Microsoft should not fund Israeli spying on Palestinians

Glasses are seen in front of a computer screen showing a Microsoft logo in Ankara, Turkey on 19 July, 2018 [Aytaç Ünal/Anadolu Agency]

Glasses are seen in front of a computer screen showing a Microsoft logo on 19 July, 2018

By Ramzy Baroud 

The act of Palestinian activists covering their faces during anti-Israeli occupation rallies is an old practice that spans decades. The masking of the face, often by Kufyias – traditional Palestinian scarves that grew to symbolise Palestinian resistance – is far from being a fashion statement. Instead, it is a survival technique, without it, activists are likely to be arrested in subsequent nightly raids; at times, even assassinated.

In the past, Israel used basic technologies to identify Palestinians who take part in protests and mobilize the people in various popular activities. TV news footage or newspaper photos were thoroughly deciphered, often with the help of Israel’s collaborators in the Occupied Territories, and the ‘culprits’ would be identified, summoned to meet Shin Bet intelligence officers or arrested from their homes.

That old technique was eventually replaced by more advanced technology, countless images transmitted directly through Israeli drones – the flagship of Israel’s “security industry”. Thousands of Palestinians were detained and hundreds were assassinated in recent years as a result of drones data, analyzed through Israel’s burgeoning facial recognition software.

If in the past, Palestinian activists were keen on keeping their identity hidden, now they have much more compelling reasons to ensure the complete secrecy of their work. Considering the information sharing between the Israeli army and illegal Jewish settlers and their armed militias in the occupied West Bank, Palestinians face the double threat of being targeted by armed settlers as well as by Israeli soldiers.

True, when it comes to Israel, such a grim reality is hardly surprising. But what is truly disturbing is the direct involvement of international corporate giants, the likes of Microsoft, in facilitating the work of the Israeli military, whose sole aim is to crush any form of dissent among Palestinians.

Microsoft prides itself on being a leader in corporate social responsibility (CSR), emphasizing that “privacy (is) a fundamental human right.”

READ: Palestinians discover camouflaged surveillance device in Ramallah cemetery

The Washington-State based software giant dedicates much attention, at least on paper, to the subject of human rights. “Microsoft is committed to respecting human rights,” Microsoft Global Human Rights Statement asserts. “We do this by harnessing the beneficial power of technology to help realize and sustain human rights everywhere.”

In practice, however, Microsoft’s words are hardly in line with its action, at least not when its human rights maxims are applied to occupied and besieged Palestinians.

Writing in the American news network NBC News on October 27, Olivia Solon reported on Microsoft funding of the Israeli firm, AnyVision, which uses facial recognition “to secretly watch West Bank Palestinians”.

Through its venture capital arm M12, Microsoft has reportedly invested $78 million in the Israeli startup company that “uses facial recognition to surveil Palestinians throughout the West Bank, in spite of the tech giant’s public pledge to avoid using the technology if it encroaches on democratic freedoms”.

AnyVision had developed an “advanced tactical surveillance” software system, dubbed “Better Tomorrow” that, according to a joint NBC News-Haaretz investigation, “lets customers identify individuals and objects in any live camera feed, such as a security camera or smartphone, and then track targets as they move between different feeds.”

As disquieting as “Better Tomorrow’s” mission sounds, it takes on a truly sinister objective in Palestine. “According to five sources familiar with the matter,” wrote Solon, “AnyVision’s technology powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank.”

“One source said the project is nicknamed ‘Google Ayosh,’ where ‘Ayosh’ means occupied Palestinian territories and ‘Google’ denotes the technology’s ability to search for people.”

Headquartered in Israel, AnyVision has several offices around the world, including the US, the UK, and Singapore. Considering the nature of AnyVision’s work, and the intrinsic link between Israel’s technology sector and the country’s military, it should have been assumed that the company’s software is likely used to track down Palestinian dissidents.

Israel pass Facebook Bill which will authorise deleting content considered incitement - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

In July, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz pointed out that “AnyVision is taking part in two special projects in assisting the Israeli army in the West Bank. One involves a system that it has installed at army checkpoints that thousands of Palestinians pass through each day on their way to work from the West Bank.”

Former AnyVision employees spoke to NBC News about their experiences with the company, one even asserting that he/she “saw no evidence that ethical considerations drove any business decisions” at the firm.

The alarming reports invited strong protests by human rights organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Alas, Microsoft carried on with supporting AnyVision’s work unhindered.

This is not the first time that Microsoft is caught red-handed in its support of the Israeli military or criticized for other unethical practices.

Unlike Facebook, Google and others, who are constantly, albeit deservingly being chastised for violating privacy rules or allowing politics to influence their editorial agenda, Microsoft has been left largely outside the brewing controversies. But, like the rest, Microsoft should be held to account.

