Tuesday, July 16, 2019 Last Update: 8:01 PM GMT

Israeli Face-Recognition Start-up ‘Secretly Tracking Palestinians’

An Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank. (Photo: via Ma’an)

A start-up known as “Israel’s most high-profile biometric recognition firm” is playing a key role in monitoring Palestinians at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank, reported Haaretz.

According to the article, Anyvision Interactive Technologies “is taking part in two special projects in assisting the Israeli army in the West Bank”.

One project “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.”

In a statement in February, the army said that “27 biometric crossings” had been established in the West Bank, as part of a “wide-ranging” effort to “upgrade” the checkpoints in question.

The second project, however, “is much more confidential”, reported Haaretz, and “includes facial recognition technology elsewhere in the West Bank, not just at border crossings”, as “cameras deep inside the West Bank try to spot and monitor potential Palestinian assailants”.

Anyvision’s president, Amir Kain, is the former head of Malmab, the Defense Ministry’s security department, while one of the company’s advisers is Tamir Pardo, a former head of Mossad.

The company claims to operate in 43 countries and at more than 350 locations such as stadiums, airports and casinos, and recently raised $31 million from Microsoft’s M12 venture capital fund.

As reported by Haaretz, “Anyvision’s involvement in the West Bank is being revealed amid a lively debate around the world on the use of biometric technology, especially facial recognition.”

According to the paper, “the Israeli surveillance operation in the West Bank is undoubtedly among the largest of its kind in the world. It includes monitoring the media, social media and the population as a whole — and now it turns out also the biometric signature of West Bank Palestinians.”

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Opposition Leader ‘Wants Palestinian State’ for Security of Israel

Israel’s Labor leader Amir Peretz. (Photo: File)

Israel’s Labor leader said he is willing to “fight” for a Palestinian state, not for Palestinians, but for the security of Israel.

Amir Peretz said on Saturday:

“Peace can also serve the poor, because peace will bring prosperity and economy … I raise the banner of peace and the banner of social justice – they go together.

Israel will head to polls for the second time this year in a matter of weeks.

After elections in April, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu attempted to form a governing coalition with religious and nationalist allies but failed to cobble together a parliamentary majority amid infighting between allies.

Rather than give his main rival a chance to build a government, Netanyahu’s Likud party instead pushed through a measure to dissolve the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and send the country to unprecedented repeat elections in September.

Netanyahu now seeks to score a decisive electoral victory in the face of possible indictment on corruption charges.

Israel’s attorney general has already recommended Netanyahu be indicted, but under Israeli law, Netanyahu is entitled to defend himself at a hearing before formal charges are filed.

(Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, PC, Social Media)

Israel’s Top Court Approves Punitive Ban on Family Visits for Hamas Prisoners

Palestinian activists take part in a protest in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners. (Photo: via MEMO)

Israel’s top court has given its approval to a punitive ban on family visits for Hamas prisoners from the Gaza Strip, a decision slammed by human rights activists as “court-sanctioned vengeance”.

In July 2017, Israel banned family visits to Hamas prisoners from Gaza, in an apparent bid to pressure the organization over its ongoing detention of two Israelis and the remains of two soldiers.

Following the ban, four Hamas-affiliated prisoners brought a petition to the Supreme Court, which was finally rejected last month.

Some 300 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip are in Israeli jails, roughly a third of whom are Hamas-affiliated. Even for non-Hamas prisoners, Israel imposes draconian restrictions on family visits.

Posted by Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign on Sunday, July 14, 2019

In its ruling, the court acknowledged that family visits are being denied as a way of pressuring Hamas rather than based on “concrete concern over abuse of the visits by any of the prisoners”.

However, this was seen as a denial of a privilege rather than a punishment, and a measure justified in the name of “national security”.

B’Tselem noted that Israeli minister Gilad Erdan has justified the ban on the basis that it ends “the absurd asymmetry between the conditions in which Israelis are held captive without trial by Hamas and the conditions terrorists receive here in Israel”.

According to the human rights group,“this is the entire story in a nutshell: not ‘general security conditions’, not ‘proportionality tests’, not a balance between ‘privileges’ and weighty considerations”, but rather “sheer vengeance”.

B’Tselem also criticized the court for once again providing “a legal stamp of approval for the violation of Palestinians’ rights”.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Israeli Court Halts ‘Racist’ Park Entry Ban in Afula (VIDEO)

A photo of Afula park. (Photo: via Social Media)

A court on Sunday ordered a predominantly Jewish town in northern Israel to lift a ban on non-resident visitors to its parks, a prohibition that a rights group said was aimed at keeping Arabs out.

