I’m Tariq Nafi and I’m a journalist working with Al Jazeera’s media analysis show, The Listening Post. I recently made a film – well, two actually – about Israel’s surveillance regime and how it uses technologies like facial recognition and artificial intelligence to control the lives of Palestinians under occupation.

You can watch both films on Youtube:

Edit: Thanks for coming and asking thoughtful questions everyone. I’m logging off now. You can follow me on Twitter at for more updates about our work.

Comments: 191 • Responses: 11  • Date: 

telecasterpignose277 karma

Al-Jazeera’s known to be funded by an Qatar, a country that is by anti-Jewish autocracy, how does that affect your reporting?

Aljazeera-English131 karma

I wouldn't agree with your characterisation of Qatar. Al Jazeera is indeed funded by the Qataris. All of my reporting is factual. Very happy to answer any questions you have about our journalism.

KinOfMany66 karma

Very happy to answer any questions you have about our journalism.

I have a question about your journalism.

You've at this point made two videos about Israel's surveillance of Palestinians, but haven't answered any of these questions:

  1. Why the surveillance exists. It's expensive. Israel's middle class is shrinking, people are living paycheck to paycheck, and yet the consensus among the vast majority of Israelis and politicians is that we should keep investing in this tech. Why?

  2. Was it effective preventing terrorist attacks? Specifically, how many terrorist attacks have occurred which include the use of materials which can be identified with video surveillance like guns, grenades and suicide vests? How many before surveillance was introduced? How many after?

  3. How many of these attacks would have occurred in a mixed neighborhood? How many Palestinians were positively affected by these policies? How many lives were saved?

You can be factual in your reporting but dishonest all the same, and Al-Jazeera's bias is very obvious. I'd be very pleasantly surprised if you took the time to research these questions and come back for a third video.

Aljazeera-English164 karma

It's getting late where I am so I hope you'll forgive the short responses to your points:

1) Surveillance exists as a means of control. As we describe in the films, surveillance has been used to control indigenous Palestinians for more than a hundred years. Perhaps the more pertinent questions are: why does the occupation exist? Why do the majority of Israeli politicians continue to support what Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights orgs all call a system of apartheid?

2/3) We would have liked to ask these questions to the Israeli military but they declined an interview. As I mentioned elsewhere, even a former Israeli Major General with experience in the Occupied West Bank admitted to us that surveillance is as much about controlling Palestinians as it is "fighting terrorism."

ibby1kanobi146 karma

Does this type of surveillance extend to Israelis or “problematic” settlers at all or is it just Palestinians?

Aljazeera-English332 karma

Good question. In our first episode, we looked at the AI-powered surveillance the Israeli military is using in Hebron. Essentially, Palestinians are being enrolled in a database at checkpoints - without their consent - which governs their movement around the city.

These databases consist exclusively of Palestinians. Jewish Israelis - settlers included - do not have to contend with these forms of surveillance and control.

Amnesty International's Matt Mahmoudi sums it up really well in the piece when he says: 'I don't think there's any point in history in which the creation of a database consisting exclusively of one ethnic or racialized group has ever led to any good outcomes.'

(edited for formatting)

LordDaniel09-109 karma

It is interesting how you act like such systems don’t exists nationwide in Israel or other countries in general. Few examples: Israelis IDs are biometric and are saved in centralized database that the government has access to. Part of processing requests fingerprints and high definition pictures of the person. Cameras in cities exists everywhere, and controlled remotely. Following someone by face tracking alone, especially when there are more and more cameras in the big cities, is.. just simple tech at this point. They don’t talk about it publicly but it is easy to do 1+1 in this case. Cellphones are also tracked on request by police/military/etc, and is now known publicly as it been used to combat Covid by finding people that ignored the laws placed at the time.

This is just a part of what is being used by police, military and secret service, and known publicly in Israel. And as far as I know, there are countries with way more aggressive surveillance, like UK, China, USA, that does this and more. Hell.. there are private companies that go even further than that in their offices or with their laptops/workstations.

Aljazeera-English191 karma

I don't disagree with you that invasive surveillance has become a disturbingly common feature of modern life. The difference here is that surveillance is being used by an occupying power to control an occupied population.

