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Automated Murder: Israel’s ‘AI’ in Gaza by Patrick Lawrence and Cara Marianna*

AnalysisAutomated Murder: Israel’s ‘AI’ in Gaza by Patrick Lawrence and Cara Marianna*

“Technological change, while it helps hu- manity meet the challenges nature impos- es upon us, leads to a paradigm shift: It leaves us lesscapable, not more, of using our intellectual capacities. It diminish- es our minds in the long run. We strive to improve ourselves while risking a re- gression to the Stone Age if our ever more complex, ever more fragile technological infrastructure collapses.”

That is Hans Köchler, an eminent Vien- nese scholar and president of the Interna- tional Progress Organization1, a globally active think tank, addressing an audience here last Thursday evening, April 4. The date is significant: The day before Köchler spoke, +972 Magazine and LocalCall, in- dependent publications in Israel–Pales- tine, reported2 that as the Israel Defence Forces press their savage invasion of the

ing effects these technologies have on all who depend on them.

Let us look on in horror, and let us see our future in it.

AI is not intelligence

We see in the IDF, to make this point an- other way, a rupture in morality, human intelligence, and responsibility when human oversight is mediated by the al- gorithms that run AI systems. There is a break between causality and result, ac- tion and consequence. And this is exactly what advanced technologies have in store for the rest of humanity. Artificial intel- ligence, as Köchler put it, is not intelli- gence: “It is ‘simulated intelligence’ be- cause it has no consciousness of itself.” It isn’t capable, he meant to say, of moral de- cision-making or ethical accountability.

before making the decision to strike. There was no other human analysis of the “raw intelligence data.” The informa- tion generated by Lavender was treated as if it was “an order,” sources told +972 – an official order to kill. Given the strat- egy of targeting suspects in their homes, the IDF assigned acceptable kill ratios for its bombing campaigns: 20 to 30 civil- ians for each junior-level Hamas opera- tive. For Hamas leaders with the rank of battalion or brigade commander, +972’s sources said, “the army on several occa- sions authorised the killing of more than 100 civilians in the assassination of a sin- gle commander.”

In other words, Israeli policy, guided and assisted by AI technology, made it inevitable that thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, would be killed.

 

Gaza Strip, they deploy an artificial intelligence program called Lavender that so far has marked some 37,000 Palestinians as kill targets. In the early weeks of the Is- raeli siege, according to the Israeli sources

+972 cites, “the army gave sweeping approval for officers to adopt Lavender’s kill lists, with no requirement to thoroughly check why the machine made those choices or to examine the raw intelligence data on which they were based.”

“The Biden regime supplies Israel with weaponry to prosecute its criminal siege of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians. It gives the apartheid state diplomatic cover atthe United Na- tions and legal cover at the International Court of Justice. It distorts and obscures theIDF’s ‘Stone Age’ conduct. All of this requires us to speak now not of Israel’s genocide but of the Israeli-US genocide.”


Dehumanising consequences

Chilling it was to hear Köchler speak a couple of news cycles after +972 published these revelations, which are based on confidential interviews with six Israeli intelligence officerswho have been direct- ly involved in the use of AI to target Pal- estinians for assassination. “To use tech- nologies to solve all our problemsreduces our ability to make decisions,” Köchler asserted. “We’re no longer able to think through problems. They remove us from real life.”

Köchler titled his talk “The Trivialisa- tion of Public Space,” and his topic, broad- ly stated, was the impact of technologies such as digitalcommunications and AI on our brains, our conduct, and altogether our humanity. It was sobering, to put the point mildly, to recognise that Israel’s siege of Gaza, bottomlessly depraved in itself, is an in-our-faces display of the dehumanis-

* Patrick Lawrence is a long-time foreign cor- respondent, mainly for the “International Her- ald Tribune”, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His latest book “Journalists and Their Shadows” was published by Clarity Press in 2023. His website is patricklawrence.us.

Cara Marianna is a writer and co-editor for The Floutist, an online newsletter she publishes with her husband Patrick Lawrence. Cara publishes her own newsletter called Winter Wheat. She is an artist and has a Ph. D. in American Studies.

