Antony Loewenstein, journalist: “Israel uses ‘apps’ that make killing Palestinians as easy as ordering pizza” | Technology

The Australian journalist Antony Loewenstein (Melbourne, 1974) published a book in English entitled The Palestinian laboratory. How Israel exports occupation technology to the world. Now comes the Spanish translation (Captain Swing) with a new preface focused on the Hamas attack in October. Loewenstein does not believe that the October 7 attacks will end up being seen as a failure of the Israeli defense industry. Quite the contrary.

In the book, Loewenstein details some of the biometric tools that Israel and its soldiers use to build a robust database on nearly every Palestinian citizen, as well as police cameras that attempt to reveal the identity of someone who is covered with a scarf or scarf. apps which considerably simplifies the killing work.

Ask. The thesis of the book is that without the occupied territories, Israel would not be a world leader in cyberweapons.

Answer. Exact. It is difficult to imagine that Israel would be a world leader without the occupation. It is like the United States, which has gained great experience from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and now also in Ukraine, although its troops do not fight, but their weapons do.

Q. A source in the book says that more and more countries know that Israel does not control the Palestinians as well as it thinks. Is this what happened on October 7 with the Hamas attack?

A. The book was released in May. I included this sentence because it was almost an opinion contrary to my main thesis. But I maintain that October 7 changed nothing in that. The barbaric Hamas massacre was an Israeli military, political and intelligence catastrophe. Yet over the last four or five months we have seen two things: first, in Israel there is virtually no interest in thinking. There is a war going on now, but I see no real point in seriously examining the reasons for the failure of the intelligence services. New products continue to be tested and sold in Gaza.

Q. Won’t this affect Israeli sales?

A. So far, there is no indication that this will happen. Before October 7, many European countries desperately needed Israeli surveillance technology, which they purchased after Russia invaded Ukraine. The largest arms sale in Israel’s history took place in September last year, with Germany for $3.5 billion. Since then, many countries have watched with admiration what Israel is doing in Gaza. My experience tells me that the Israeli arms and intelligence industry will do very well despite October 7. This may seem counterintuitive, ridiculous, problematic, short-sighted, but never underestimate how many countries want one of two things: to show solidarity with Israel for what happened on October 7 and align with a war on terror mentality. The analogy I would make is that of the September 11 attacks in the United States. It was the greatest intelligence failure in American history and had literally no impact on the defense sector. In fact, it had the opposite effect.

The Palestinian laboratory, by Antony Loewenstein

Q. Exactly what technology failed in Israel that day?

A. Many things. One was zero tech and the other was high tech. The low technology was that a year before October 7, Israel decided to stop monitoring the walkie talkies Hamas because they thought there wasn’t much to listen to and it was a waste of time. The more technological aspect was that the billions of dollars spent improving the fence did not prevent it from being vulnerable to Hamas’s low-tech drones. But the main failure of the intelligence services on October 7 was not technological, but ideological. There was a deep reluctance to imagine that Hamas was capable of this type of attack and therefore to think that technology alone was enough; it was almost technological arrogance that brought down Israel. This is what most research will find in the years to come. Israel convinced itself that its supposed technological supremacy would prevail. Human intelligence was so massively degraded that they believed, tragically for Israel, that technology would save them. Most of the media coverage over the past five months has focused on failing technologies. I think this is a mistake.

The main intelligence failure of October 7 was not technological, but ideological. Israel convinced itself that its supposed technological supremacy would prevail

Q. The book says that the sale of Pegasus is used by Israel to buy diplomatic favors. But Spain used Pegasus and is now a sensitive voice among the Palestinians.

A. Spain is an exception. Pegasus is now, in some ways, quite an old technology. But there are so many other examples where it is still used obsessively, from Greece to Togo, from India to Bangladesh. I’m not saying that all countries will always obey Israel at the UN, it doesn’t work like that. Israel’s idea over the last ten years was a gamble, successful from their point of view, that all these nations were going to buy surveillance technology at no real political cost to Israel.

Q. If Pegasus is an old technology and its creator, the NSO group, goes under tomorrow, what would happen?

A. Nothing. All your customers can go to other companies. Additionally, most Israeli companies in this space have less bad press, but they do the same thing.

Q. There are also companies like NSO in other countries.

A. Yes definitely. The appeal of what Israel is selling is not just the technology, but also the fact that it is dressed up in an ideology, a mantra that says they have managed to control a population with these tools for more than half a century. The October 7 date calls some of that into question, but it’s what they’ve been saying for years and they’re going to continue to say it.

Q. In the book, the famous Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman denies his thesis: he claims to know of no cases in which Israeli companies use the occupied territories to sell more weapons.

A. I was surprised by his words, especially considering his work. I interviewed him and put it in the book for readers to see. But that’s simply not true. It seems like I’m making this up. I already told Bergman that the evidence was overwhelming. There are videos, there are marketing materials. You have to ask him. Honestly, I don’t know what his reasoning was. I have the feeling that he is someone who cares a lot about the image of Israel. He is a journalist, but he is also very determined to maintain what he considers to be a noble image of Israel. The idea that Israel would sell weapons, surveillance technologies, that it would have tested weapons is something dirty, a bad image.

Israel sells a mantra that it controlled a population with these tools

Q. Maybe they assume these weapons can be used against the Palestinians, but they don’t use that sales pitch.

A. But they do it. There is a movie called The laboratory made in 2013, which includes footage of foreign military leaders watching weapons tests. I’m not making this up. The evidence is overwhelming.

Q. In the book, he says that killing a Palestinian can be as simple as ordering a pizza with your cell phone: application which allows a field commander to send data from a human target to troops.

A. It is with a application. This is obviously not a phone that any of us are going to use. This is at the heart of what I show in the book: the dehumanization of Palestinians is the key to the Palestinian laboratory. This only works if Palestinians are not seen as equals. If many or most Palestinians are considered a potential terrorist threat, as polls show before October 7 and certainly since then, then all application The fact that it can be used to kill and that it is as simple as ordering a pizza is not considered inhumane, but the rational thing to do to protect yourself. You protect Jews who are building a state on the ashes of the Holocaust. There are a large number of videos on TikTok showing Israeli soldiers in Gaza humiliating Palestinians, tying them up, blowing up Palestinian homes, all violations of international law. This can only happen if there is an underlying belief in the dehumanization of Palestinians. People often talk about the radicalization of certain parts of Palestinian society and there are certainly parts of Palestine like that. But there has also been a radicalization of Israeli Jewish society. I say this as a Jew. It’s a very radicalized society. You cannot occupy a people for more than half a century without becoming deformed as a society.

Q. The book says that Israel monitors all Palestinians, regardless of age, location or intent. What does mean?

A. It’s a bit like what the NSA does in the United States: I’m not saying that all Americans are monitored daily. What I mean is that Unit 8200, the equivalent of the NSA in Israel, monitors, controls and collects information on all communications that Palestinians make in Palestine, calls, emails. This doesn’t mean they read everything. We don’t have the computing power to read everything.

Q. Is this information being used to blackmail Palestinians into becoming informants?

A. A lot. It is very common for Israel to try to blackmail Palestinians when they want to go to school or receive medical care; Of course, I am not saying that all Palestinians accept this role. But we don’t know how many Palestinians do it. The information you actually have about these people comes from collecting surveillance data. Besides those who want to leave, there is another path: looking for the Palestinians’ weaknesses. A love story, a child out of wedlock, homosexuality. Since October 7, a large number of Israeli government ministers have spoken openly in Parliament about the importance of Israel continuing to have a vast network of informants in Gaza. What is often not said is how these informants arrive. We therefore find ourselves in a situation where the entire Palestinian population, approximately 5 million people, is still under surveillance.

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