Opinion: The decision by the ‘government of change’ to bring back surveillance tech to track civilians in the battle against pandemic is a blatant violation of civil rights, and this coalition is not so different after all from the Netanyahu administration

Well, you can’t say that wasn’t quick! The public hasn’t even fully grasped the extend of the problem posed by the new COVID variant and the Shin Bet is already back snooping around. As if two years have not passed since the onset of COVID-19.

Since then, Israel has launched several massive vaccination campaigns that provided protection against the virus to almost an entire country.

תמונה של מצלמת מעקב אחרי אזרחים
Illustration of government surveillance (Photo: Shutterstock)


As if we haven’t seen dozen of wrong diagnosis cases, which sent civilians into quarantine even though they never came in contact with a verified COVID patient. As a result, these people lost money due to not being able to work, while spending hours on the phone, begging Health Ministry officials to cancel their isolation.

Didn’t Prime Minister Naftali Bennett say “the Shin Bet tracking causes great damage to the Israeli economy and the public trust?”. Didn’t Foreign Minister Yair Lapid say in August 2020 that Shin Bet themselves aren’t interested in using their tracking system on civilians. Even Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said in June 2020 using the security agency’s tools on civilians is “how democracy dies”.

Basically, when Benjamin Netanyahu was prime minister, Shin Bet tracking of civilians was a symptom of dictatorship, but now it’s just a useful tool.

עומסים במתחם הבדיקות בנתב"ג
COVID-19 test zone at the Ben Gurion Airport


What’s even more concerning is the political officials’ willingness to take advantage of the uncertainty and constant media coverage that tends to panic over health issues to maintain the bluff of the phenomenon of “contact tracking”.

The Shin Bet, which is an organization that supposed to prevent terrorism – even though it failed to catch the spy who changed sheets at the defense minister’s house – is being sent to spy on civilians. It is unacceptable in a democratic country, and no wonder it doesn’t happen in other countries in the West.

קבלת סמס עם בקשה לכניסה לבידוד
A message received by COVID patient after track-and-trace tech was used to monitor his moves

In addition, the last time the measure was used, it proved how its efficiency to locate virus carriers is questionable at best.

The press also plays important role. The term “contact tracking” shapes a wrong mindset. It’s about surveillance, not contact tracing. If the media said the government has approved “for Shin Bet to use its surveillance measures to follow those who got infected with the Omicron variant” instead of reporting about the broad “contact tracing of confirmed carriers,” the reaction of the public would have been different.

Those who are certain that the current situation justifies a violation of civil rights should also be able to deal with the linguistic truth of their argument, instead of blaming those who oppose it.

In a new report by the New Israel Fund, researchers Dr. Noam Gidron and Jonathan Levy point out that in Israel and the rest of the world populism didn’t disappear with the end of the Donald Trump and Netanyahu’s reigns. In fact, the current political climate serves as the fertile soil for the growth of populism, which some politicians currently in power would be more than willing to take advantage of.

The approval of the Shin Bet’s use of the tracking system isn’t a populist step, but it is an example of how even the “government of change,” which includes several left-wing parties, rushes to use a tool that weakens the common man to serve its own interests, regardless of how damaging it would be for the country.

As reported by Ynetnews