In its ‘Human Rights Statement’, Microsoft declared its respect for human rights based on international conventions, starting with the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

INTERVIEW: A Microsoft genius and a digital Palestine offer hope for the future

In occupying and oppressing Palestinians, Israel violates every article of that declaration, starting with Article 1, which states that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” and including Article 3: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”

It will take Microsoft more than hyperlinking to a UN document to show true and sincere respect for human rights.

Indeed, for a company that enjoys great popularity throughout the Middle East and in Palestine itself, an inevitable first step towards respecting human rights is to immediately divest from AnyVision, coupled with an apology for all of those who have already paid the price for that ominous Israeli technology.

(Source / 04.11.2019) 

Gantz backs assassinations and attacks on Gaza

Leader of the Blue and White political alliance, former chief of staff of the Israeli army, Benny Gantz speaks to his supporters during the final stage of his election campaign in Tel Aviv, Israel, 15 September 2019. [Faiz Abu Rmeleh - Anadolu Agency]

Leader of the Blue and White political alliance, former chief of staff of the Israeli army, Benny Gantz speaks to his supporters during the final stage of his election campaign in Tel Aviv, Israel, 15 September 2019

The leader of Israel’s Blue and White Party has called for a new round of military offensives against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, Arab48.com reported on Sunday. Benny Gantz also wants a return to the assassination of Palestinian leaders.

“A government led by me will not bear a threat against the residents in the south and will not accept undermining Israel’s sovereignty,” Gantz wrote on Twitter. “We will return deterrence with any cost, even if we are obliged to kill those who lead the escalations.” He added that he will back any policy which adopts a strict and responsible response aiming to bring lasting calm for the residents in the south of Israel. “This is our commitment for them.”

Kushner: ‘Israel is not the cause of all the suffering of the Palestinian people’ 

According to at least one member of the Israeli cabinet, a new offensive on Gaza is inevitable. “But Israel is weighing the appropriate time,” said Yoav Galant.

However, Israeli TV Channel 11 reported that the cabinet, which convened on Sunday, decided that there would be no more measures against Gaza and this “wave of escalation was ended.” Hamas and Islamic Jihad, it added, are not interested in any escalation, as it might affect the flow of aid from Qatar.

The cabinet also discussed an assassination policy, but could not agree about how this would affect the Palestinians and whether it would be a deterrent or not, so it was not approved.

(Source / 04.11.2019) 

Israel extends detention of female Palestinian MP

Member of Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and former lawmaker at the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Khalida Jarrar (C) is seen as she is welcomed by her supporters and relatives after she was released from detention lasted 20 months, at her house in Nablus, West Bank on 28 February 2019. [Issam Rimawi - Anadolu Agency]

Member of Palestinian Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and former lawmaker at the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Khalida Jarrar (C) is seen as she is welcomed by her supporters and relatives after she was released from detention lasted 20 months, at her house in Nablus, West Bank on 28 February 2019

An Israeli court yesterday extended the detention of female Palestinian lawmaker Khalida Jarrar, Al-Wattan Voice reported.

Jarrar is currently being investigated inside Israeli jails.

She is a senior leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Israeli occupation have arrested Jarrar twice since 2015. She was released from Israeli jails in February after spending 20 months in prison.

No details have been given as to why she was re-arrested.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) condemned her arrest and that of its other members.

“Detention of the MP Khalida Jarrar one of the Israeli actions that exposes Israel’s ugly face in relation to human rights and disrespect of the international law,” Hamas said in a statement following the arrest.

READ: Israel forces arrest researcher for human rights NGO B’Tselem. 

(Source / 04.11.2019) 

Including One Woman, Israeli Soldiers Abduct Fifteen Palestinians In The West Bank

Israeli soldiers abducted, Monday, fifteen Palestinians, including one woman, from several parts of the occupied West Bank, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Society (PPS) has confirmed.

The Hebron office of the PPS, in southern West Bank, said the soldiers stormed and ransacked many homes, and abducted Mousa al-‘Amour and Hasan al-Hreini, from Yatta town, south of the city.

The soldiers also installed several roadblocks on roads leading to the northern and southern parts of Hebron city, before stopping and searching dozens of cars, and interrogated many Palestinians while inspecting their ID cards.

In Jenin, in northern West Bank, the soldiers invaded Jenin refugee camp, searched homes and abducted Odai Shawqi Steiti.

In addition, the soldiers abducted a woman, identified as Kifah Ammouri, in front of Majeddo prison, while trying to visit her detained son, Wisam Hannoun.

The woman, from Jenin refugee camp, was taken prisoner when the families of the detainees protested after the army refused to allow them to give their detained family members winter clothing.

