Since having gained prominence as a whistleblower, Snowden has been a vocal advocate for free speech, freedom of the press, and privacy. However, the Israeli government routinely violates these rights for Palestinians as well as Israelis.
TEL AVIV, ISRAEL — Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor who leaked classified information from the U.S.’ National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, will be speaking at an upcoming conference in Israel via video stream on November 6. The event, which is being hosted by Israeli media consultancy firm OH! Orenstein Hoshen, will be closed to the general public and attended only by “specially invited guests.”
According to Israeli media reports, Snowden will be speaking on “Israel-related issues” to an Israeli-only audience and will take questions from the event’s specially selected guests. Snowden’s remarks will then be followed by statements from former Deputy Chief of the Mossad Ram Ben Barak, who currently serves as president of Israel-based private security consulting and intelligence firm Fortify Defense.
Details of the event were made public on Wednesday. According to Jewish Business News, during a negotiating process that lasted several months, Snowden’s associates and Snowden himself “have responded positively to OH! Orenstein Hoshen’s request to speak to an Israeli audience for the first time”
OH! Orenstein Hoshen is a relatively new Israeli PR firm whose clients include law firm DLA Piper, connected to Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation scandal, as well as U.S. weapons giant Raytheon, and Teddy Sagi – one of Israel’s richest men.
Regarding Snowden’s upcoming appearance, the firm stated:
Snowden is a fascinating figure because his actions are so controversial. We have no intention of expressing support or an opinion on what he did. The audience will hear what he has to say, can ask tough questions and people can work out their own opinions on the matter.”
Within Israel, Snowden’s appearance via video conference is likely to invite controversy, given that many of the documents he leaked helped to expose the depth of U.S./Israeli intelligence sharing. For instance, documents from the Snowden cache revealed that the NSA shares raw signals intelligence, including information about innocent American citizens, with Israel’s Unit 8200, the military intelligence branch of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
In addition, the Snowden documents have shown that a U.S. government National Intelligence Estimate ranked Israel as “the third most aggressive intelligence service against the U.S.” for its targeting of U.S. government communications. The documents also revealed that the U.S. spied on Israeli government officials.
In 2014, journalist Glenn Greenwald – who received the full cache of the documents leaked by Snowden — told Israel’s Channel 10:
There were an enormous number of very important stories that have not yet been reported. There definitely remained stories related to the Middle East and Israel.”
It is likely that many of those “very important” stories have yet to be reported on, as over 90 percent of the Snowden documents have not been made public.
Israelis a hostile audience for Snowden’s causes?
Snowden’s upcoming appearance in Israel may be troubling for other reasons, however. Since having gained prominence as a whistleblower, Snowden has been a vocal advocate for free speech, freedom of the press, and privacy. However, the Israeli government routinely violates these rights for Palestinians as well as Israelis.
Indeed, Israel has imprisoned Palestinians for writing poems, for organizing peaceful demonstrations, and for posting on social media. Israel also regularly imprisons Palestinian journalists for social-media posts and has pressured social-media companies like Facebook to censor Palestinian news outlets. Israel also targets activists who support the non-violent Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to hold Israel accountable for its frequent violations of international law.
The Israeli military also regularly censors Israeli media outlets to such an extent that it averages one redaction every four hours. The IDF military censor has the power to censor all Israeli publications, including books and other print publications, a power stemming from a permanent state of emergency that has been in effect since Israel’s founding in 1948. As Israeli magazine +972 recently noted:
Israel is the only [democracy] where journalists and publications are legally required to submit their reporting for review prior to publication and the only one where censorship can be criminally enforced.”
Beyond Israel’s routine tramplings of the causes Snowden most ardently supports, there are other reasons for the whistleblower to reconsider his upcoming appearance before an exclusively Israeli audience. For instance, the IDF has been brutally suppressing unarmed protests in Gaza, having wounded over 22,000 unarmed protesters since March and having killed nearly 200 unarmed Gazans. Among those shot by the IDF in Gaza have been 12-year-old children, medics, and journalists. Furthermore, Israel recently legislated apartheid into its constitution through the controversial “Nation State Law” and, according to the UN, is actively seeking to illegally annex Palestine’s West Bank, which has been under Israeli military occupation since 1967.
MintPress has contacted Snowden for comment regarding his upcoming appearance in Israel and whether he has any stance on the BDS movement, Israel’s apartheid policies, or the IDF’s mass shooting of unarmed protesters in Gaza. No response had been received at the time of this article’s publication.
Top Photo | American whistleblower Edward Snowden can be seen on video screens at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress (34c3) at the fair grounds in Leipzig, Germany, Dec. 28, 2017. Sebastian Willnow | dpa via AP
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.