The spy camera as our friend

“Can surveillance cameras help free us? asks Nazareth-based British journalist Jonathan Cook. In a posting published on his blog, he elaborates:

Do the cameras that now surround us, helping governments keep continual track of our lives, also offer a benefit? Can they help educate us, show us a reality obscured too long by fears created for us by the elites and their media? Might they help us liberate ourselves from prejudice, and overcome our susceptibility to the divide-and-rule policies that keep us weak?

Cook’s questions were prompted, as he says, by the footage of US police in Cleveland, USA, shooting dead a 12-year-old boy for holding a toy gun. As he says, although no one is seemingly at risk from the boy with his pretend weapon, the police,

do not hold back. They do not park their vehicle some distance away, taking shelter behind the car’s metal body, while they warn their suspect to put his gun down. No, they race fearlessly right up to him in their car, get out and shoot him on the spot.

Not even the size of him, a little man pretending in his hoodie to be the grown-up he isn’t yet, seems to throw them, give them pause.

He is black and he has a gun. So his life must be forfeited.

Cleveland police footage, taken from a surveillance camera, showing the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a policeman in a public park on 22 November

The ubiquitous presence of surveillance cameras can raise strong emotions among people concerned about their privacy and uncomfortable with the fact that their exact movements, from the moment they step outside their home to the moment they return, can be tracked on camera.

But the spy camera can also be our friend, exposing the truth through the wrongdoers’ web of lies.

Two recent incidents illustrate the point.

On 15 May, the 66th anniversary of the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians, two Palestinian youths, Nadim Nuwara and Mohammed Abu al-Thahir, were murdered in cold blood in Beitunia. A CCTV camera mounted on the outer wall of a shop captured the moments when the two unarmed boys were each hit with a live round, in one case as the youth can be seen walking away from the protest area.

Video footage showing the murder of Nadim Nawarah in Beitunia on 15 May

The second incident happened on 7 November. A security camera showed how 22-year-old Kheir al-Din Hamdan was murdered by Israeli police in Kafr Kanna, a village near Nazareth.

The murder of Kheir al-Din Hamdan by Israeli policemen in Kafr Kanna was captured by a security camera – unbeknown to the policemen

The camera clearly showed Hamdan approaching a police car and beating on its windows with something, but then, seeing that this had no effect, turning around and starting to walk away. As Uri Avery pointed out, “before the cameras caught the scene, the police had arrested Hamdan’s cousin and put him into the car. Obviously, Kheir al-Din wanted to release the cousin and therefore beat on the car.”

The privacy arguments against the all-pervasive CCTV cameras should not be belittled – we are all entitled to our privacy and must always be alert to the actual and potential abuse of our private data, be they camera footage or information obtained from our email communications and internet browsing.

However, as the examples above show (there are other, numerous examples), the surveillance camera can also be our friend, helping us to expose the truth.

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