021

Israel can listen to every telephone conversation taking place in the West Bank and Gaza, a former member of the Israeli Army’s elite signals intelligence unit 8200 has told Middle East Eye.

Every mobile or phone imported into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing – in Gaza’s south – is implanted with an Israeli bug, and anyone using the only two mobile networks serving the occupied territories – Jawwal and Wataniya – is being monitored as well, the former signals intelligence member said.

‘Sometimes these are private conversations, maybe even intimate conversations… Soldiers save the conversations and send them to their friends’

Former member of the Israeli Army’s elite signals intelligence unit 8200

At any given time, hundreds of soldiers are listening to the conversations being conducted. The audio monitoring falls into two groups. The first is Palestinians who are politically active or who represent a security threat in Israel’s view. The second level of monitoring is used by Shin Bet, the domestic security service to find “pressure points” in Palestinian society.

“It might be finding gays who can be pressured to report on their relatives, or finding some man who is cheating on his wife. Finding someone who owes money to someone, let’s say, means that he can be contacted and offered money to pay his debt in exchange for his collaboration,” the army veteran said.

“This is an entire world in which the Shin Bet can acquire power over Palestinians that ultimately forces them to collaborate or reveal things about other people, and it is all part of the system of control,” he said.

Living without privacy

The army veteran was speaking in the wake of the Washington Post’s revelations about Blue Wolf, facial recognition technology that alerts soldiers at checkpoints to detain suspects.

The “grunt work” of this system of mass surveillance is done by Jewish Israeli soldiers who studied Arabic as part of their military service. They are monitored by Druze soldiers or Jewish soldiers of Syrian descent for whom Arabic is their mother tongue. They transcribe the conversations, whose texts are translated and sent to the army’s intelligence units and to Shin Bet.

He said there were no limits to Israel’s ability to invade Palestinians’ private and public lives. And there appear to be no limits as to what soldiers do with the conversations they have intercepted.

“Sometimes these are private conversations, maybe even intimate conversations. People who are soldiers in the army would laugh when they heard sex talk. Soldiers save the conversations and send them to their friends. This is a very harsh invasion of the privacy of every Palestinian living there,” he said.

The soldiers who do this do not regard their surveillance as a moral or ethical problem.

“The people around them, and their families, tell them that this is proper; everyone supports them. Their commander, their parents, the state, their friends… There is no reason that soldiers should think that what they are doing is not okay,” he said.

Meet Blue Wolf, the app Israel uses to spy on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank

The recent revelations about Pegasus and Blue Wolf are nothing new to Palestinians who have grown up under constant surveillance.

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Escalating surveillance calls for escalated action: #StandWiththe6

News broke today that NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware has been detected on phones of six Palestinian rights defenders, three of whom work for Al-Haq, Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, and the Bisan Center for Research and Development, organizations that Israel recently criminalized.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post has uncovered a massive Israeli military facial recognition program threatening the safety of the Palestinian people, with Israeli military units photographing thousands of Palestinians to track and criminalize everyone from the children to the elderly. Read more in this policy memo.

These developments are part of the Israeli regime’s calculated, systematic acts of repression and violence against the Palestinian people.

Pegasus is a tool of repression, weaponized by authoritarian governmentswhich can gain access to essentially everything on a phone, from activating the microphone to tracking the location. An investigative report released by Front Line Defenders, an international human rights organization, reveals the pattern of Israel’s repressive violence while calling for “an immediate global moratorium on the export, sale, transfer and use of surveillance technology until an adequate human rights regulatory framework is in place.” 

Surveillance tech is a threat against all our communitiesThe Israeli regime exports its weapons and surveillance tech, field-tested on Palestinian people, to oppressive regimes around the worldthreatening everyone’s safety while systematically targeting Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

In the words of USCPR’s Executive Director, Ahmad Abuznaid, “We know what repression looks like. The Israeli regime is a separate-and-unequal apartheid state employing every last authoritarian tactic at its disposal, but we know the truth: that liberation is coming and Palestine will be free.

Liberation is coming so long as we continue our collective efforts toward justice. You can take action today by asking the White House and Congress to echo international calls to investigate Israel’s acts of surveillance. The U.S. government must take actionable steps toward accountability while divesting from surveillance technologies that erode our shared human rights. 

