Welcome to the Panopticon: Israel’s Systematic Surveillance of Palestinians and the Implications for the World
Nov 18 2021
Recorded Thursday, November 18th
Andrew Anderson (Executive Director, Front Line Defenders), Marwa Fatafta (Access Now), Avner Gvaryahu (Breaking the Silence) and Sophia Goodfriend (7amleh)
in conversation with Lara Friedman (FMEP)
Three major stories broke over the past week about Israel’s cyber-surveillance of Palestinians, from hacking the phones of human rights defenders and officials, to increased monitoring of Jerusalemites, to the mass deployment of facial recognition software against Palestinians in the West Bank. To discuss these issues and their broader implications, FMEP is proud to host a conversation with four experts – Andrew Anderson (Front Line Defenders), Marwa Fatafta (Access Now), Avner Gvaryahu (Breaking the Silence), and Sophia Goodfriend (7amleh), in conversation with FMEP President Lara Friedman.
On November 8, news broke about an investigation by Front Line Defenders that revealed a virulent strain of Israeli spyware known as Pegasus had been found on the phones of multiple staff members of Palestinian human rights groups that two weeks earlier Israel designated as “terrorist groups.”
That same day, the Washington Post published a report – based on Israeli soldiers’ testimonies submitted to Breaking the Silence – detailing Israel’s use of facial recognition technology to build a surveillance database that includes nearly every single Palestinian in the West Bank. The report notes, among other things, that,
“To build the database used by Blue Wolf, soldiers competed last year in photographing Palestinians, including children and the elderly, with prizes for the most pictures collected by each unit. The total number of people photographed is unclear but, at a minimum, ran well into the thousands.”
Additionally on November 8th, the NGO 7amleh released a report entitled, “Intensification of Surveillance in East Jerusalem and Impact on Palestinian Residents’ Rights: Summer and Fall 2021,” examining the impact of biometric monitoring and digital surveillance in East Jerusalem.
Days later, on Nov. 11, news broke that Pegasus spyware had been found on the phones of three senior Palestinian Authority officials.
As +972’s Amjad Iraqi observed: “The back-to-back revelations…have made it harder for the world to ignore the growing dangers of Israel’s unchecked power. Palestinians have long warned that Israel has turned the occupied territories into a ‘laboratory’ for weapons and surveillance technologies, invoking a narrative of ‘counter-terrorism’ to serve as a guise for domination. The international community has repeatedly paid no heed, blindly accepting Israel’s dubious arguments and prioritizing the need to defend ‘Israeli security,’ without considering what it meant for ‘Palestinian security.’ Now, those states are realizing that Israel’s authoritarian methods are spilling onto their own turf.”
Andrew Anderson is Executive Director of Front Line Defenders in November 2016, a role he assumed in 2016. He previously served as Deputy Director since March 2003. Prior to joining Front Line Defenders, Andrew worked for thirteen years at the International Secretariat of Amnesty International where he was Director of the Campaigning and Crisis Response Programme and then Director of the Africa Programme. Andrew was a member of the Advisory Board of the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York, the Board of Trustees of the Tactical Technology Collective (www.tacticaltech.org) and the Board of Trustees of the Sudan Social Development Organisation UK (www.sudouk.org). He represents Front Line Defenders on the Board of the EU Human Rights Defenders Mechanism. He tweets @ettrick49.
