Israel’s critics have a new rallying cry: Stop taking pictures of terrorists! They don’t word it quite that way, of course. They wrap it in slogans about “big tech” and “privacy rights.” But at the end of the day, the message is the same—they don’t want Israel to keep track of Arab terrorists and their supporters.
The Washington Post and the New York Times delivered this message with a journalistic one-two punch on November 9, each publishing a major feature story about how Israel is intrusive, sneaky and underhanded.
The Post headlined its front page story “Israel Targets Palestinians with Cameras, Facial Tracking.” The word “target” was obviously intended to conjure up images of violence. They want readers to think of Israelis as sharpshooters with their rifles aimed at the backs of innocent Arabs.
Why exactly are the barbaric Israelis, with their violent cameras, taking so many pictures of Arabs? It takes a patient and discerning reader of the Post to figure that out. One has to fist wade through paragraph after paragraph that Post correspondent Elizabeth Dwoskin has loaded with ominous terms like “secrecy,” “broad surveillance,” and “invasion of privacy.” The reader is thoroughly confused and frightened before he or she can even figure out why the Israelis are doing what they are accused of doing.
What the Israelis are doing is secretly taking photographs of potential terrorists. Good! I’m delighted that they are using modern technology to engage in surveillance that will preempt massacres.
Terrorists do not deserve privacy.
Over at the New York Times, that same day, a headline read, “Palestinians Targeted by Israeli Firm’s Spyware, Experts Say.” There’s that “target” word again, helping to create the impression that terrorists and aspiring terrorists are the victims.
The Times actually managed to be even more slippery than the Post, because the Times article was not about the State of Israel or the government of Israel, but rather a private Israeli software company. How can you blame all of Israel for one company’s transactions? By portraying the Israeli government as a “backer” of the company, because the government has issued licenses and used some of the products.
The product that seems to worry the Times the most is software that can access private telephones. The Israeli authorities used it to get into the phones of Palestinian Arab groups that it recently outlawed for supporting the terrorists of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
Well, once again, I say: Good! That’s how Israel finds out which Arabs are legitimate political activists, and which of them are funneling their European grants to PFLP terrorists.
The Israelis had two choices regarding the six groups that it outlawed for helping the PFLP. Their first choice was to put privacy rights above the right to life. In other words, allow the groups to keep giving money to the PFLP, let the PFLP use the funds to buy guns and axes, and then mourn when PFLP terrorists make use of the guns and axes—like when PFLP members shot and hacked to death those four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue in 2014.
The Israelis’ second choice was to preempt such slaughter by outlawing the six groups and thus disrupting the flow of funds to the killers. I’m glad the Israelis chose that option.
The story won’t end soon, however, because we all know how this little game works. First, the articles are published. Next, groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now will declare how concerned they are by the “chilling effect” of Israel’s latest misbehavior. That will be followed by an “investigation” by some United Nations panel or “human rights” organization.
In a few months, the investigators will release a “report” confirming what the accusers claimed before there was any investigation. J Street will then announce that the report “deserves serious consideration.” The Washington Post and the New York Times will publish articles about the report, quoting some Jewish former State Department official expressing grave concern. And so it will go, until the next inevitable round.
Fortunately, the Israelis will ignore all this chatter. They have to ignore it because they have no choice—their lives are on the line. For Diaspora Jewish complainers, it’s all just an amusing intellectual exercise. For Israelis—of all political persuasions—it’s a matter of life and death. Literally.
So American newspapers and UN panels and Diaspora Jewish whiners can complain all they want. At the end of the day, Israel is just not going to commit national suicide.
Stephen M. Flatow, is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”