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Israel Moves Toward a National Biometric Database 476

An anonymous reader writes "Israeli's government has approved the creation of a biometric database which would contain fingerprints and facial photos of all Israeli citizens. If the bill becomes law — and it is at an early stage — the biometric information of each citizen would be embedded in their passport and national ID card. Israeli citizens would be required by law to submit to biometric testing upon request by government employees, soldiers, and policemen, so that their biometric info can be compared to the info embedded in their ID card / passport. The declared purpose of the bill is to combat forgery of passports and ID cards, and also to aid identification 'in cases of a mass disaster.' The bill was approved over objections from civil rights groups and the Israeli Bar. The article notes that no other democratic country has a comprehensive biometric database of all citizens."
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Israel Moves Toward a National Biometric Database

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  • A friend of mine has dual citizenship in the US and Israel. How would this affect someone like him visiting Israel, even though the U.S. is his home?
  • MARK OF THE BEAST (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by Wonderkid ( 541329 )
    Once again, the Jews set the terms for their own destruction by failing to believe just how evil the outside world is and making it much easier for people who gain access to this information to target specific individuals. Very worrying for one reason: It is not optional! What can you do? Refuse to have your details obtained or leave the country.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dvice_null ( 981029 )
      It is not just them. I just run a gallup on a forum where "normal" people in my country like to hang out (mostly female parents). 7/8 of them think that collecting fingerprints from everyone is not just acceptable, but actually a good idea (to catch criminals). They also fail to believe how things could get worse if we accept that. I'm fairly certain that we are doomed.
  • UK National ID Card (Score:5, Informative)

    by nickovs ( 115935 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @02:38PM (#24457819)

    The article notes that no other democratic country has a comprehensive biometric database of all citizens.

    But the UK is working on it [].

  • It would be good if Slashdot stories provided some perspective.

    When stories about small countries are posted, it is useful to know the population. The entire country of Israel has a population like a big city. There are only 7,282,000 [] people in Israel. There are only 5,499,000 Jews in Israel. There are only about 14,000,000 [] Jews in the entire world.

    Slashdot often runs stories about New Zealand. There are only 4,270,605 [] people in all of New Zealand, both north and south islands.

    There are only 21,382 []
    • by rubycodez ( 864176 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @03:34PM (#24458209)

      but with the U.S. funding and supporting Israel those 7.2 million get carte blanche to do things for which the 305 million in the U.S.A. get blamed

    • So what? The article is about a democratic country (NOT a religion) passing draconian, Orwellian laws. The size of the population has little to do with it. A nation is a nation.
      • What separation, exactly, exists between the state of Israel and the religion of Orthodox Judaism? You can't even get married there unless you qualify for an Orthodox marriage [1].

        [1] Reform Jews, it should be noted, basically get bupkis out of Israel. Orthodox loonies get government subsidies so they can beat their wives and stay home reading the Torah all day instead of working.

        • What separation, exactly, exists between the state of Israel and the religion of Orthodox Judaism?

          Actually, ONLY the marriage/family matters go to the religious courts. And you can get married as a Muslim or Christian through the corresponding religious court.

          Point is, an assault in Israel gets tried by a criminal court. A lawsuit gets tried by a civil court. And these courts run on Common Law rather than Torah Law.

          Not that I'm inclined to defend this ridiculous biometric bullshit. Just saying.

          • Assault goes to a civil court if the police chose to make arrests, etc which hasn't happened in several instances of Haredi violence towards women.

            The point is that crazy fundamentalist Jews are privileged over Reform or Conservative Jews, I'd imagine non-practicing Jews get an even crappier deal. Since Israel is explicitly formed without a separation of religion and government the descent into true theocracy is only a matter of time, and since Israel has nothing resembling a bill of rights the trip into p

            • Brace yourself, I'm going to be giving you a bit of the history of Jewish movements.

              Reform and Conservative Jews barely even exist in Israel. In fact, if you talked to an average Israeli about the "Masorti" (Conservative) or "Reformi/Progressive" (Reform) movements, they probably would have to look them up on Google. This isn't because Israelis are crazy-religious; most Israeli Jews call themselves "Chiloni" (translates as "secular").

