Is this where we're all headed? Will the "Israeli model" soon be the reality across the West amid the coronavirus pandemic?
After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced last Saturday that authorities will tap the country's 'counter-terror' technology and systems to combat the "invisible enemy" of Covid-19, Israeli media is now reporting the government is actually considering the "total suspension of individual freedom" — as a new Haaretz headline reads.
Israel’s public health services chief is now urging just that: Sigal Sadetsky told the Knesset Subcommittee on Intelligence and Secret Services this week that “A lockdown and personal monitoring of people, and a total halt to personal freedoms” is urgently necessary.
The public health chief's alarming remarks raised eyebrows among lawmakers in the emergency session. When pressed on what the "halt to personal freedoms" would entail, she emphasized that going beyond a mere curfew was needed - in short a total lockdown on a national level. Haaretz reports:
Sadetsy and Moshe Bar Siman Tov, the Health Ministry’s director general, tried to persuade committee members to give the Shin Bet the go-ahead to use “special technological means” to detect where people diagnosed with the disease had been and the people they were exposed to while they were contagious, and to isolate them.
Consider too this shocking exchange between an Israeli lawmaker and health services chief Sadetsky, where the latter essentially concedes that the state needs to be given totalitarian powers like China in order to combat the pandemic:
Ashkenazi then asked: “When did they start it, and how effective was it?”
Sadetsky: “It’s about when you start and how strenuously you apply it, because the fact that it was all collapsing there … there was no doubt about it. Everyone will do the same. How do we see it? They will do it after the collapse and then they will…”
She was interrupted by Kish: “Lockdown?”
Sadetsky: “A lockdown, while personally monitoring people and placing a total suspension on individual freedom.”
MK Yair Lapid (Kahol Lavan) tried several times to point out that China is not a democratic country and, therefore, its situation is different to Israel’s. The health officials did not respond directly, but reiterated that both the timing and strength of the response were critical, and therefore there was scope to approve the extreme measures.
Ashkenazi noted that the extraordinary measures they were requesting would affect a great many people, because they wouldn’t only be applied to those infected but also those who were in their proximity. Bar Siman Tov confirmed this.
So what's being proposed is far beyond merely applying to those quarantined or believed exposures, but broadly and bluntly across communities, cities, and towns.
Only swift and “strong” measures would do, Israel's public health chief said – even at the expense of violating individual rights https://t.co/Tdqq8YKqIQ— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) March 19, 2020
Previously an opposition party leader from Meretz party, Nitzan Horowitz, pushed back against Netanyahu's plans for blanket counter-terror measures employed in the crisis, noting that tracking citizens “using databases and sophisticated technological means are liable to result in a severe violation of privacy and basic civil liberties.”
Meanwhile, former US special forces soldier and now journalist Jack Murphy recently put it more bluntly and articulated what everyone's thinking:
Once these "emergency measures" are implemented, they will never ever be repealed.
Dystopian scene of a man in Tel Aviv being arrested for violating his coronavirus quarantine. pic.twitter.com/miEf8XzSDC— Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian (@manniefabian) March 14, 2020
As we said before, this "1984 scenario" is likely soon to come to your country, and a neighborhood near you — if not already.