Contact the White House & Congress Now

This moment calls for collective action in order to protect our collective safety across borders. In defense of Palestinian human rights and human rights everywhere, continue to demand accountability for Israel’s crimes. 

In solidarity,
SANA SIDDIQ
Manager of Policy & Advocacy Campaigns

P.S. Read these statements from the #StandWithThe6 organizations and the Palestinian Digital Rights Coalition, and uplift their demands for immediate action from the international community. Find more resources to share in this social media toolkit.

 

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Digital Censorship Of Palestinians

Israel requests social media to remove content


Speaking at the panel with the 7amleh digital rights team on Monday, Mahmoud Franji, the coordinator for the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), said such a tool is needed now more than ever [Hisham Daraghmeh/Al Jazeera]

Wisconsin Muslim Journal, Nov 5, 2021

Ramallah, occupied West Bank – A new open-source online platform has been launched to centralize digital rights violations and censorship by social media companies against Palestinians and Palestine-related content.

In a news conference in Ramallah on Monday, the Arab Center for Social Media Development (7amleh), which built the website, said the tool will allow for more detailed and proficient documentation of violations, and rights groups to better follow-up with relevant social media companies over posts, pages, or accounts that have been singled out.

The group highlighted the relevance of such a tool in light of the recent mass censorship in May of Palestine-related content during digital mobilization over the Israeli war on Gaza and attempts at ethnic cleansing in the Palestinian neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.

Titled the Palestinian Observatory of Digital Rights Violations (7or, or “free” in Arabic), the website provides users with the ability to report the different actions taken against them over their posts, including account suspension and content takedown. It also includes a searchable database bringing together years of recorded violations by 7amleh and other local groups.

7amleh said the platform will “fill a gap” faced by local institutions consisting of access to “a practical, detailed and organized database of digital rights violations against Palestinians.”

Ahmed al-Qadi, the monitoring and documentation coordinator for 7amleh, said this will be the first tool, both in Palestine and regionally “to provide real-time data” on digital abuses against Palestinians.

“This kind of reporting and documentation doesn’t exist now. There is no systematic [Palestinian] work to confront these large companies, and there are not many organizations that work on digital rights in the country,” said al-Qadi, adding that 7amleh, along with other rights groups, are “trying to create a consortium to be able to pressure through all the available means – to lobby, conduct advocacy, and embarrass these companies.

“The more reports and the real data we get, the more we are able to put pressure on these companies so that they no longer have the space to deny that they are conducting these violations,” he continued.


Palestinian university students attend the news conference saying their content was censored in May [Hisham Daraghmeh/Al Jazeera]

May events

Social media giant Facebook came under fire by users in May after their Palestine-related content, including on Instagram which it owns, was taken down without prior notice or a reason provided, while accounts were suspended or shut down. Others, including influencers, reported a significant drop in the number of views on stories, or participants on lives, when they posted content on Palestine or used viral hashtags such as #SaveSheikhJarrah.

In a recent report, 7amleh said between May 6-19, it recorded more than 500 reports of Palestinian digital rights abuses that “showed a significant increase in the censorship of Palestinian political speech and narrative online” with some 50 percent of complaints against Instagram, 35 percent against Facebook and 11 percent against Twitter.

Speaking on the panel on Monday, Mahmoud Alafranji, the coordinator for the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) said the May popular outburst “showed the extent to which Palestinian content, and the entire narrative, is being targeted”, and such a platform is needed to aid in the protection of Palestinian free speech, and in international advocacy and mobilization.

Al-Qadi said the figures currently being reported on, however, “do not represent the reality” where violations are much higher against accounts inside and outside of Palestine.

“That’s also a key goal in creating the platform – we want to strengthen and encourage the culture of reporting violations because most people don’t report,” he said.

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Human Rights Groups: ‘Israel targeted us for one reason’

‘We’re succeeding in changing the paradigm’

After being outlawed as ‘terrorist organizations’ overnight, Palestinian human rights groups talk to +972 about why Israel’s allegations are not just unfounded, but amount to an act of political persecution.

Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer, seen at the organization’s offices in Ramallah, the West Bank on February 19, 2019. (Photo: Mohannad Darabee for +972 Magazine)
Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer, seen at the organization’s offices in Ramallah, the West Bank on February 19, 2019. (Photo: Mohannad Darabee for +972 Magazine)

Yuval Abraham, +972 Magazine, October 25, 2021

When Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz signed an executive order last week declaring six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist organizations,” the government did not even bother with putting on a facade of due process. With the swift stroke of a pen, the NGOs — Al-Haq, Addameer, Bisan Center, Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union for Agricultural Work Committees, and the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees — were instantly outlawed with neither a trial nor the opportunity to respond to the accusations against them.

Yet rather than question the dubious nature of this move, the vast majority of Israeli media outlets simply cribbed the Defense Ministry’s official statement on the matter, which accused the six organizations of serving as “arms” of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) — a secular, Marxist-Leninist party and movement deemed a terrorist group by Israel.

The government claimed that the NGOs whitewashed funds intended for humanitarian reasons and transferred them for military purposes instead, further accusing the organizations’ employees of belonging, either in the past or present, to the PFLP. Right-wing Israeli groups, too, have for years tried to draw connections between these organizations and the PFLP in an effort to cut off their funding abroad.

The Defense Ministry’s decision was based on intelligence gathered by the Shin Bet, which it has not revealed to the public. But according to sources with knowledge of the legal case, the agency’s evidence is reportedly based on the testimony of a sole employee who was terminated from one of the organizations for corruption.

Evidence that contradicts the Shin Bet’s account, however, exists in spades. Over the past five years, under pressure from the Israeli government and pro-Israel NGOs, multiple European governments and private foundations that provide funding to Palestinian civil society have conducted extensive audits of each of the six organizations. None found any evidence of foul play.

Employees at Addameer seen following a raid by Israeli forces on their office, Ramallah, West Bank, December 11, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Employees at Addameer seen following a raid by Israeli forces on their office, Ramallah, West Bank, December 11, 2012. (Issam Rimawi/Flash90)

Moreover, the targeted organizations themselves paint an entirely different picture from the allegations meted out by the Shin Bet — with much evidence to back them up.

I spoke to the heads or senior members of five of the NGOs, all of whom are prominent activists, lawyers, and thinkers who harshly criticize both the Israeli regime and the Palestinian Authority [the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees declined to speak to Local Call, +972’s Hebrew sister site, where a version of this article was first published]. Vehemently rejecting Israel’s accusations, they describe these latest attacks as part of Israel’s years-long political persecution of Palestinian civil society in order to silence their work.

‘We have nothing to hide’

“We are the only human rights group that focuses on children in Palestine,” said Ayed Abu Eqtaish, the ​​Accountability Program Director at Defense for Children International-Palestine, which was founded in 1991.

“Our job is twofold,” he explained. “The first is legal: we represent around 200 children a year in Israeli and Palestinian courts. The second is policy-based: since 2000, we have documented the killing of over 2,200 Palestinian children at the hands of Israeli military forces, particularly in Gaza.”

The Defense Ministry briefing that was distributed to journalists following Gantz’s announcement did not specify the specific reason for labeling DCI-Palestine, a highly-respected organization that is active in the UN committees and on Capitol Hill, as a “terrorist organization.”

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#StandWithThe6 and Call Out Biden

Register for & share the Wednesday Power Half-Hour #StandWithThe6 Call-In to Call Out Biden

Join us for the Power Half-Hour #StandWithThe6 Call-In to Call Out Biden. Join us for 30 minutes on Wednesday, November 3, 2pm ET / 1pm CT / 12pm MT / 11am PT to be part of a wave of people power flooding the White House’s reactivated comments line (202-456-1111) to #StandWithThe6. We’ll take action together and also hear analysis to shape our grassroots advocacy strategy in this moment, in order to advance an end to U.S. military funding to Israel, uplifting effective human rights advocacy work that Israel is working so hard to silence.

Drive Emails for H.Res. 751 #StandWithThe6 Resolution

Just a reminder that we have an email action tool and accompanying social media toolkit for the letter launch. 300 organizations have signed and individual signers are still welcome!