              Instead, it happened because the Reform movement in specific and the Conservative movement along with it have, historically, opposed Zionism up until the 1980s or 1990s, at which point they accepted that Israel will continue existing, and only began openly and strongly advocating Zionism to their own members in the 2000s. I was raised Reform, I know this stuff for a fact.

              "Why?" you ask. Well, the Reform movement formed because Jews wanted to walk, talk, eat, and act like the German and American Gentiles among whom they lived without having to actually convert to Christianity; they were extremist secular Jews who sought to call their secularism a form of religion. The Modern Orthodox movement then formed to oppose the Reform Jews, and the Conservative movement formed to find a middle ground between the Orthodox and Reform approaches. Since the Reform had given up on the whole idea of Jews as an ethnicity or nation, and the Conservative (like the Orthodox) wanted the Messiah to come before we got a Jewish state, both movements opposed the State of Israel's formation. Hell, so did the American Orthodox.

              In fact, the whole privileged position of the ultra-Orthodox in Israel came about as a political deal made by David Ben-Gurion's government to secure support for the emerging state from the old, respected Orthodox communities. Back then there were only a few hundred ultra-Orthodox yeshivah boys anyway, so not drafting them wasn't perceived as a big deal.

              So we've ended up with an Israel that has three degrees of religiosity officially acknowledged:

              1) Secular. The majority, who go to synagogue for the High Holidays at most and don't keep kosher laws or Shabat or anything.
              2) National Religious. The Israeli Modern-Orthodox Jews who consider Orthodox Judaism and modern life reconcilable. Their actual range of practice goes from what Americans would call a very religious Conservative Judaism to internationally-acknowledged Modern Orthodoxy. They keep kosher, keep Shabat (ie: no work on Saturday, for a really broad value of "work"), and keep the laws of "family purity" (don't even fucking ask). Those three categories, in fact, form the very definition of Orthodox Judaism as commonly acknowledged by rabbis the world over.
              3) Ultra-Orthodox. Crazy fundamentalists and black-hats. Since they "make the Torah their occupation" they get exemption from Army service as a part of that deal Ben-Gurion made. They live off the welfare that (AFAIK) all poor, unemployed families receive in Israel, because they don't respect secular professions and, indeed, don't respect any profession except for Rabbi. Their schools receive funding from both the religion ministry and the education ministry, which pisses off everyone else.

              Now you might just see the trap the ultra-Orthodox have set for themselves ideologically. They can't live without secular or National Religious Jews (they really, really hate Arabs) to support them, and a growing number of their far-too-many children leave the fold for Army service and a normal life. The ultra-Orthodox can't take over the government because they don't even like acknowledging the government's legitimacy; they still wait for the Messiah.

              So the actual chance of Israel toppling into theocracy in practice is quite low, since that would result in everyone starving to death and Big Business (Israel most certainly has Big Business) would never allow itself to be shut down by a bunch of insolent black-hats.

      • (NOT a religion)

        Seriously? 'cause looking at all the posts, the two are used pretty damn interchangeably.

        Not that I disagree with you. You're right #'s really don't have anything to with the article at hand. It's a bad move whether it's a country of 7 million, 70 million, or 700 million.

  • * Forge ID card
    * Find some way to have "your" details "corrected" in the national database
    * Who would possibly believe the real identity owner?
    * .. without DNA
    * .. which I'm sure will be the justification for taking that next.

    • I suppose the next step will be DNA forgery. Underage kids will need some Gattaca like setup to buy beer. It's just the end of freedom as we know it.
  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @02:57PM (#24457951)
    Orthodox rabbis get to choose who is Jewish. This may not seem odd or eccentric to non-Jews. But the State of Israel is special. Many Jews - especially the most highly educated - are not Orthodox; they are Conservative or Reform. For those who have been following (if anyone) the goings on in the Anglican Church, with the progressive Episcopalians being attacked by the fundies who are attempting to marginalise them, similar things happen in Judaism. In the UK, possibly the three best well known rabbis in recent years are Lionel Blue, Jonathan Magonet and Julia Neuburger. All Reform. Who does the Government regard as being the "leader" of British Jewry? The Orthodox Chief Rabbi, head of a shrinking population of Orthodox who are actually observant. Some people, myself included, would describe him as a not very nice person who exaggerates his own importance. Others might use stronger language.

    Many Reform jews are pro-Zionist (think the State of Israel is a good thing) but strongly disapprove of the way it treats Palestinians, the Lebanese and their other neighbours, and object to the hypocrisy of Israel having 200 nuclear warheads and then complaining about regional destabilisation (e.g. the letter from Gerald Kaufman MP in the Guardian this weekend). The result is often quite vicious attacks by Orthodox Jews.

    Now look at this in the context of this biometric database. It is a wonderful opportunity for the Orthodox in Israel to identify Jews who they may regard as troublemakers. (They already routinely do things like refuse to recognise marriages of non-Orthodox Jews, or refuse to recognise conversions ratified by Reform rabbis). This database will give the police and the army more power to identify and harass, not only the Palestinians, but people who disagree with the settlers and the ultra-Zionists.

    Many of the founders of Israel were secular; a lot of them were socialists. I think they would be horrified by this proposal and would even quote the Torah against it.

    • by mux2000 ( 832684 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @05:10PM (#24459207)

      This database will give the police and the army more power to identify and harass, not only the Palestinians, but people who disagree with the settlers and the ultra-Zionists.

      Since this database is used for collecting data on Israeli citizens it is useless against Palestinians, since they are not citizens of Israel, nor of any other country.

      This is useful only against criminals, Israeli Arabs (who seldom serve in the army, and therfore didn't get their photo and finger-prints taken already), and as you mentioned, most useful against political resistance. Keeping the Israeli populace ignorant of the atrocities Israel performs takes huge amounts of propaganda, censureship and such tactics. It wouldn't surprise me one bit if this is designed to track political ("extreme-left", "bleeding hearts", "arab-lovers") dissidents as well as other threats.

      Full disclosure - I am Israeli.

      Oh fuck. I just shot myself in the foot, didn't I?

      • Israeli Arabs (who seldom serve in the army...
          Israeli arabs can serve in the army? I didn't know that. Are you sure? Note, I don't mean druze.

      • Oh fuck. I just shot myself in the foot, didn't I?

        Not really, just pick the tinfoil hat back up off the ground and put it on again. Naw, I agree with you. The religious courts, AFAIK, will have no power over this database, so its only real use will be political harassment and tracking of released/paroled criminals.

        Actually, this sounds to me like a UK-style security theater -- a failing government thrashing about, grasping at straws trying to sound useful while the populace waits for elections to chuck the bastards out. B'ezrat ha'Shem it won't pass or

    • It is a wonderful opportunity for the Orthodox in Israel to identify Jews who they may regard as troublemakers.

      'cause it's the orthodox pushing this through the gov't? Read the article, and guess what, nothing suggests it, and neither does the current makeup of the Knesset []. Right wing hawqs are just as enamored of this nonsense as anyone, and as much political power as they may wield, the majority of the country is secular (and pretty much the entire armed forces) so the gov't can't pass something this intrusive unless somebody besides the Orthodox are pushing for it.

      They already routinely do things like refuse to recognise marriages of non-Orthodox Jews, or refuse to recognise conversions ratified by Reform rabbis

      And doing weird things with non-Jews like making

  • A system Hitler would have had wet dreams about, and it's a right wing Jewish government that is bringing it into being. How long until some uniformed Israeli soldier struts up to a family and arrogantly demands, "Your papers. Immediately!"

    I would bet the majority of Jews around the world and in Israel are horrified by this measure, and disgusted by the people who want to implement it. What price security?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03, 2008 @03:20PM (#24458117)

    Since most the country does compulsory army duty, they already have everyone's fingerprints, photos, dental records and blood tests etc. (things that army needs to identify you when you come home in multiple pieces)

    Since the US and UK have mandated biometric passport data, they would be collecting biometric data anyway.