In the second episode of the film, we spoke with a former Israeli intelligence officer in the elite Unit 8200. You might find what he told us instructive:

"The secrecy around 8200 and the intelligence community in general, helps it avoid public inspection. It has this image of only collecting information, only preventing terrorism and so on. Only diminishing violence, not in any way perpetuating it. But that's not true, as we know from other military regimes around the world. Intelligence is an integral part of a forced control over people."

When I asked him how important surveillance was in sustaining Israel's occupation and apartheid practices, here's what he said:

"Crucial. Essential. Couldn't continue one day without intelligence. It’s like a deteriorating situation where you have to use more and more force to keep the same level of control. So in the end, it's going to explode. I mean, it cannot keep going. There's a limit to the force you can use."

Empty_Lengthiness64589 karma

Is this surveillance of the Palestinians widely known about and accepted by the general Israeli public?

Aljazeera-English211 karma

Some of the most interesting responses we've had to the films have been from Israelis who really had no idea that these invasive forms of control were being used on Palestinians. There are lots of reasons for that - the Israeli media is one of them.

CatharticRenaissance55 karma

Do you think surveillance of a population is ever justified if it reduces violence?

Aljazeera-English152 karma

That's an interesting question - that is really about the morality of mass surveillance. But it presupposes that the main rationale for surveillance of Palestinians is to 'reduce violence.'

What we saw was surveillance being used to control the lives of ordinary folks - people trying to get to work, people visiting family or trying to go to school. Their movement is being governed by an algorithm, in a database, in which they have been enlisted without their consent. A system operated by a soldier, in a military checkpoint, which has fragmented their community. All of this operating under a form of military rule that seems (to Palestinians) designed to protect settlers who are living in Palestinian homes illegally under international law.

When you add it all up, you get the sense that surveillance is really about making life unbearable for people.

moromoro_27 karma

Are Israeli agencies mainly using proprietary tech or are they using previously existing tools? If the latter, has there been any backlash from tech companies for using it in the context of the occupation?

Aljazeera-English59 karma

I'm no expert on the supply side of these technologies and we didn't have the time to dig into it in our reporting. But I think it's a mix of both.

Israel is a world leader in spying and surveillance tech. There's a revolving door between military intelligence units like Unit 8200 and the private sector. A lot of the tech that private Israeli firms funnel to authoritarian states around the world have, in one way or another, been tested on Palestinians first.

Many of the cameras being used in places like Hebron or East Jerusalem are made by international companies though. You can read more about this in Amnesty's report:

Also, this recently released book from Anthony Loewenstein may answer some of your questions (full disclosure - I haven't read it yet but it's on my list):

Ok-Feedback560419 karma

And how much difficulties you faced while shooting it?(I mean Israeli govt and army's obstacles)

Aljazeera-English52 karma

Reporting from the Occupied West Bank can be challenging. But I have the privilege of a foreign foreign passport and one of our crew members was Israeli - which helps.

It is very different for Palestinian journalists, who are routinely targeted by Israeli security forces. Just doing your job can be dangerous at the best of times - and deadly at the worst.

You can read more about that in this excellent infographic:

Appropriate_Drop857714 karma

What's your favorite food?

Aljazeera-English36 karma

I find a good chicken shawerma hard to resist.

Professorplumsgun10 karma

Do you believe that the surveillance of Palestinians is justified in the name of national security or do you believe that it is a violation of human rights ?

Aljazeera-English31 karma

Hopefully I can offer a response here to some of the questions about Israel's rationale for the mass surveillance of Palestinians.

First off, I think it's important to remember that surveillance is just one component in Israel's rule and domination over Palestinians. Palestinians live under a two-tiered system of governance, which advances the rights and freedoms of Jewish Israelis, while denying those freedoms to Palestinians. This system has a name: Apartheid - according to a consensus of Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights orgs.

Now, back to the rationale often used by the Israeli military - that surveillance is used for counter-terrorism. That's not what we saw while reporting in Hebron. It was more about reinforcing a system of control that for many ordinary people feels totally arbitrary.

We spoke to a former Israeli Major General who admitted as much. Surveillance, in his words, is as much about "controlling them" as it is "fighting terrorism."

japonicas-1 karma

Thank you for sharing. Such a shocking documentary. How can people resist? Such flagrant abuse of power.

Did you encounter difficulties from the IDF or other groups while making this?

Aljazeera-English20 karma

Thanks for watching - good to see someone is!

You can read more on what you can do about this here: