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Israel’s investments in spyware and surveillance technology have direct implications for the Palestinian people as well as Black & brown New Orleanians. The continued use of these oppressive tools further perpetuate the systemic genocide, settler colonialism, and apartheid in Gaza and have led to racism and white supremacy being further entrenched in law enforcement agencies and other systems throughout the US.
How do the City of New Orleans and local businesses collaborate with Israeli apartheid?
City officials and businesses in New Orleans are directly implicated in Israeli apartheid through former and ongoing partnerships with Israeli tech firms Carbyne and Cellebrite and US based firm Palantir.
Under Mayor Landrieu, the City of New Orleans had a quiet partnership with Palantir Technologies, the surveillance technology company whose same facial recognition software is used in Israel to target and criminalize both Palestinian communities and human rights defenders. In 2020, the City entered into an agreement with Israeli tech firm Carbyne, which asks users in crisis dialing 911 to agree to be surveilled without regulations or limits. Carbyne is linked to Unit 8200, an Israeli intelligence division known for its invasive surveillance of Palestinians. The City also has current contracts with American and other non-Israeli companies like Motorola Solutions, which hosts our City’s current network of surveillance cameras and provides surveillance and encryption software to the Israeli army to protect settlements in the West Bank, settlements which violently displace Palestinians and are illegal under international law.
New Orleans’ endorsement of apartheid infrastructure was inspired by other cities’ surveillance infrastructure as well.The Video Integration Center (VIC) in Atlanta was a direct inspiration for New Orleans’ Real Time Crime Center (RTCC). The VIC is specifically modeled off of the command and control center run by the IDF and other partners in the Old City of Jerusalem.
As of 2023, collaborations between parties like the Port of New Orleans and the Port of Ashdod in Tel Aviv exemplify an ongoing local trend of collaborating with and profiting from the endorsement of apartheid infrastructure. An exchange trip in 2022 took Louisiana business leaders to visit Israeli company Cellebrite, a major surveillance technology vendor in the US whose products have been used to hack the phones of journalists and people accused of minor crimes like shoplifting. Given the history of New Orleans’ nefarious experimentation with surveillance tools, this trip should raise alarm bells about more invasive, racist technology finding its way here, where we are already fighting to maintain surveillance tech bans that were won by the Eye on Surveillance coalition in December of 2020.
How are our state officials involved in supporting Israeli surveillance practices?
State officials, including those from Louisiana, have been involved in supporting Israeli surveillance practices through police exchange programs and business trips. For example, Baton Rouge Police and Louisiana State Police have participated in an exchange program with Israeli law enforcement that supported officer trips to Israel. Given these agencies longstanding and well-documented racist and violent policing practices in both Louisiana and Palestine, trips such as these have been labeled by many groups as a Deadly Exchange of information and “worst practices” between police departments.
What is the financial cost of these surveillance practices to taxpayers?
The exact financial cost of these surveillance practices to taxpayers is not specified explicitly in the Annual Budget guide, but it includes expenditures on technology from companies like Motorola Solutions and Carbyne. These costs not only entail the purchase of equipment and software but also potentially cover expenses related to training, exchange programs and business trips. Small businesses were given the opportunity to apply for public funds to cover up to $7500 in costs to attend a Jewish Federation-sponsored trade mission and cultural exchange trip to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in July of 2022. The State Trade Expansion Program or STEP grant, is sponsored by Louisiana Economic Development and funded in part by taxpayers.
What can we do to stop this surveillance exchange?
Collectively, we have the power to stop this deadly surveillance exchange that continues to harass, criminalize, incarcerate and harm New Orleanians and Palestinians. Join the international movement to boycott companies profiting from surveillance and genocide, including Starbucks, Puma, AirBnB, HP and Siemens. Learn more at bdsmovement.net. Locally, we must pressure city and state governments to disengage from partnerships with companies involved in these surveillance practices. We can stop the deadly exchange. Join the Eye on Surveillance mailing list here to be notified of local opportunities to get involved.