The town of Afula denied the edict was racially motivated.

In instructing the town to lift the order, Judge Danny Sarfati stopped short of accusing it of racism and cited a legal opinion by Israel’s attorney general, who said municipal parks were public property open to all.

Afula imposed the prohibition a month ago, effectively cutting off access to the 10-hectare (25-acre) park by residents of nearby Arab villages who frequented the popular site.

Fady Khoury, a lawyer with Adalah, an Arab rights group that raised the challenge in Nazareth district court, said:

“This was really to exclude Palestinian citizens from entering the park.” 

Lawyers for Afula, a city of 50,000 people, contended the restrictions stemmed solely from a desire to reduce overcrowding during the summer months and keep maintenance costs down.

On Saturday, guards inspected identification cards at several entrances to Afula Municipal Park, where families strolled past playgrounds and petting zoos and joggers ran along trails lined with Israeli flags.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Orthodox Church to Protest Sale of Its Property to Jewish Settlers

Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. (Photo: via Social Media)

The Greek Orthodox Church will next week petition against a final ruling of Israel’s Supreme Court which approved the sale of church property in East Jerusalem’s Old City to pro-settlement group Ateret Cohanim.

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that the petition will argue that the sale of the property was based on bribery and the church figures who signed the deal were corrupt, immediately fleeing the country after signing the deal.

Last month the Supreme Court ruled that the church had failed to provide sufficient evidence that the deal was made fraudulently.

Commenting on the sale of the property, spokesman for the Greek Orthodox Church, Issa Musleh, told AFP that the sale was only made possible by forged documents.

The sale, which took place in 2004, triggered widespread Palestinian anger and led to the 2005 dismissal of Patriarch Irineos I.

Musleh stressed:

“The settlers want to take over our heritage.”

According to Yedioth Ahronoth, the petition will be based on the accounts of Ted Bloomfield, director of the Petra Hotel, one of the sold properties. He said that Ateret Cohanim had paid him money for years in order to push forward the selling of the hotel.

He also said that the director of Ateret Cohanim, Matti Dan, had bribed the deputy of Patriarch Irineos I and the accountant of the church for years in order to facilitate the deal.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

US Lawmaker Rashida Tlaib Denounces ‘Racist’ Israel’s Anti-Palestinian Policies

Rashida Tlaib in her Palestinian thobe while her son dabs in Congress. (Photo: via Social Media)

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has denounced Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, describing that country’s policies as an affront to human rights and comparable to racial segregation in the American South.

Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American to serve in Congress, told Jacobin magazine that she’d witnessed Israel’s “racism” first-hand while visiting Palestine.

“I can tell you when I was in Palestine with my mother and she had to get in a separate line. There are different-colored license plates if you are Palestinian or Israeli.”

She denounced these policies as “racist” and argued that Israel’s “continued dehumanization” of the Palestinian people “violate[s] international human rights,” as well as her values as an American.

The freshman lawmaker went on to compare the situation in Israel to segregation in the United States, which was enforced by the infamous Jim Crow laws, and the concept of “separate but equal.”

While insisting that she wanted a peaceful resolution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Tlaib stated that her ancestors were “killed” and “uprooted from their land” during the creation of the state of Israel – something “no one even wants to acknowledge.”

The congresswoman has come under fire for her support for the Boycott Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Last week she tweeted about anti-BDS legislation currently being considered by the House, arguing that the bill was unconstitutional because “our First Amendment right to free speech allows [the] boycott of inhumane policies.”

(RT, PC, Social media)

Israeli Military Reporter: Gaza War ‘Not Far Away’

Hundreds of Palestinian homes of were partially or completely demolished by Israeli airstrikes in Gaza. (Photo: via Social Media)

A new war between Israel and Palestinian factions in the besieged Gaza Strip “is not far away”, and will be “will be deadlier and more destructive than any previous” offensive, according to a report by the Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent.

According to the analyst, Israeli officials

“have repeatedly said that any future war with [Hamas]…will have to have a clear and decisive win by the Israeli military so that the other side will think twice about going to war in the future.”

The Military Chief of Staff, Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi, “has already approved operational combat plans and recently set up an administrative unit to handle the formation of a list of potential targets in the coastal enclave for when the next war breaks out,” the Post reported.