In Nablus, also in northern West Bank, the soldiers abducted Mustafa Abu ar-Rob and Ala Sawalma.

In Ramallah, in central West Bank, the soldiers abducted a former political prisoner, identified as Tamer Abda, from his home in Kafr Ni’ma village, and Saleh Ata, from Deir Abu Mashal.

Furthermore, the soldiers invaded many homes in the al-‘Ezariya town, near occupied East Jerusalem, and abducted Amjad Na’im Khatib, along with his son Na’im.

Three other Palestinians, identified as Mohammad Younis, Fayeq Habash, and Mohammad Habash, were abducted from their homes in the al-‘Isawiya town, in Jerusalem, and Ibrahim Kanaan, from ar-Ram town.

It is worth mentioning that, on Sunday evening, the soldiers abducted Awni Abu Shamsiyya, 20, and Bassam Abu Aisha, from their homes in Hebron city.

(Source / 04.11.2019) 

PCHR: 81st Great March of Return: IOF Shot and Injured 144 Palestinian Civilians

144 Palestinian civilians, including 53 children, 3 women, 2 paramedics and a journalist, were shot and injured by the Israeli occupation forces’ (IOF) fire against peaceful protestors at the 81st Great March of Return (GMR), this past Friday, 01 November 2019.

The increased number of injuries in this week’s GMR protest reflects an escalation in IOF use of excessive force, as 73 civilians sustained live-bullet-injuries, including 4 in critical condition, in addition to other injuries by rubber bullets and tear gas canisters mainly in protesters’ upper bodies.

Friday’s protest was entitled “Down with the Balfour Declaration” as it coincided with its 102nd anniversary. The Balfour Declaration was made by former British Foreign Affairs Secretary Arthur Balfour declaring “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” Large crowds participated in the protest, as thousands of civilians joined across the 5 GMR encampments raising the Palestinian flag and chanting.

The protests lasted from 2:00 pm to 6:30 pm and involved speeches and folklore performances, while hundreds of civilians protested at varied distances from the Gaza border with Israel. Some protestors set tires on fire, attempted to throw stones, Molotov Cocktails and firecrackers at IOF, who responded with live and rubber bullets as well as tear gas canisters.

Since the outbreak of GMR on 30 March 2018, PCHR documented 214 civilian killings by IOF, including 46 children, 2 women, 9 persons with disabilities, 4 paramedics and 2 journalists. Additionally, IOF shot and injured 14,599 civilians, including 3,646 children, 386 women, 252 paramedics and 218 journalists, noting that many sustained multiple injuries on separate occasions.

The following is a summary of Friday’s events along the Gaza Strip border:

Northern Gaza Strip: IOF shot and injured 47 civilians, including 20 children, 2 women and a paramedic: 24 with live bullets and shrapnel; 19 with rubber bullets; and 4 were hit with tear gas canisters. Shady Fayez Awadallah, 33, a paramedic, was shot with a rubber bullet in his leg.

In addition, Moath Mohammed Mohammed Abu-Amira, 25 was shot in the head with a live bullet, and is in extremely critical condition.

Gaza City: IOF shot and injured 12 civilians, including 3 children: 7 with live bullets and shrapnel and 5 with rubber bullets.

Central Gaza Strip: IOF shot and injured 13 civilians, including 5 children and a woman: 8 with live bullets, 3 with rubber bullets, and 2 were hit with tear gas canisters.

Khan Younis: IOF shot and injured 33 civilians, including 13 children and a paramedic: 7 shot with live bullets. In addition, many civilians suffocated due to tear gas inhalation; they received treatment on the spot. A few protestors set tires on fire adjacent to the border fence. Sami Moussa Abu-Moustafa, 35, a paramedic, sustained a rubber coated steel bullet wound to his hand. Abu-Moustafa volunteers with the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS); IOF also targeted a PRCS ambulance with rubber bullets, shattering its windshield with no injuries.

Rafah: IOF shot and injured 39 civilians, including 10 children and a journalist; three injuries were deemed critical: 27 with live bullet and shrapnel, 8 with rubber bullets and 4 were hit with tear gas canisters.

Abdulrahman Mohammed Deeb al-Khatib, 42, a freelance journalist, sustained a rubber coated steel bullet wound to his arm. Ahmed Jum’a al-Lolahy, 20 and Mohammed Saleh Ahmed Abu-Jarbou’, 20 were shot in their lower extremities with live bullets, and Mahmoud Abdulrahman Ramadan Abu-Taim, 18, sustained a live bullet to the head; all three are in critical condition.

(Source / 04.11.2019) 

HAMAS LEADER ADDRESSING ISRAELI PM: YOU WILL REGRET THE DAY YOU WERE BORN IF YOU COMMIT ANY FOLLY AGAINST GAZA

Gaza (QNN)- Hamas leader, Yahya Sinwar, on Monday threatened the next Israeli prime minister that he will regret the day he was born if he commit any folly against Gaza.

