Biden spokesperson Jen Psaki worked for Israeli spy firm

Woman at podium gesticulates

White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Shawn Thew Pool via CNP

President Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki worked for an Israeli firm accused of involvement in surveillance of Palestinians under Israeli military occupation.

Psaki’s public financial disclosures show that she earned at least $5,000 as a “crisis communications consultant” for AnyVision.

The disclosure forms for executive branch officials can be requested from the White House. Psaki’s disclosure obtained by The Electronic Intifada is included below this article.

The exact date of the work is not specified, but it occurred between the time Psaki left the Obama administration in 2017 and her new role in the Biden White House.

Psaki has operated a communications firm called Evergreen Consulting since a month after President Barack Obama left office.

This covers the period when AnyVision faced a public relations crisis over its alleged complicity in Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights.

In 2019, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that AnyVision’s facial recognition technology was being secretly used by Israel’s occupation army “to monitor West Bank Palestinians at checkpoints on the way into Israel – while using a network of cameras deep inside the West Bank.”

AnyVision’s president, Amir Kain, was former head of the Israeli defense ministry’s security department, and one of its advisers, Tamir Pardo, is a former head of the Mossad spying and assassination agency, according to Haaretz.

In other words, AnyVision was reportedly an integral part of what Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem recently described as an “apartheid regime” established to perpetuate “the supremacy of one group – Jews – over another – Palestinians.”

According to Haaretz, the firm’s co-founder Eylon Etshtein asserted without apparent irony that his company is “very sensitive” to racial and gender bias and only sells to “democratic countries with proper governments.”

Microsoft divestment

A subsequent report by Olivia Solon for NBC News stated that AnyVision “powers a secret military surveillance project throughout the West Bank.”

“Palestinians living in the West Bank do not have Israeli citizenship or voting rights but are subject to movement restrictions and surveillance by the Israeli government,” NBC noted.

The network also reported that when it approached AnyVision’s Etshtein for comment, “He disputed that the West Bank was ‘occupied’ and questioned the motivation of the NBC News inquiry, suggesting the reporter must have been funded by a Palestinian activist group.”

Etshtein also apparently threatened to sue the network.

Solon’s report focused attention on how American tech giant Microsoft had invested $74 million in AnyVision.

That spurred the #DropAnyVision campaign by human rights and Palestine solidarity activists calling on Microsoft to divest from the spy firm.

The campaign – spearheaded by Jewish Voice for Peace – was successful.

Microsoft announced a year ago that it was withdrawing from involvement with AnyVision, after it commissioned an investigation led by former US attorney general Eric Holder.

Microsoft said that Holder’s investigation could not substantiate the accusations about AnyVision’s secret involvement in surveillance of Palestinians.

But Microsoft said it was divesting anyway since holding a minority share in a firm selling “sensitive technologies” including facial recognition would not allow for the “level of oversight or control that Microsoft exercises over the use of its own technology.”

“Microsoft’s decision to dump AnyVision is a huge blow to this deeply complicit Israeli company and a success for an impressive BDS campaign,” Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement for Palestinian rights, said at the time.

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No surprise. What would be surprising would be if this kind of thing didn't happen, given that Israel gains its legitimacy from the US. Republicans and Democrats alike have granted that legitimacy since 1948 , and before. The US's interest has always been in maintaining its hegemony both economically and politically. Why shouldn't US firms supply Israel with spy equipment? The US has never adhered to international law in relation to Israel, or pretty well anywhere else for that matter. That brings into focus the essential point: only the US can bring a settlement in the Israel/Palestine and that must come about by de-legitimisation of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians by the US. That's why the struggle can't be won internally, which is not to say the Palestinians shouldn't resist. They should, and vigorously but without the violence which will bring extreme Israeli reprisals and see them dubbed terrorists. Yet it is in the US the battle must be won. When US public opinion will no longer tolerate US legitimisation of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, and when the US government is forced to respond, the matter will be quickly settled. So long as the US provides cover for the Israelis they will continue what they have done since 1948. Greater Israel would be a disaster. Anti-apartheid style resistance in such a unified State would be ineffective. The battle lies in the US and with public opinion. A shift in public opinion in Western Europe can bring pressure on the US lawmakers, which is why the campaign there needs to be energetic and intelligent. Exposing this kind of thing makes things a little more uncomfortable for the US government, but a serious attack on the US's legitimisation of the Israelis actions is what is needed. It is US power which is responsible for the plight of the Palestinians. Without it, the Israelis will be forced to retreat.

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I am never sure why anyone thinks registering as a "foreign " agent in a nation embedded in global trade or finance is negative or a big deal.

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