9 progressives joined as original cosponsors on H.Res.751 – Condemning the repressive designation by the Government of Israel of six prominent Palestinian human rights and civil society groups as terrorist organizations. Rep. Holmes Norton has since joined. We’re disturbed by silence from high profile ‘Progressive Except Palestine’ Representatives who claim to care about human rights.


Action Guide for Israel’s Assault on Human Rights Defenders

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 22 Oct 2021

Earlier today, the Israeli Ministry of Defense designated six leading Palestinian human rights and civil society organizations, such as Defense for Children International – Palestine and Addameer, as “terrorist organizations.”
This is another front in the expansion of lawfare and a dangerous expansion of Israel’s attacks on Palestinian dignity, livelihood, and activism.

These six vital organizations are dedicated to defending human rights, children’s rights, political prisoner’s rights, farmer’s lands and livelihoods, gender justice, and more.
Repressive governments have long used baseless claims of ‘terrorism’ to imprison and criminalize advocates for justice, a tactic U.S. organizations in the Black Lives Matter, environmental justice, and Palestine solidarity movements are all too familiar with.
This strategy is textbook repression, which apartheid Israel is employing to intimidate and silence Palestinian human rights defenders who dare to hold it accountable for its crimes.

We declare our solidarity with these six partners in Palestine, and we’re sounding the alarm. Please join us in taking action today and in the coming days:

  1. Share this USCPR statement on social media to raise awareness and declare your solidarity: Twitter thread, Instagram post, and Facebook post.
  2. Check out our online Action Guide for more background and other actions to take. (This is evolving and will continue to get updated going forward.)
  3. If you’re in the U.S., use our partner Jewish Voice for Peace Action’s click-to-call tool to raise your voice with Congress now.

Thank you so much for your support and solidarity.

Israel labels 6 Palestinian human rights organizations ‘terrorist’

If Mark Pocan is your representative, please contact his office and thank him, BUT request that he speak out more forcefully and publicly on this.

Pocan’s direct contact info:

  • Madison phone: 608-258-9800
  • DC phone: 202-225-2906
  • Email form

Also, please sign and circulate this petition from If Not Now:

Sec. Blinken: Condemn Israel’s “Terrorist” Designation of Palestinian Human Rights Groups. This is a nationally coordinated campaign by many groups, so be sure to do this! And spread the word.

ISRAELI DIPLOMAT PRESSURED UNC TO REMOVE TEACHER WHO CRITICIZED ISRAEL

An Israeli consul general baselessly accused a graduate student of antisemitism and said she shouldn’t teach a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.


The University of North Carolina campus in Chapel Hill, N.C., on April 21, 2013. Photo: Lance King/Getty Images

Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept, September 28 2021

This August, Israeli consular officials in the southeast U.S. arranged meetings with a dean at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to discuss a graduate student teaching a course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to two UNC professors with knowledge of the meetings, who asked for anonymity for fear of retribution, the Israeli official accused the Ph.D. student of antisemitism and said she was unfit to teach the course.

The intervention by an Israeli government official, Consul General to the Southeastern United States Anat Sultan-Dadon, followed a pressure campaign by right-wing pro-Israel websites and an advocacy group to remove the graduate student, Kylie Broderick, from teaching the history department course called “The Conflict over Israel/Palestine.” The websites and pro-Israel advocacy group pointed to postings Broderick had made on Twitter that criticized Israel and Zionism and, without evidence, cited the postings as evidence of antisemitism.


UNC Ph.D. student Kylie Broderick.
Photo: Courtesy of Kylie Broderick

In addition to the intervention by the Israeli government, the school faced pressure from a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the two UNC professors told The Intercept. The professors said Rep. Kathy Manning, D-N.C., also met with the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences to exert pressure over Broderick’s course.

“It is not a new phenomenon where outside parties have tried to stifle academic freedom on this subject,” Broderick said. “But these people have never seen me teach, never seen my past evaluations which have said that I treat students fairly, and thus have no right to dictate what I say inside the classroom.”

Israel-Palestine has become one of the most politicized areas of academia, with periodic firings of professors, prosecutions of students, and even the maintenance of public blacklists helping impose an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship over the topic. Even by that standard, the intervention of Israeli government officials directly with an American university over the teaching of a course represents a troubling new threat to academic freedom.