“Lavender” – indiscriminate killings of entire families

In the Lavender case3, the data it produced were accepted and treated as if they had been generated by a human being without any actual human oversight or independ- ent verification. A second AI system, sa- distically named Where’s Daddy?4 – and how sick is this? – was then used totrack Hamas suspects to their homes. The IDF intentionally targeted suspected militants while they were with their families, using unguidedmissiles or “dumb” bombs. This strategy had the advantage of enabling Is- rael to preserve its more expensive preci- sion-guided weapons, or “smart” bombs.

As one of +972’s sources told the ma- gasine:

“We were not interested in killing [Hamas] operatives only when they were in a military building or engaged in a mil- itary activity […].” On the contrary, the IDF bombed them in homes without hesi- tation, as a first option. It’s much easier to bomb a family’s home. The system is built to look for them in these situations.

Once Lavender identified a potential suspect, IDF operatives had about 20 sec- onds to verify that the target was a male

‘The marketing of automated murder’

There appears to be no record of any other military deploying AI programs such as Lavender and Where’s Daddy?. But it is sheer naïveté to assume this diabolic use of advanced technologies will not spread elsewhere. Israel is already the world’s leading exporter of surveillance and digi- tal forensic tools. Anadolu, Turkey’s state- run news agency, reported as far back as February5 that Israel is using Gaza as a weapons-testing site so that it can mar- ket these tools as battle-tested. Antony Lowenstein, an author Anadolu quotes, calls this the marketing of “automated murder.”

And here we find ourselves: “Haaretz”, the Israeli daily, reported6 on 5 April that “intelligent” weapons proven effective in Gaza were major attractions when Israel marketed them last month at the Singa- pore Air show, East Asia’s biggest arms bazaar.

Hans Köchler, who has studied the impact of digital technologies for many years, did not seem to have read the +972 Maga- zinereport before he spoke here last week. This made his remarks all the more diring. He was not describing – not specifically – the murderers operating Lavender and other such technologies in Gaza. We will all live and die bythese Faustian technolo- gies: This, our common fate, was Köchler’s topic. Over the past six months, this is to say, Israel has announced thedehumanisa- tion that awaits all of us in that AI systems are technologies against which we have lit- tle defence. “Self-determination gives way todigital competence,” Köchler said. “We can’t distinguish between ‘virtual reality’ and ‘reality’.”

Further ‘Israeli depravities’ and their narratives in the West

Along with the +972 report on the use of AI came others in a week notable for its stomach-churning news of Israeli deprav- ity. In its April 3editions “The Guardian” revealed7 that the IDF intentionally de- ploys snipers and quadcopters – remotely controlled sniper drones – to target chil- dren. The evidence of this comes from US and Canadian doctors who, while serving in Gaza, treat manychildren with wounds consistent with and easily identified as caused by snipers’ bullets. These are larg- er than the ammunition generally used in combat because they are intended to kill rather than wound.

The Biden regime never addresses these barbaric developments, and our corporate media, with rare exceptions such as “The Guardian” piece just cited, tell us almost nothing of them. Official and media ac- counts of events in Gaza, their “narra- tives,” are utterly at odds with these re- alities. How, we are left to ask, do they get away with these day-in, day-out dis- honesties? This was the obvious question last week, given theextremes to which the IDF’s criminality now extends.

If you Google “Lavender” and “The New York Times,” you get “Lavender Oil Might Help You Sleep” and similarly friv- olous headlines.Neither has “The Times” made any mention of the +972 investiga- tion. If you read detailed accounts of the April 1 air attacks on the World Central Kitchen’s three food-delivery vehicles,

which killed seven aid workers, it is ines- capable that the Israeli military systemati- cally targeted them, one truck to the next, until all three were destroyed—this after WCK had carefully coordinated its de- ployment of the vehicles with Israeli au- thorities. These killings are entirely in line with the directive8 Yoav Gallant, Is- rael’s repulsive defence minister, issued 9 October: “There will be no electricity, no food, no water, no fuel,everything will be closed.”

