It turns out, not surprisingly, that Israel made use of Facebook to identify and track pro-Palestinian activists recently. This is probably only a tiny fraction of Israel's overall effort to track critics.
First, most (possibly all, given post 9/11 developments) electronic communications are monitored by the anglophone countries, especially the U.S., U.K., Canada, N.Z., and Australia. This has been the case for many years. The Echelon facility, based in Britain, has been monitoring electronic communications for decades. It is located in Britain precisely to avoid US government violations of American law. Mention something like this in the hearing of a Times editor or reporter (like John Burns or Thomas Friedman) and you will instantly be labeled a "conspiracy theorist," despite the fact that such media figures know this to be the case.
Second, the Obama administration has repeatedly made clear than even unambiguous speech-acts are now being taken to constitute "material support" for whatever organization is in the sights of the U.S. government. The U.S. has dug itself into a nice hole on this one (possibly with some malice aforethought). The Supreme Court has ruled (and Obama, Democrats, and Republicans have endorsed the view) that spending money is a speech act. Of course, money can be essential to material support of an enterprise. Thus, the groundwork is laid for extending restrictions on freedom of speech by likening, say, vocal support for Palestinian rights to "yelling fire in a crowded theater." And this indeed is a rhetorical/political/legal move made by diehard Israel-supporters and their willing slaves in the U.S. government and media as they seek to choke off any and all support for Palestinians.
Finally, we know that the U.S. shares "intelligence" with Israel. Likewise, we know from recent reports that Google shares information on users to varying degrees with various countries. The U.S. leads in demands placed on Google, and Google usually complies. Israel likewise enjoys near-total compliance. We also know that the major telecoms have raised no word of objection whatsoever to U.S. demands for secret access. What Israel has demanded and received we can only guess, but given the hysterical support that Israel enjoys in the U.S., I wouldn't be surprised to find that it sees greater compliance than the U.S. government. Furthermore, there is a small army of extremist, pro-Israel fanatics ready to level any and every charge at any and every critic of Israel. Computing technology has made the collection and sorting of all this information very easy for years.
Thus we have three components that reduce Facebook to what is likely a tiny component of a much larger monitoring (and control) apparatus:
- Technological means;
- Vastly expanding conceptions of what constitute (a) threats and (b) legitimate means; and
- A disparate, dispersed but nevertheless organized body of very willing participants.
The advantages for those who support human rights, whether Palestinians' or anybody's (since I think it is safe to say that every last person on Earth _not_ in the top 5% of the most privileged is under attack) are:
- Sheer numbers;
- Growing ease of communication;
- Commitment to a stable, sustainable, humanitarian solution.
I think the strategy for We the People should be
- Absolute openness (combat secrecy with openness);
- Ever-repeated commitment to non-violence;
- An extended, open hand even to those with whom we disagree.