Liberals' Sudden Opposition to Shin Bet COVID Tracking Reveals Their Hypocrisy

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Security cameras in Jerusalem's City of David.
Security cameras in Jerusalem's City of David.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

Israeli democrats are up in arms: The Shin Bet is tracking us.

Supreme Court President Esther Hayut said the use of Shin Bet tracking to fight the spread of the coronavirus “should strike fear and cause one to lose sleep.” Justice Yitzhak Amir spoke about “an acidic compound that could eat away at the iron protections of any democracy.” Before he became health minister, Nitzan Horowitz said, “These are things that are done in dictatorships.”

How fortunate we are to have these gatekeepers. Without them, we’d have no democracy here. So no measures should be taken that would disturb President Hayut’s sensitive sleep, particularly as she hasn’t lost a minute’s sleep up to now.

The Shin Bet doesn’t want to track citizens this way either. It would prefer that a “civilian body” do the job, lest the people’s great faith in it be hurt. Its towering reputation already took a hit: 40 percent of the people who were sent into isolation in the earlier wave were mistakenly singled out. Professor Mordechai Kremnitzer calculated that 400,000 people were sent into a total 1.5 million days of isolation for no good reason.

And again, as usual, the blinders remain on and vision is selective. For half a century now, 5 million people have been living under the totalitarian regime of this same Shin Bet that is now so concerned about its reputation; the tracking measures used against them are much more severe and invasive, and Israelis from the Supreme Court president on down are not losing any sleep over it. Somehow, only the tracking of a few omicron carriers for several days is what will make the difference between Israel the democracy and Israel the dictatorship.

They cite the slippery slope argument: It starts with omicron but who knows where it ends? Well, they actually started a long time ago, and never stopped. Millions of people, mainly residents of the West Bank that has become an inseparable part of Israel and, to a lesser degree, residents of Gaza, could only dream of something as mild as Covid tracking. For them, tracking and the trampling of all other human rights is their daily and nightly routine. The opposition to the Covid tracking is just another example of Israeli hypocrisy and the self-righteousness of Israel’s liberal circles. They alone must not be touched.

The Palestinians in the territories live under a thick, stifling blanket of monitoring, wiretapping, tracking and informing. There aren’t many nations in the world that live under such a tightly-monitored totalitarian regime as the one in the territories. A youth is killed in the Balata refugee camp? Within hours, his brothers’ Israeli employers will receive a message from the all-knowing Shin Bet not to let them work in Israel.

The roads of the West Bank are monitored with thousands of cameras of various kinds that can ID faces and even the color of someone’s underwear; soldiers raid kids’ bedrooms and take pictures to add to their albums of the occupation’s crimes – and Israel is all atremble over the Shin Bet’s Covid tracking.

How hypocritical and self-righteous can a society be, as it guards its supposed democracy and is completely oblivious to the regime it runs in its own backyard? If 400,000 Israelis were mistakenly sent into isolation, how many Palestinians were mistakenly sent to prison by the same mechanism? 400,000? Or maybe 4 million? That has not kept the Supreme Court president up at night. That is about security. And if security sanctifies all, why doesn’t it also sanctify a war on a pandemic that could cause mass casualties? Isn’t that security?

No, the tyranny isn’t sanctified because of security, but because its subjects are Palestinians. That is the reason, and not security, why anything may be done to them. That is the reason, and not security, why nothing may be done to the Jews. As long as the rights of Israeli Jews are not infringed upon, Hayut is not going to lose any sleep. And only when that threatens to happen do all the Israeli democrats suddenly wake up to fight for the very soul of their democracy. But a true democracy should say right now: Track us some more. Let us feel, if just for a moment, what we’ve been doing to millions of people all these years.

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