Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Friday 06 February, 02009


by Matthew Bartlett @ 10:00 am

I love HP, but their subsidiary EDS provides the Israeli Ministry of Defence with a ‘biometric access control system’ which vets Palestinians crossing into Israel to work. The system matches data from smart cards the workers carry to the shape of their hands and heads. More here. Creepy evil oppressive shits! This I found out from the relevant page at Who Profits?, a database of firms involved in the Gaza occupation maintained by an Israeli organisation, The Coalition of Women for Peace.

[via Jolyon at]

14 responses to “Tendrils”

  1. dennis bartlett says:

    if this technology prevented a Palestinian going to Israel and blowing himself and others up or hijacking a big digger (as was done last year I believe)and driving down the street crushing and killing many then I’m all for it. Until there is peace between these nations then this is the price.I see this measure as neither creepy evil or oppressive.

  2. Rudy Verbeek says:

    Hi Matt

    I assume the card is an ID card similar to a passport – the workers are moving across the border from one state (Palestine) to another (Israel). The biometric access control system is nothing new – we’ll have it in NZ within the decade.

    Last year we went on holiday to Madeira. There were 2 lines at passport control – one for old fashioned passports like me, the other for the new biometric passports. Mirren had one, so she tried it. Scan passport, smile into the camera, and then the data on the card is matched to your facial features. If it all matches, the gate opens. If it doesn’t match, the dogs are set loose :o). I don’t like it much either, but it’s simply the future.

    And restricting access to people you don’t want in your country is what NZ does every day.

  3. Matthew Bartlett says:

    But it’s not just the border of two states, is it? Palestine can’t do the same in the other direction, or they would have ‘restricted access’ to the IDF in recent weeks.

    Isn’t the situation analogous to Wellington city deciding it needs more room, and pushing all the Hutt Valley inhabitants into Wainuiomata. The people moved into Wainui might get a bit upset (maybe violently so), but you could solve that by walling off the Wainui hill road and just letting through the docile ones to work daytimes in the Hutt & Wellington. Of course if they stepped out of line they wouldn’t be allowed out again.

    That wall and restricted access can be considered a good solution, but only if you narrow the focus down and ignore the most important aspects of the situation. And it’s that same narrow (in their case, technical) focus that presumably lets employees of companies like EDS complete this sort of project and sleep soundly at night.

  4. Ben Hoyt says:

    I’m afraid I don’t see it either. I’ve had similar, albeit less fancy, electronic ID cards at various companies I’ve worked for. Whenever I crossed the “border” from street to workplace, I had to present the ID card. And that’s in perfectly peaceful times in a peaceful country.

    So doesn’t it simply make sense in a time of war, whatever side you’re on? If I was living in the Gaza Strip I could certainly understand being ID-checked when crossing into Israel (even in a time of peace).

    Also — and maybe I’m just being naive here — I don’t quite understand why so many people jump (with most of the media) onto the anti-Israel bandwagon. To me it seems an awfully complicated, 5000-year-old situation, but the media and pundits everywhere seem to have all the answers …

    About sleeping soundly, perhaps it’s the old boycott question of “how much should I worry about what happens to my stuff five stages down the track?” Example: I work for an NZ company that make jet boat engines. One of the things they do is make jets for big pleasure boats. I’m guessing here, but presumably adultery is a fairly common pastime on these vessels. Am I guilty of breaking the seventh commandment?

  5. Ben Hoyt says:

    But enough armchair philosophy. I’m off to cuddle a crying baby … :-)

  6. Matthew Bartlett says:

    The boycott question is difficult… it’s a running sore perpetually reopened by the parable of the good Samaritan (“who is my neighbour?”). But I wasn’t suggesting that you boycott HP or EDS, I was pointing to the way that many people (perhaps most of us, and particularly technical people) have a tendency to keep our heads down, work on the task at hand, without consideration for hour our efforts are contributing to more or less evil structures. We have to expand our boundaries of consideration.

    Your analogy is ridiculous — EDS aren’t five stages away, they’re right there, and they’ve taken a side. The wrong side; the side with all the big guns and money.

    Also, I’m annoyed at your implication that I’m riding on a bandwagon re. Israel/Palestine.

  7. Rudy Verbeek says:

    Hi Matt,

    perhaps EDS believe they’re on the right side – the side that doesn’t have a bunch of murderous, thieving terrorists as government. The side with all the suicide bombs and money, and stuff they regularly steal from their own people – eg. emergency relief supplies etc.

    You believe you’re right, they believe they’re right.

    Peace, Rudy

  8. kathyb says:

    The list when you follow that link is great. Quite extensive. This is one thing I love about the interweb – it can give you the information to make properly informed consumer decisions.I think the research that would go into finding stuff like this out before the interweb would have been so off putting, you’d never get round to it.

    It’s kind of amusing to suggest that all the media is pro Palestine when I keep hearing about terrorist this and terrorist that every hour on the hour.
    It really does seem we all want democracy, so long as the elected party is the one we are feeling most comfortable with. It is hard for me to see how for instance MOSSAD is less of a bunch of murderous terrorists than anyone else.
    I would like it to be true that everyone does what they believe is right ie: sit down and consider the implications of their work, who they work for, where the end product ends up etc, but I would say it’s more likely most people don’t have any strong belief they’re right as such, they just don’t think about it. We are all guilty of it one way or another. Sigh.

  9. Matthew Bartlett says:

    Also regarding the Israeli bandwagon — the site listing the companies is run by the Coalition of Women for Peace, which is an Israeli organisation. Are Jewish anti-occupation protesters just jumping on a bandwagon too?

  10. Ben Hoyt says:

    Matt, good point about boycotts and looking at the big picture of how our work affects things — fully agree we need to do more of this.

    Sorry for being unhelpfully provocative about bandwagons. Kathy’s probably right, because I admit to not actually following the media very closely. It’s probably partly because I’m already biased, so I only hear them when they say stuff I question. (Like how it “always rains at a picnic” — it doesn’t, but you only remember the times when it does.)

    Still, when I hear or read stuff that makes me question, I’m asking, “How can they be so sure of that? Why does this seem awfully one-sided?” So Matt writes, then Rudy replies, and I’m thinking, “Hmmm, yes. There seem to be two very strong and very different perspectives on this. Who’s right?”

    Perhaps I’m head-in-the-sand, but one reason I don’t fancy the interweb is because we hear about all these problems everywhere, and it appears at first that we can really understand and do something about them (other than write opinionated comments on a friend’s blog :-). Then it turns out we can’t, and we’re stuck with tons of terrible knowledge we can’t use.

  11. Matthew Bartlett says:

    Thanks Ben. Making a good life in the face of terrible knowledge is our task. (Perhaps this is why I like all the Germans I know; it’s that first school trip to a concentration camp.) It is hard to know what to do with the knowledge that e.g. bits of my cellphone were involved in bloody wars in Africa.

    FWIW, I first started taking the Palestinian side after reading Theodore Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain.

  12. dennis bartlett says:

    can I borrow it

  13. Matthew Bartlett says:

    I thought I’d read your copy. If not, it must have been mine, in which case I’ve lent it and not had it back.

  14. Lynton says:

    Angchap has a copy of that excellent book in their library. It led me to appreciate the Eastern Orthodox tradition and relics.

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