Ramallah, from the West Bank Palestinian development workers and politicians say they are determined to continue their work despite the fact that their organizations are breaking the law with Israel and stealing their phones and Pegasus spy software produced by the Israeli company NSO Group.
October 19, Israel selected Six world-renowned Palestinian civil rights organizations were “terrorist groups” under the Anti-Terrorism Law, claiming to have links to the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The PFLP was active during the Second Intifada and committed acts of aggression against Israel.
Freedom groups have denied any links to the PFLP and Israel has failed to produce any evidence to substantiate their claims.
The name “threats” was followed by militants in the West Bank who had been calling the organizations “illegal” under British emergency law.
“I will continue to support the Palestinian people no matter what,” Salah Hammouri, an attorney for the Addameer prisoners’ rights group – one of the organizations involved – told Al Jazeera.
Hammouri, a native of Palestinian-French Jerusalem, is one of six Palestinian freedom fighters with their phones. hacked by Pegasus spy software. He is also facing expulsion after the Israeli Interior Ministry announced that he had revoked his residence permit in Jerusalem for “violating the State of Israel”.
Fearing arrest and / or deportation, they were forced to relocate to Ramallah. “I will not leave Ramallah and return home to Jerusalem to see my family because if I cross the block I could be arrested,” he said.
“I can’t sleep at night because every time I hear a noise outside I think it’s the Israeli army.”
In addition to Addameer, five other civil society organizations and human rights organizations include the Al-Haq rights group; Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC); Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC); Bisan Center for Research and Development; and the Palestinian head of the Geneva-based Defense for Children International.
Some of these groups perform a number of important human rights activities – including documenting Israeli human rights abuses, providing legal aid to detainees, conducting regional and international action, and working with the International Criminal Court and the United Nations.
Others, such as the UAWC, provide assistance to the Palestinian people, including rehabilitating vulnerable areas and assisting thousands of farmers in Area C – more than 60 percent of the West Bank living under Israeli rule. and where the illegal dwelling of Israel is and the place of dwelling.
Security and privacy are compromised
Ghassan Halaika, a researcher from Jerusalem and Al Haq, recently saw strange things happening with his phone.
“There were strange things going on in my phone like people calling me on phones that I did not call,” Halaika told Al Jazeera.
Concerned neo-hippies and their global warming, Al Haq asked the Front Line Defenders, based in Ireland, to investigate the matter.
After a thorough legal investigation, Front Line found that in addition to Halaika phone, which has been monitored since June 2020, at least five other phones of employees in six organizations and other human rights activists became infected with Pegasus spyware.
The study was highlighted by colleagues from the Citizen Lab, whose research includes research into digital intelligence against civilians, and Amnesty International’s Security Lab.
Speaking at a press conference in Ramallah last week via video link, Mohammed Al Maskati, who is also the head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, said another investigation into the 75 iPhones used by Palestinian human rights activists and workers. Government agencies have shown that five more weapons have been stolen.
On November 3, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the NSO Group placement on a “group of orders” – a legitimate ban on trade as it said the military had helped foreign governments carry out international sanctions that threaten international law.
Halaika said she was very disappointed with the findings of the study.
He said: “I never imagined that things would get this far.
How would you feel if you found out that all your activities and conversations on the phone were monitored by anonymous individuals, that your security was compromised and that you had no privacy? ”
“It looked like I was living in a dark area.”
Halaika said he had changed phones but knew that living in East Jerusalem, which is closely monitored by Israeli government officials, would be monitored by all other nations such as the Israeli face recognition program, which is integrated with street cameras and more. types of monitoring.
“I try to keep my job as normal but it is not easy,” said Halaika. “What hurts me the most is that the secrets I shared with my secret friends, when it came to following the Israeli war crimes case at the International Criminal Court, were revealed during my supervision and offended some of my contacts.”
Halaika told Al Jazeera that he feared arrest by Israeli soldiers, especially since the closure of Israeli Palestinian prisons could result in confidential evidence and ordered him to be imprisoned every six months.
The Ubai al-Aboudi phone, head of the Bisan Center for Research and Development, an NGO and a non-profit organization that monitors the rights of Palestinian people, also suffered from Pegasus spy software.
“It’s not just listening, it’s dangerous. Spyware programs take full advantage of the phone. It can call anyone, send messages and download content, “Aboudi told Al Jazeera.
“Anyone who uses the monitoring equipment can call another Islamic State [ISIL/ISIS] then I say that I have been a criminal. ”
Aboudi said the break-up had affected her daily life because all her contacts were on her phone, as well as her alarm and diary. He also said that he was forced to pick up a new phone and put all the necessary equipment back on.
He acknowledged that there was a real possibility that his office could be seized by Israel but said he could not remove the files or complexity because this was not in line with Palestinian or state law and that his organization was not a military force. forced labor in secret.
“This also forces my employees to expand their work,” he added.
“We are a small office with seven employees and we have been forced to focus more on responding to false accusations as we intensify our work to promote people with ‘terrorists’ instead of focusing on our full-time human rights work.”