“If you think of committing any folly against the resistance, you will regret the day you were born”, Sinwar said in a meeting organized by the Islamic bloc in Gaza on Monday. “The Palestinian resistance is ready to strike Tel Aviv for six months in a row. Despite of the siege, the resistance has a military force that the enemy is making a big deal for”.

“We have thousands of missiles that would turn the occupation cities into ghost towns, if it [the occupation state] committed any folly against the strip or any of our major national issues”, he added.

“We have hundreds of kilometers of tunnels, hundreds of control rooms above and below the ground, thousands of anti-tank missiles that were made in Gaza.”

Sinwar also stated that Hamas, which did not hesitate to confront the occupation, knew well how to manage the conflict without pushing the strip towards an open war.

Regarding the Palestinian elections, Sinwar asserted that Hamas is ready for them and that it will overcome difficulties in order to ensure the success of the elections.

“We believe that even if Hamas does not win the elections, it couldn’t be more proud to bow to the will of people”, he assured.

(Source / 04.11.2019)

PRESS RELEASE ON THE SUSPENSION OF QNN’S TWITTER ACCOUNTS

On the dawn of Saturday, November 2, 2019, Quds News Network (QNN) was shocked to find that Twitter has suddenly and without any warning suspended all Network’s Twitter accounts, which include three verified accounts (QNN Arabic, QNN Breaking News, QNN English). A fourth account specialized in Palestinian prisoners’ News was suspended later on.

QNN confirms that no explanation or reasons about the suspension were provided by Twitter. However, the network followed the established technical procedures to appeal against the act and seek information on its causes. The network has been waiting ever since for a response, which it has not received yet.

QNN rejects the double-standards of social media, which are practiced when it comes to the Palestinian content. The network also rejects responding to the Israeli pressure, fighting the Palestinian content under the pretext of fighting “violence and terrorism”. Such practices are complete bias towards the Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people and their rights.

QNN affirms that social media’s compliance with the Israeli pressure and suspending accounts of media institutions contradicts its goals of “creating an environment for the freedom of expression”. Deliberate suspension violates as well the international instruments, which guarantee the right to press freedom. Social media platforms should commit to those international instruments and not turn into “tools of repression and silencing”, which are no different than dictatorships and repressive regimes.

QNN pledges to continue carrying out its journalistic mission, defending the rights and struggle of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation, and against any side’s acts, which target the Palestinian content in general.

(Source / 04.11.2019) 

Israeli officials call for strong attack on besieged Gaza

‘New offensive on Gaza is inevitable, but Israel is weighing the appropriate time,’ Israeli Cabinet Minister Yoav Galant said

Several Israeli officials have called for pounding besieged Gaza Strip with strong military attack; return to assassination of Palestinian leaders.

“A government led by me will not bear a threat against the residents in the south and will not accept undermining Israel’s sovereignty,” Leader of Israel’s Blue and White Party Benny Gantz wrote on Twitter.

Gantz added: “We will return deterrence with any cost, even if we are obliged to kill those who lead the escalations.”

He also said that he would back any policy which adopts a strict and responsible response aiming to bring lasting calm for the residents in the south of Israel. “This is our commitment for them.”

According to at least one member of the Israeli cabinet, a new offensive on Gaza is inevitable. “But Israel is weighing the appropriate time,” said Yoav Galant.

Gantz, who was the Israeli chief of staff during the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2014, said at the beginning of his electoral campaign that he was pound to return the besieged enclave to the stone age.

(Source / 04.11.2019) 

Israeli Forces Kidnap Two Palestinians In Hebron

The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) on Sunday evening kidnaped two Palestinian young men from a neighborhood in Hebron.

According to local sources, the IOF stormed Tel Rumeida neighborhood in central al-Khalil, amid intensive gunfire, and physically assaulted the family of activist Emad Abu Shamsiya.

The IOF also rounded up the son of Abu Shamsiya, Awni, and another young man called Bassam Abu Aisha.

(Source / 04.11.2019) 

Israeli Settler Hit-And-Run A Palestinian Girl In Bethlehem

Photo File

A Jewish settler driving at high speed ran over a Palestinian girl on Sunday evening and injured her on a road in Bethlehem, south of the occupied West Bank.

According to local sources, a settler rammed his car into a young girl as she was walking along with her brother on a road near the illegal settlement of Efrat in Bethlehem and escaped the scene.

The girl was rushed to the Beit Jala hospital in Hebron and her condition was described as stable.

She was identified as Dunya Awwad from the village of Wad Rahhal in southern Bethlehem.

(Source / 04.11.2019)