Amnesty’s new report says Israel’s facial recognition technology advances ‘apartheid’

Facial recognition software is used by many countries to identify any potential threat including airports in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain.

By Rolene Marks

(May 7, 2023 / JNS) Amnesty International has released a new report accusing Israel of using facial recognition technology to enforce a policy of apartheid.

The report, titled, “Automated Apartheid” and released last week, accuses the Jewish state of “violating the basic human rights of Palestinians by using facial recognition technology in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

The report accuses the Israel Defense Forces of increasingly utilizing advanced facial recognition technology to track the movements of Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

Amnesty relies on testimony from Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence, and alleges the use of “an ever-growing surveillance network which is entrenching the Israeli government’s control over Palestinians.”

The organization claims that the cameras have been placed in specific areas, pointing to the use of CCTV cameras with facial recognition capabilities in Hebron and eastern Jerusalem. In describing the placement of cameras in eastern Jerusalem, Amnesty opines that “Israeli authorities have targeted sites of cultural and political significance with new surveillance tools, such as the Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City, which has long been a place for Palestinians to meet and hold protests.”

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They also allege that “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, segregation and curbing freedom of movement, violating Palestinians’ basic rights.”

Amnesty International further demand in their report that “The state of Israel should immediately cease the deployment of facial recognition technologies for the identification of Palestinians in the OPT, including at checkpoints. By stopping the supply of facial recognition technologies, we can start to dismantle apartheid.”

The Israel Defense Forces responded by stating that it carries out “necessary security and intelligence operations.”

NGO Monitor, which monitors the actions of various non-governmental organizations, released a statement in response to this latest report.

“As with previous Amnesty attacks, this document erases the terrorism and public safety concerns that drive Israeli policy, as well as the ways in which technological advancements allow for less intrusive security measures. Amnesty also ignores the ubiquitous nature of facial recognition software in countless settings around the world, treating something that has become commonplace as a unique, particularly egregious form of Israeli wrongdoing,” said NGO Monitor.

“The joint Amnesty International and Breaking the Silence report is a clear attempt to exploit an issue of global debate to further its spurious apartheid campaign and promote a BDS agenda. Like Amnesty’s other apartheid attacks, the group presents claims based on highly distorted or even false information. Moreover, Amnesty continues to strip away the context of terrorism, including dozens of attacks taking place in and around Jerusalem’s Old City” said Shaun Sacks, senior researcher at NGO Monitor.

Arsen Ostrovksy, a human rights lawyer and CEO of the International Legal Forum, said, ““The use of facial recognition software is an entirely legal and commonly used counterterrorism tool by liberal democracies; but like on so many other aspects, Amnesty applies one standard to everyone, and a differential standard to Israel, as part of their relentless campaign of lawfare and delegitimization of the Jewish state. It is also the peak of hypocrisy that on the same day that Amnesty attacked Israel for using AI to actually save lives and prevent terror, they themselves got slammed for using AI to generate fake images. How can Amnesty be trusted on Israel? In short, they can’t!”

Facial recognition software is used by many countries to identify any potential threat including airports in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Spain.



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