Tuesday, May 02, 2023

Amnesty's latest anti-Israel report's scope and methodology proves its bias was intended from the outset (update)

Amnesty just released its latest anti-Israel report, "Automated Apartheid: How facial recognition fragments, segregates and controls Palestinians in the OPT."

The 82 page report was conceived from the start to be biased against Israel. This can be seen from just the introduction.

By Checkpoint 56 in H2, a towering barrier features two turnstiles, and at least 24 cameras on the outside. Palestinians rely on passage through the checkpoint to access most, if not all, of goods and services, work, education, family life, and healthcare. It is here where witnesses described coming face to face with a new facial recognition system, Red Wolf, in 2022. 

Palestinians are the only racial group of residents in H2 required to use these checkpoints, and the system relies on databases consisting exclusively of Palestinian individuals’ data.
Palestinians are not a racial group. Here Amnesty is apparently again using a definition of "racial discrimination" based on the ICERD definition which explicitly says that its definition does not apply to treating citizens and non-citizens differently. Amnesty's use of the word "racial" here has only one purpose: to assume that Israel's racism as a basis for the report itself.

In Hebron City and East Jerusalem the rights of Palestinians are violated through a range of legal and military measures that help maintain Israel’s system of apartheid over Palestinians.
Amnesty lied about "apartheid" in its earlier reports, and those definitions have been thoroughly debunked. But since Amnesty is more interested in propaganda than accuracy, it now uses the term as if it was a fact and this report is meant to build on that assumption. As a result, any alternative explanations for its findings are discounted or ignored - everything must support the lie that Israel engages in "apartheid" against non-citizens, which is nonsensical, since by that definition every country in the world practices apartheid.

The constant surveillance Palestinians face means they not only live in a state of insecurity, but they are also at risk of arbitrary arrest, interrogation, and detention. 
If Palestinians are being arrested or detained based on being identified by surveillance, then by definition the arrests are not arbitrary. Israel is only arresting those people it is looking for; the vast majority of Palestinians pass through the checkpoints with no problem. This is the opposite of arbitrary. 

But "arbitrary arrest" sounds so much worse, so Amnesty lies.

Neda, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem, spoke of the impact this oppressive technology has on her daily life: “I’m being watched the whole time…[it] gives me a really bad feeling everywhere in the street. Every time I see a camera, I feel anxious. Like you are always being treated as if you are a target.” 
For better or worse, residents of every urban area on Earth have cameras pointing at them all the time. Police can request the video footage from private security cameras, too. There is no fundamental difference between what Neda is describing and what everyone in every city experiences.

This report establishes that facial recognition technologies are providing the Israeli authorities with powerful new tools for curbing freedom of movement – a pre-requisite for the realization of basic rights – adding further layers of technological sophistication to the system of apartheid that Israel is imposing on Palestinians in the OPT. This is achieved via: 

• The establishment of compounding technological infrastructure to expand the reach of Israeli authorities’ control. As checkpoints govern the ability of Palestinians in H2––the area of Hebron under military rule by the Israeli Civil Administration––to travel outside their homes,  Israel is able to contain Palestinians geographically, using domination by way of military force and surveillance tools such as Red Wolf and Blue Wolf to deter resistance.   
Even if you call Israel's presence "occupation," the Geneva Conventions allows great latitude in allowing the occupier to maintain security of both civilians and soldiers. Checkpoints are not illegal. As we will see, the only people that the new technology stops are those who are already wanted.

Palestinians define attacking Jews as "resistance." Deterring resistance is not only legal but an obligation, to normal moral people.

• Surveillance as part of a coercive environment aimed at forcing Palestinians to leave areas of strategic interest to Israeli authorities, by making their ordinary lives unbearable.
Really? Cameras make their lives unbearable? Has a single Palestinian ever moved his family to avoid cameras? This is just another example of how Amnesty makes things up and knows that no one will look too closely at how their supposedly factual assertions are simple lies.

This report is based on field visits to Hebron and East Jerusalem, involving observations, interviews, and the collection of visual evidence, as well as on open-source intelligence and previous reporting. Between May and June 2022, Amnesty International met with Palestinian families, activists, students and experts from across Hebron and East Jerusalem, who were routinely exposed to daily surveillance. In doing so, Amnesty International researchers gathered testimonies and experiences related to the human rights harms associated with the deployment of invasive and wide-reaching remote biometric surveillance technologies, in particular facial recognition. 

Given the sensitive nature of the research, risk of leaks, and risks posed to Amnesty researchers, a decision was made from the beginning of the research not to engage directly with Israeli officials. 
Meaning, all of Amnesty's "research" involved looking at only one side of the issue.  And this was a deliberate decision, not only not to include Israeli officials but not to include any Israelis who might contradict the premise of the report that Israeli is racist.

How can Amnesty claim to be objective when its decides, at the outset, to only look at sources biased in one direction?

 Amnesty International issued a right of response letter to the state of Israel on 19 April 2023 but had not received a response at the date of publication.
Amnesty has been working on this report since 2021 - but gives Israel less than two weeks to respond to an 82 page report. One of those weeks includes Remembrance Day and Yom Haatzmaut. Yeah, that's real objective.

Amnesty International has found that facial recognition technology is used extensively by the Israeli authorities to support their continued domination and oppression of Palestinians in the OPT. With a record of discriminatory and inhuman acts that maintain a system of apartheid, the Israeli authorities are able to use facial recognition software – in particular at checkpoints – to consolidate existing practices of discriminatory policing and segregation, violating Palestinians’ basic rights. 

