May 17, 2020

London - The Palestinian civil society institutions represented by the International Platform of NGOSIPalestine, on the International Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD), deplores Israel’s policies of monitoring Palestinian individuals and institutions violating their rights to privacy. The platform, in this regard, firmly refuses these policies in general and Israel’s recent policy of using technology through the “Coordinator” phone application as an indirect and forcible way of monitoring Palestinians in specific, considering such acts as crossing the red lines.

17 May marks the anniversary of the signing of the first International Telegraph Convention and the creation of the International Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD). The United Nations on this day has declared that purpose of this day is to help raise awareness of possibilities that the use of the internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring to societies and economies as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide. However, on this day today, and every day since the 10 years Israel has been using technology as a way to constrain the Palestinian individuals and institutions’ movements to control their freedom preventing them from their rights to speak, publish, and move.

Today, as the outbreak of the Corona VIRUS (Covid-19) has expanded, the Israeli occupation not only dealt with the Palestinian workers in “racism” through throwing them on the roadside leaving the without health care on suspension of being infected with the Coronavirus, but rather increased its military measures that included security and espionage plans in its folds. The Israeli occupation has forced the Palestinian workers to download a special mobile application known as “Al-Monaseq” or “the Coordinator” as a condition of their stay and eligibility to work in the 48 areas. This came immediately the closure of the liaison offices leaving this application to become the only instrument for communication.

This move, according to the Israeli occupation, aims to facilitate the knowledge of the workplace of the Palestinians under the pretext of continuing the coordination between the workers and their employers to allow the workers to continue working and obtain wages through this stage, help Palestinian workers find out the validity of their permission to enter Israel along with the movement on the Israeli checkpoints on a daily base. However, according to the Israeli information and press investigations, this application allows the Israeli Intelligence Service to track the mobile phones of the workers and access their geographical location, camera, messages, and files saved on the phone which violates the right to privacy of the holder.

Under the name of fighting the Coronavirus, Israel has been using its technological abilities to spy on the Palestinians without any legal supervision tending to use the British Emergency laws to confront the Palestinians where there is no deterrent against the Israeli military machine. For example, named my Israel as “Unit No.8000,” this unit is established by the Israeli authorities to gather information about the Palestinians through electronic tools, and all of these acts take place without any guarantee to respect the privacy of the Palestinians.  Thus, this new application is considered as one of the procedures practiced by this unit to break the privacy of the Palestinian, control their movements, and exploit their information against those Palestinians and their families since Israel has been known for blackmailing Palestinians to achieve its goals.

The Knesset committee has rejected the Israeli Prime Minister’s, Benjamin Netanyahu request to use this technology before the Corona pandemic, however, as soon as the Coronavirus has started to spread Netanyahu used the British emergency laws and obtained the approval of the government's legal advisor, Avihai Mandelblit, to this technological method to monitor the movement of Corona patients. However, the consequences of using this application differs depending on the nationality of the user. In terms of Israelis, the Israeli medical authorities required the information to be deleted immediately after the pandemic ends which came with the formation of an Israeli parliamentary committee to ensure that the privacy of Israelis ’information is not compromised. This, as well, was accompanied with the security pledge to implement these conditions after the end of the pandemic, as the country is being governed by a civil law. As for the Palestinians, it is the military law that governs them under occupation, and this violation has no weight within the Israeli security, as the Palestinian people are permitted by them in everything, even their privacy. Therefore, this tool was immediately applied on the Palestinian workers to steal their private information, assuring that this, as a result, is considered as an interference in the matter of the right to know which is legally wrong and immoral and is considered as a violation of the Palestinian workers’ privacy and violation of their humanity.

Taking advantage of the workers’ need for a source of living, Israel forced workers to download this application on their phones as a condition to be able to work in the 48 area. As soon as the worker download this application, the following text would appear “it is possible that we will use the information we collect for each goal, including security objectives” in addition to saving the materials to the Israeli security services for later use. This itself is a declaration submitted by each worker to the Israeli occupation that all the information the worker has on his phone is a right to the Israeli occupation to use for their occupational purposes, therefore, all the Palestinian workers’ phones have been and will be exploited and imposed for the Israeli occupation criminal goals. It is possible that the Israeli occupation will take advantage of this application with the return of tens of thousands of Palestinian workers to their areas of residence in the West Bank, through collecting security information by penetrating their phones, including obtaining personal, confidential and even family information.

Raising the voice of the civil society institutions, IPalestine illustrates that the Israeli brutality against the Palestinians will not stop at this end, since this may also expand to include forcing Palestinian institutions along, businessmen and other groups within the Palestinian society to download this application violating their rights to protect their security as well and hindering them from achieving their goals.

The Platform, also, illustrated that  the large amount of oversight that Israel and its security apparatus are carrying out on the Palestinians, especially with the widespread use of smartphones, but things have taken a turn that Israel considered humanitarian through calling for the use of the application. Through technology, Israel is trying to beautify the image of the Israeli military commander responsible for the Palestinians under occupation, known as the coordinator using social media through the "coordinator" application, by claiming to serve the Palestinians who work in Israel.

Moreover, IPalestine sheds light on the fact that Israel is one of the first countries around the world in surveillance and espionage through technology, as the Israeli company "NSO" is the first company in the world that works in spying and penetrating phones, especially "iPhone" and was used by countries that want to spy on their opponents. Likewise, IPalestine illustrates the fact that Israel has no ethics in dealing with the Palestinians nor its institutions since Israel views the Palestinian workers as cheap labor, the Palestinian institutions as their tools on ground, and the Palestinian lands as their permitted land for theft and settlement, as well as an open market - without controls - for its products. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see Israel exploiting the current pandemic to achieve its criminal acts against the Palestinian Institutions to hamper its efforts and movement towards the advancement of the Palestinian institutions through using its advanced technological abilities, allowing the Israeli security to penetrate the privacy and harm the human dignity of the Palestinians.