Marwa Fatafta leads Access Now’s work on digital rights in the Middle East and North Africa region as the MENA Policy Manager. She is also a policy analyst at Al-Shabaka, The Palestinian Policy Network. Before joining Access Now, Marwa worked as the MENA Regional Advisor at Transparency International Secretariat in Berlin, and previously served as a Communications Manager at the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem. She was a Fulbright scholar to the US and holds an MA in International Relations from Syracuse University and an MA in Development and Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen. She tweets @marwasf
Avner Gvaryahu was born in the Israeli city of Rehovot and raised in the religious- Zionist community. During his army service, he served in the special forces of the paratroopers brigade, where he attained the rank of staff sergeant. A year after he was discharged he joined Breaking the Silence as a researcher and tour guide with a focus on working with world Jewry and later became director of the Public Outreach. Since August of 2017 he is the organization’s Executive Director. Avner holds a B.A. in Social Work from Tel Aviv University and an M.A from the Institute for the Study of Human Rights in Columbia University NY. He tweets @AGvaryahu
Sophia Goodfriend is a Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology at Duke University with expertise in digital rights and digital surveillance in Israel/Palestine. She joined 7amleh, the Arab Center for Social Media Advancement, as a researcher in the Summer of 2021 to investigate the impact of digital surveillance among Palestinian Jerusalemites. Sophia’s academic research is supported by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright-Hays Program, and the Palestinian American Research Center. Her work has appeared in Jewish Currents, Jacobin, the Boston Review, and Visual Anthropology Review. She holds a BA from Tufts University and a MA from the University of Chicago. She tweets @sopgood.
Lara Friedman is the President of the Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP). With more than 25 years working in the Middle East foreign policy arena, Lara is a leading authority on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, with particular expertise on the Israeli-Arab conflict, Israeli settlements, Jerusalem, and the role of the U.S. Congress. She is published widely in the U.S. and international press and is regularly consulted by members of Congress and their staffs, by Washington-based diplomats, by policy-makers in capitals around the world, and by journalists in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her work at FMEP, Lara is a Contributing Writer at Jewish Currents and a non-resident fellow at the U.S./Middle East Project (USMEP). Prior to joining FMEP, Lara was the Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now, and before that she was a U.S. Foreign Service Officer, serving in Jerusalem, Washington, Tunis and Beirut. She holds a B.A. from the University of Arizona and a Master’s degree from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service; in addition to English, Lara speaks French, Arabic, Spanish, (weak) Italian, and muddles through in Hebrew. She tweets @LaraFriedmanDC.
Resources Shared During this Webinar
Follow our panelists on Twitter & their websites
- Andrew Anderson → https://twitter.com/ettrick49
- Front Line Defenders → https://twitter.com/FrontLineHRD and frontlinedefenders.org
- Avner Gvaryahu → https://twitter.com/AGvaryahu
- Breaking the Silence → https://twitter.com/BtSIsrael and breakingthesilence.org.il
- Sophia Goodfriend → https://twitter.com/sopgood and sophiagoodfriend.com
- 7amleh → https://twitter.com/7amleh and 7amleh.org
- Marwa Fatafta → https://twitter.com/marwasf
- AccessNow → https://twitter.com/AccessNow and accessnow.org
The Breaking News reports
- 7amleh’s new report: “Intensification of Surveillance in East Jerusalem and Impact on Palestinian Residents’ Rights: Summer and Fall 2021”
- The Washington Post report → “Israel escalates surveillance of Palestinians with facial recognition program in West Bank” →
- Front Line Defenders: “Six Palestinian human rights defenders hacked with NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware”
- “Palestinians Say Israeli NSO Spyware Found on Three Senior Officials’ Phone” (Haaretz)
- “Spyware Used to Hack Palestinian Rights Defenders” (Statement by Access Now, Human Rights Watch, and human rights defenders & NGOs)
- Lara Friedman interviewed Ubai Aboudi, director of Bisan Center for Research and Development and one of the people targeted by Pegasus. Listen to the podcast here: “Israel’s Anti-Terror Law & Pegasus are Terrorizing Palestinian Human Rights Defenders”
- Access Now: “NSO’s Pegasus surveilled Palestinian activists — it’s time for a moratorium on spyware sales”
Palestine as a Laboratory for Surveillance Technology
- “Exporting the Tools of Apartheid” by Yousef Munayyer (Jewish Currents)
- “A peek inside Israel’s authoritarian laboratory” by Amjad Iraqi (+972 Magazine)
- “Israeli Soldiers Awoke, Gathered and Illegally Recorded Palestinian Minor” (Haaretz)
- On middle of the night photographs of children, see this Twitter thread from Breaking the Silence and their 2016 testimony on this activity: https://twitter.com/BtSIsrael/status/1460953704467775493