Amnesty International is not convinced that the security justifications which Israel cites as the basis for its treatment of Palestinians – including restricting their freedom of movement – justify the severe restrictions that the Israeli authorities have imposed. While some of Israel’s policies may have been designed to promote legitimate security objectives, they have been implemented in a grossly disproportionate and discriminatory way which fails to comply with international law. Other policies have absolutely no reasonable basis in security and are clearly shaped by the intent to oppress and dominate. This includes differential treatment in the occupied territories, supporting the settlement of Jewish Israelis in the OPT, the designation of closed military zones, and the imposition of certain restrictions on movement such as travel bans. Examined in the context of systematic discrimination and oppression, and in the light of the mass human rights violations these policies have entailed, it becomes clear that genuine security considerations, including in the context of the deployment of facial recognition, are not the driving force behind these measures. 

There is no way for Amnesty to know any of this without mind-reading capabilities. These aren't conclusions - they are assumptions. Given that the number of terror attacks against Jews has increased dramatically during the time period that Amnesty researched and wrote this report, plus the rise of new terror infrastructure like Lion's Den, these two paragraphs are Amnesty's way of saying Jewish lives don't matter. 

Amnesty's position is that any technology to save the lives of Jews and soldiers is disproportionate. 

Their "Methodology" section shows more intentional bias by Amnesty:
To design the research project, Amnesty International established an advisory committee in early 2022 consisting of half a dozen researchers at the forefront of research on surveillance in the context of the OPT, with proven track records of scholarship and human rights advocacy in relation to the topic. They included academics, lawyers, campaigners and activists. The advisory committee was crucial in informing the research project, including but not limited to formulating the research questions, identifying potential witnesses and research partners, and addressing ethical and security-related concerns associated with the project. 
So the advisory committee included only people who hate Israel. And no distinction was made between the supposed experts and "campaigners and activists." There is not even the pretense of objectivity.

Here is one perfect example of Amnesty's bias. The report relies heavily on testimony from Breaking the Silence, but ignores when their testimony proves that the facial recognition actually makes the lives of Palestinians at checkpoints easier. One BtS report quoted four times says:

You have this system called Red Wolf.

Okay, give more details.
A person arrives and goes through a security check. He gives me his ID. I put it into [the system]. If it goes green on the computer, he goes through a security check and moves on. If it goes yellow, I have to call... Yellow is unidentified, unknown, something like that. There’s this number you call, the division, the DCL (District Coordination and Liaison office, a regional unit of the Civil Administration), and they tell you what to do. And if it’s red, there’s the protocol. You lock down the whole turnstile [at the checkpoint], call to have him picked up because he’s wanted for arrest.

And they come to get him?

Would that happen a lot?
No. It never happened. They (the Palestinians) are not idiots. In the end, there are openings that aren’t this checkpoint.

And usually, when there’s a yellow, what would actually happen?
It’s a computer bug. I never really had a yellow. For the most part, they’re all green, or they have no ID, and then you turn them around.

Can this system identify them even without putting in the ID [number]?
Yes. There’s something like ten cameras. Once they arrive and pass through inside, it essentially takes photos, identifies them, to help you as the soldier standing there. It catches the face before [they enter], and it displays the face for you on the computer. If it’s someone who’s been coming through there a lot, the computer already knows them. It takes photos of everyone who passes there essentially. And you, as a soldier, a commander, standing there, can match the face to the IDs until the system learns [to recognize] the face. It recognizes him, and then he comes, and he’s already lit green for me even before he showed me an ID, and so it makes the process shorter for him, in theory.

And then, after you see green?
He can go through the turnstile with no problem.   
So the system allows Palestinians who live in Hebron to zip through checkpoints without having to show their ID each time. 

Amnesty doesn't even consider that the systems could be used to ease Palestinians' lives, nor does it allow that the security gains and lives saved by these systems have any value at all. 

Amnesty's scope for this report deliberately omits the high tech checkpoint at Qalandiya that speeds Palestinian workers through and saves them the hours that they used to spend there. It also uses facial recognition to help make things go much faster. There is no way that someone with any intellectual honesty can look at Qalandiya and conclude that the facial recognition is hurting them in any way. 

But Amnesty chose not to include that in this report, because it would contradict the anti-Israel message that Amnesty intended this report to be all along. If report readers knew about Qalandiya, they might think that checkpoints in Hebron that use facial recognition also are better then the old system of checking IDs.

Similarly, Amnesty quotes an IDF report about the surveillance system in Hebron, but doesn't quote the part that explains why it is necessary: "The main challenge in Hebron is the friction between the Jewish residents and the Palestinians, who live right next to each other - so when a security incident breaks out, the force has to react within seconds. The new cameras which give us a clearer picture of what is happening in the field, and thus solve the timing problem." 

Amnesty doesn't mention, or airily dismisses, the actual security reasons for surveillance. Which is the entire problem. There are alternative explanations for this technology that make far more sense than Amnesty's assertion that these systems are "clearly shaped by the intent to oppress and dominate." How exactly that oppression and domination would help Israel in any way is not defined. In fact, such a deliberate mistreatment as Amnesty describes would make life worse for Israelis as well. But according to Amnesty, Jewish supremacists just love to harass Palestinians  for no reason, and even spend millions of dollars to create high tech methods to make their lives miserable. 

Those are Amnesty's "facts" before they wrote one word of this report.

The report was conceived, researched, scoped and written with assumptions of unmitigated Israeli evil If you never encountered Amnesty's bias beforehand, this report alone is enough to show that the entire organization is a joke. 

Yet the New York Times wrote essentially a press release for this anti-Israel report, without reporting any bias at all.

Because people who share a bias cannot notice it in others.

UPDATE: NGO Monitor adds lots more.

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