“I think that a representative of a foreign government attempting to police an academic class is, in the first place, ridiculous, and an obvious overreaction to what is essentially an issue that started on Twitter,” Broderick said. “I also think it is strange that the Israeli consulate general was granted an audience. If this was a class on Hungary or Australia, would the university have permitted the attempted interference of a foreign government? The fact that this meeting happened at all is clearly a threat to academic freedom.”

“The fact that this meeting happened at all is clearly a threat to academic freedom.”

The controversy started over several tweets sent by Broderick that were highly critical of Israel and U.S. foreign policy, including support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement against Israel. Broderick rejected accusations leveled by Israeli consular officials that her criticisms of Israel on social media constituted antisemitism. “A critique of Israel and the political ideology of Zionism does not constitute bigotry any more than a critique of Iran, which calls itself an Islamic Republic, constitutes an Islamophobic attack,” Broderick said. ”States are not religions, nor are states a people.”

Broderick had expected scrutiny some of her teaching, as Israel is always a hot-button issue in the United States. What she did not was the degree to which the smear campaign against her would balloon, up to and including interventions from officials of two governments.

In a statement to The Intercept, Sultan-Dadon confirmed the meeting with the dean of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences about Broderick. Though Sultan-Dadon declined to comment on the specifics of the discussion, she doubled down on her view that Broderick was antisemitic and unfit to teach a course on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Regarding the matter of the course ‘The Conflict over Israel/Palestine’ at UNC Chapel Hill taught by PhD student Ms. Broderick, I do have significant concerns regarding public statements that have been made by Ms. Broderick on this subject matter, some of which are not only heavily biased, but fall clearly under what is defined as antisemitic by the IHRA working definition of antisemitism,” Sultan-Dadon said, referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s heavily contested definition of antisemitism.

The consul general went on: “I think it should be of concern to anyone who stands against antisemitism, and for academic freedom, that an individual who has not only made public antisemitic statements in reference to Israel and the Israeli Palestinian conflict, but also publicly stated that she does not believe there are two sides to this conflict and does not want to teach her students both sides, is the selected teacher for a course on ‘The Conflict over Israel/Palestine.’”

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When anti-Black and anti-Palestinian racism converge


In his resignation letter Dr Cornel West warns of ‘an intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy’ in US academia [Getty]

Sahar F. Aziz, The New Arab, 23 Jul, 2021

It is no secret that Palestine is taboo in US academia. Harvard’s recent denial of tenure to renowned race scholar Cornel West is the most recent instance. 

For decades, Arab American faculty have faced tenure denial or termination; students have been reprimanded and some even criminally charged; and Middle East studies programmes are under constant threat of defunding.  All based on the fallacious claim that teaching, research, and activism that brings to light Israel’s rampant violations of Palestinian human rights is axiomatically anti-Semitic

Big donors, alumni, and well-funded legal advocacy groups unabashedly command university administrators to cancel classes and programmes aimed to provide students with the experiences and voices of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. Never mind that cowering to such demands undermines a university’s most fundamental tenet: academic freedom. 

“Cowering to such demands undermines a university’s most fundamental tenet: academic freedom”

As they become ever more dependent on private donations and external grants to cover operational expenses, university administrators often oblige

University leadership perversely proclaims the importance of civility and inclusion to justify silencing and exclusion. That is, exposing students to the systems and experiences of Palestinian oppression by Israel is allegedly so divisive that they should be stifled because otherwise Jewish students will feel unsafe and unwelcome on college campuses. 

These same administrators do not seem to care that Arab American, Muslim American, and Palestinian American students experience hostile environments on account of stereotypes that Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims are terrorists. As I explain in my book, The Racial Muslim, Orientalist and Islamophobic stereotypes are due in large part to how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is erroneously taught in schools and depicted in mainstream media as between violent, anti-Semitic Palestinians and a blameless, democratic Israeli state.

Anti-Palestinian racism is thus the rule, not the exception, in American universities and the public square.

Indeed, Dr West’s scathing resignation letter only confirms this reality when he states, “to witness a faculty enthusiastically support a candidate for tenure then timidly defer to a rejection based on the Harvard administration’s hostility to the Palestinian cause was disgusting.”

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