And what did we read of this incident in mainstream media?

Per usual, the Israeli military was au- thorised to investigate the Israeli mili- tary – an absurdity no US official and no media accountquestioned. On April 5 the IDF announced that two officers were dis- missed and three other reprimanded for “mishandling critical information.”Presi- dent Biden declared he was “heartbroken.” “The New York Times” called the attack “a botched operation,”9 explaining that the  IDF’s top officers “were forced to admit to a string of lethal mistakes and misjudge- ments.” Over and over we hear the refrain that Israel “is notdoing enough to protect civilians.”

So it was a regrettable accident, we are led to conclude. Israel is doing its best. It has all along done its best. Put this against the raw statistic:The IDF has killed more than 220 humanitarian workers since it began its siege last October, to go by the UN’s count. How can one possibly be- lieve that these were 220 – plus accidents? “Let’s be very clear. This is not an anom- aly,” an Oxfam official, Scott Paul, said after the WCK attack. “The killing of aid workers in Gaza has been systemic.”

Living in virtual worlds

There is reality and there is meta-reali- ty, a term I have used previously in this space. How do the two stand side-by-side? How doesthe latter, the conjured “reality,” prove so efficacious? How do so many ac- cept the 220 – plus-accidents “narrative?” Why, more broadly, do so many accept propaganda and lies when they know, sub- liminally, they are constantly fed lies and propagandised

I go back once again to Hans Köchler. In his speech and in various of his many books, he argues that electronic media – television chief among these– have conditioned peo- ple to rely for information on pictures and images instead of reading. “They lose the ability to analyse text, and so theability to understand problems,” he said here. “People come to live in virtual worlds.”

We cannot think of a better descrip- tion of the “narratives” advanced by the Biden regime and disseminated in corpo- rate media: Theypresent us with a virtual world – fully aware that, our minds habit- uated to pictures and images, most of us will mistake this virtual world for reality, just as Köchler warns. As a member of the audience here put it, “How is it possible to watch a genocide in real time and no one says anything? Knowledge no longer has any value. Anything goes, and if anything goes, nothing goes.”

Genocide by US-nibs

The Biden regime supplies Israel with weaponry to prosecute its criminal siege of Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians. It gives the apartheid state diplomatic cover at the United Nations and legal cover at the In- ternational Court of Justice. It distorts and obscures the IDF’s “Stone Age” con- duct. All of this requires us to speak now not of Israel’s genocide but ofthe Israeli- US genocide.

But the Biden regime is culpable in in- flicting these multiple wounds on human- ity in one other dimension we must not miss. With its incessant attempts to sus- pend us in a virtual reality of its making, distant from what it is doing in our names, it leads us into the dehumanised, gro- tesquely technologised future Köchler de- scribes just as surely as the Israelis do as they murder human beings wholesale with AI weapons and kill innocent children with remotely controlled sniper drones. •

1  https://i-p-o.org

2 https://www.972mag.com/lavender-ai-israeli-ar- my-gaza/

3 https://www.972mag.com/lavender-ai-israeli-ar- my-gaza/

4 https://www.businessinsider.com/israel-ai-system- wheres-daddy-strikes-hamas-family-homes-2024

5 https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/israel-test- ing-new-weapons-in-gaza-for-global-sales-lay-  ing-blueprint-for-automated-murder-with-ai-ex- pert/3137263

https://www.haaretz.com/israel-

news/2024-04-05/ty-article-magazine/. highlight/at-singapore-airshow-the-gaza- war-was-a-selling-point-for-israeli-weap-

on-manufacturers/0000018e-aa7f-dc75-afde- faff383b0000

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2024/

apr/02/gaza-palestinian-children-killed-idf-isra- el-war#:~:text=“This%20is%20not%20a%20 normal,stain%20on%20our%20shared%20hu- manity.”

8 https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2024/4/7/ dont-feed-the-palestinians

9 https://www.nytimes.com/2024/04/04/world/mid- dleeast/israel-wck-gaza-iran-embassy.html

First published in scheerpost.com of 9 April 2024

 

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