Downing Street spied on Palestinian refugees - reports
The United Kingdom is found to have been spying on Palestinians between late 2018 and early 2019.
The British government has been running a secret British intelligence project targeting Palestinian refugees, the Electronic Intifada reported on Wednesday, citing leaked documents it managed to get its hands on.
Reportedly, the documents said the project in question, was conducted for "academic purposes", though an association of intelligence contractors agreed to keep on the down-low their ties to the British Foreign Office. The Electronic Intifada said the ties remained covert "for the apparent purpose of surveilling and manipulating Palestinians."
The project was aimed at monitoring how Palestinian refugees criticize "Western and Israeli foreign policy", and included plans to interview the residents of Palestinian refugee camps in various countries in the region, such as Jordan and Lebanon, as well as the occupied West Bank. Accordingly, the initiative was going to be run out of the UK consulate in occupied Al-Quds.
The contractors underlined "the importance of ensuring confidentiality around the sources of funding and the aims of the program," claiming that this was to not let the Palestinian refugees grow suspicious and fearing that camp leaders would "obstruct and hamper" the project, according to the risk assessment.
Furthermore, the documents stressed the need for the contractors to gain the trust of the Palestinians by conducting regular engagement with similar organizations within the community, as well as formal and informal authorities for there to be "buy-in and ownership of the project."
One of the institutes involved was a UK, US, and EU-funded "extremism" think tank, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which had plans to "leverage its relationships and access in the region to undertake interviews with 'Former Fighters' who have joined local and international violent extremist groups."
Reportedly, the project is mainly aimed at "countering" the "violent extremism" of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS by procuring findings that would be used to improve "Countering Violent Extremism interventions in the region" by finding out what types of intervention would most likely be successful.
Despite the claims, the documents show that the project, with a provisional budget of $120,000, was aimed at helping the United Kingdom develop a better understanding of the "extent to which Palestinian issues, and narratives about Palestinian issues" were a "driver of radicalization."
The consortium, moreover, proposed conducting in-person interviews in the camps while using social listening technology to monitor social media and other online discussions, with the proposal saying analysis would be conducted "on which narratives are dominant."
"The research team will [do] an assessment of where the risk of radicalization around the Palestinian issue is most severe," the consortium claimed in the documents.
The project was active from October 2018 until March 2019.
In the proposal, the contractors said they would closely collaborate with the British Consulate in occupied Al-Quds, a key base of operations for the MI6, the United Kingdom's foreign intelligence agency.
London's desire to expand its "Countering Violent Extremism" or CVE in the region has been condemned by faith groups and activists all over the world, as CVE is part of London's Prevent strategy, criticized as Islamophobic because of how it makes the entire Muslim community in the United Kingdom appear as suspect on the basis of religion and ethnicity.
Prevent has come under fire various times, such as in 2015, when a pamphlet for the program said "showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports … belief in conspiracy theories [and] appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policy" were potential warning signs of "radicalization" among schoolchildren.
Moreover, the documents explained that the project was aimed at halting the "continued decline of public confidence and support for a negotiated solution" among Palestinians.
Downing Street is trying to justify its spying by any means possible, claiming that London, through the program, wanted to "protect the political and physical viability of a two-state solution", though the means and the ends appear to be quite inhumane, as it sought to achieve this objective by seeing how it could manipulate Palestinians rather than deter the Israeli occupation from violating Palestinian rights, territory, and sovereignty.
The United Kingdom is a massive collaborator with the Israeli occupation, as the occupation of Palestine began under British mandate. The partnership has continued to prosper and grow so much so that both parties are now spying on Palestinians, though each in their own unique way.
It was reported in late January that former Israeli occupation security official Dany Tirza is currently developing another way to monitor Palestinians; body cameras with facial recognition technology.
Tirza claims his company Yozmot Ltd aims to produce a body-worn camera enabling Israeli occupation police to scan Palestinians, even if their faces are obscured.
Facial recognition in law enforcement has sparked global criticism, with US tech giants backing away from providing the technology to police, citing privacy risks.
The former Israeli security official said he partnered with "Tel Aviv" based company Corsight AI to develop a body-worn camera that could instantly identify people in a crowd, even if they wear masks, make-up, or camouflage, and could match them to photographs dating back to decades.
Palestinian digital rights activist Nadim Nashif said the use of facial recognition technology entrenched "Israel's" control over Palestinians and added to domination of physical spaces.
The facial recognition industry was worth about $3.7 billion in 2020, according to market research firm Mordor Intelligence, which projected growth to $11.6 billion by 2026.
Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM have all declared temporary or permanent freezes on selling facial recognition programs to law enforcement.
This is not "Israel's" first surveillance tool to monitor Palestinians in their own land. In fact, the Israeli occupation has a history of manufacturing illegal surveillance tools for the world.
NSO Group, founded by Israeli security intelligence veterans, manufactures the Pegasus software that can hack mobile phones and involved in several espionage cases.
Smartphones infected with the Israeli spyware would become pocket-spying devices, allowing the user to read the target's messages, look through their photos, track their location, and even turn on their camera without their knowledge.
In November 2021, former Israeli occupation soldiers revealed they had photographed thousands of Palestinians to build a database for a facial recognition surveillance program, dubbed Blue Wolf, in Al-Khalil city, in the West Bank.
In 2020, Microsoft divested from Israeli facial recognition firm AnyVision, now renamed Oosto, over the company's alleged involvement in surveilling Palestinians.