“Ammunition and weapons have been restocked with four times the amount as before the last war, and military intelligence has hundreds of targets ready,” the paper’s correspondent added.

According to the correspondent, the Israeli military “knows the next war will include an all-out ground offensive”, and that “thousands of soldiers will enter Gaza, in tanks, armored personnel carriers, under cover of massive air bombardments and navy gunboat fire”.

Acknowledging that “Gaza has been absolutely destroyed over the past 10 years”, including three major offensives against the blockaded territory, the analyst noted that “Hamas is desperate to secure an easing of Israeli restrictions…and an end to Israel’s 12-year blockade”.

Nevertheless, the report concluded, the Israeli army “needs to be able to win the next war with Gaza on Israel’s terms in the shortest time possible in order to restore long-term quiet to Israel.”

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

PA: US Relations Resume When D.C. Commits to Peace

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman of PA President Mahmoud Abbas. (Photo: File)

The Palestinian Authority says diplomatic relations with the United States can be resumed on the condition that Washington is committed to the peace process in the region.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, the spokesperson for the government, said in a Thursday statement that the Palestinians have never rejected any negotiations or initiatives for Palestinian-Israeli peace.

Rudeineh said:

“Peace can only be established in accordance to the two-state solution on the 1967 borders, the international resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative which considers East Jerusalem an occupied territory.”

The government representative was responding to recent remarks made by U.S. officials on achieving peace with Israel, according to Palestinian state media, WAFA.

The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), chaired by President Mahmoud Abbas is ready to resume contacts with the U.S. government only if it shows commitment to all these conditions, Rudeineh noted.

The government severed political ties with the United States in 2017 after President Donald Trump announced Jerusalem was the capital of Israel.

The administration later moved the nation’s embassy there in May 2018. Since then Trump and his advisors have been trying to sell an economic plan for the region, what Trump dubbed the ‘deal of the century,’ as a way make political peace between Palestine and Israel.

The U.S. plan was officially unveiled at a late-June meeting in Bahrain that the Palestinian Authority boycotted, saying only a political solution will solve the long-standing conflicts between them and Israel, which has annexed and occupied the majority of Palestinian land starting in 1948 with the Nakba.

The Trump plan abandons decades of attempts by international diplomats to establish a two-state solution, replacing it with a “New Palestine” that wouldn’t be allowed an army and illegal settlements in the West Bank would become a part of Israel.

To date, 137 nations in total recognize the sovereignty of Palestine.

(TeleSur, PC, Social Media)

UN Special Rapporteur: Israel ‘Moving Rapidly’ towards West Bank Annexation

UN special rapporteur for the situation in Palestine Michael Lynk. (Photo: File)

The UN special rapporteur for the situation in Palestine on Friday raised a concern about the lack of human rights accountability in Palestine and said Israel eyed further territorial annexation, reports Anadolu Agency.

Michael Lynk’s remarks came in Amman of Jordan following his week-long visit, where he gathered with the Palestinian and Israeli human rights organizations for he was denied entry to Palestine by the Israeli authorities.

He said, adding Israel’s refusal of entry was contrary to Israel’s obligations as a UN member:

“The United Nations has stated on numerous occasions that the Israeli settlements are illegal, its annexation of East Jerusalem is unlawful, and its violations of the human rights of the Palestinians breach international covenants and treaties. Now is the time for the international community to hold Israel fully accountable for its actions, and to determine whether Israel’s role as the occupying power has crossed the bright red line into illegality.”

According to estimates, 640,000 Jewish settlers currently live on 196 different settlements (built with the Israeli government’s approval) and more than 200 settlers “outposts” (built without its approval) throughout the West Bank.

International law regards the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as “occupied territory” and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there to be illegal.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)

Over 70 Palestinians Wounded by Israeli Forces in Gaza

Palestinians taking part in the Great March of Return. (Photo: Abdallah Aljamal, the Palestine Chronicle).

At least 74 Palestinians were wounded in Israel’s crackdown on the 66th Friday of the Great March of Return and Breaking the Siege in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) has said.

According to the rights group, the wounded included 23 children, two women, two journalists, and two paramedics.

The Great March of Return began on March 30, 2018, calling for an end to Israel’s ongoing siege on Gaza and reinforcing the right of return. Since then, Israel has killed 306 protesters and wounded around 17,000 others.

(Middle East Monitor, PC, Social Media)