    The only thing that this does is cover the remaining percentages and have dogged the army.

    A national ID card has been around for many many years. Luckily for Israelis they do not have a governments that seem to abuse this data nor a high court that bends over and looks the away when people try and abuse this power.

    The reality is that the data exists. The only new factor here is that it will be embedded on your ID card rather then click away on a terminal.

  • I am an Israeli (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shohat ( 959481 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @04:20PM (#24458639) Homepage
    This thing probably won't pass. I know that for Americans it's very hard to understand, but being a liberal and serving in an elite combat unit goes hand in hand here.
    If you don't believe me, just read the news stories, and the bios [] of the kidnapped [] soldiers. The front lines are CEOs, lawyers, scientists, mathematicians, accountants and what not. The middle+ class are the people that go to war. The most leftist and liberal leaders were always the best generals - Rabin (Oslo) , Barak (pulled out of Lebanon), and in his last years, Ariel Sharon who pulled out of Gaza. And most importantly, there is not a single religious general, and Israel never had a religious leader.
    I design complex real-time control systems (Mostly based on PIC/NEC/Toshiba ), and like any Israeli, for 28 days a year, I become a soldier. Despite what you may or may not understand about our society, chances are that there is plenty of holes in your understanding how this microscopic 5 million people country works.
    But point is, nobody here trusts the government, the current government is extremely weak, and on the verge of being replaced. This thing will not pass. Most people here read 1984 =).
    • Re:I am an Israeli (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mux2000 ( 832684 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @06:07PM (#24459795)

      and like any Israeli, for 28 days a year, I become a soldier.

      This is a very delicate subject, and as one Israeli to another, as we both know, if it wasn't in an anonymous internet forum I wouldn't dare raise such a question, how can you explain giving a twelfth of your life away to an organisation obsessed with harassing, repressing, dividing, locking in, shutting out, abusing and killing people for the sole reason that they lived in your country before your parents/grand-parents arrived and drove them off their land?

      And don't give me this "the IDF is the most moral army in the world" line, we both know how wrong that is. I could give enough examples to make both of us blush, but I won't (it's my country too damn it!). Looking at the way the IDF operates, I see the sole purpose of its actions in the conquered territories as to make the inhabitants' lives as painful and difficult as possible. How can you collaborate to that?

      Full disclosure: yes I did my full three years back when I didn't know what was actually going on. I couldn't keep doing it once I found out. How do you find it possible? Is the boogie-man of terrorism that intimidating?

  • by shlompo ( 1338043 ) on Sunday August 03, 2008 @04:25PM (#24458713)
    Before you all get excited: the law stands at "kriaa tromit", which means it's just now readt to be voted on. Each law has to be voted three times after this stage... I'm sure it won't pass, since other draconic laws were blocked. This particular stage, is very easy to pass, for any law, even crazy ones....

    But i don't think you appreciate the situation with Israeli documents: they are the most popular forged documents in the world right now: our passports are the easiest to mangle with, and because many countries trust Israeli passports, it's the most bought passport in the black market. Even the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs issued several rules to disencourage Israeli tourists from selling their passports... Our IDs are also quite popular, since we still have problems of women trafficking...

    And about terrorism... well, i doubt anybody actually thinks this system will have anything to do with that. There are a very few actual cases, compared with the total, where Israeli citizens Arabs were involved in terrorist activity...

    And the last comment i have on this issue, is that in the end, friends, it all comes down to money. Some CEO, with a security system, is related to some government official, and is going to rip off the treasury, when he accidentally of course, win the auction for creating the system. At least that was true for many other security related systems in Israel, the ones that did not go through the defense industry.

    Hope I shed some light.
  • It is a bit contentious to call Israel a democracy. A few years back a poll from the Israeli Democracy Institute (IDI) [] concluded: In sum, from the relative ranking across all the indicators, Israel may be classified as a formal democracy that has not yet succeeded in incorporating the characteristics of substantive democracy. Not exactly a suspect source.

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