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Stephen Harper’s firm behind spy tech Israel is using to target Gazans

Stephen Harper’s firm behind spy tech Israel is using to target Gazans
Former prime minister’s fund controls and is the main investor in Israeli company that developed AI-based facial recognition tech being used by IDF on Palestinians

An investment firm led by former Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper that is devoted to launching security companies in Israel has a new “success” story: helping that country’s military conduct secret mass surveillance of Palestinians in Gaza.

According to The New York Times, hundreds of Palestinians have been targeted by an “expansive and experimental” spying effort to “collect and catalogue” the faces of Palestinians. At times, civilians have been “wrongly flagged” as Hamas militants and then interrogated and tortured.

The facial recognition technology the Israeli military is relying on was created by Israeli tech company, Corsight. Founded in 2019, the company officially launched after receiving a $5 million investment from Awz Ventures, the firm where Harper is a leading partner and president of its advisory committee.

Three out of five members of the Israeli company’s board of directors are Harper’s partners at Awz Ventures, meaning the former Canadian Prime Minister’s firm effectively controls Corsight.

Using Corsight’s spy tech, the Israeli military picked out Palestinian poet Mosab Abu Toha at a checkpoint in central Gaza in mid-November, as he was attempting to flee with his family to Egypt. He was separated, detained, and beaten.

The surveillance program that uses this technology is being run by the Israeli military’s elite cyber-intelligence Unit 8200.

A former commander of this unit, retired Israeli Brigadier General Ehud Schneorson, is another of Harper’s advisory partners at Awz Ventures. According to a report in Israeli outlet +972 Magazine, Unit 8200 has also overseen an AI-based targeting system that has marked tens of thousands of Gazans for assassination.

Harper’s ‘solidarity’ trip to Israel

Since October 7, the Israeli military has killed more than 33,000 Palestinians in Gaza and hundreds of thousands face famine as a result of Israel’s blockade of essential supplies.

A previous investigation by The Breach found that Awz Ventures has poured investments totalling at least $350 million into high-tech companies that support the Israeli security industry and military.

Harper, who was a hard-line supporter of Israel while prime minister, has promoted Awz Ventures in Israeli media outlets and has said that the company is a chance to “continue what I did in government.”

He made a “solidarity” visit to Israel in February, and was hosted at the Knesset by Knesset speaker Amir Ohana, who called him “one of Israel’s best friends of all time.”

He also met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Intelligence Minister Gila Gamliel.

In an op-ed published at the same time in the National Post, Harper compared Hamas to the Nazis and said Israel’s attacks on Gaza “should end the same way our war with the Nazis did—by the unconditional surrender of its perpetrators.”

In late March, The New York Times reported that Corsight’s facial recognition technology was first used to search for Israelis taken hostage during the October 7 cross-border attack by Hamas. Corsight was then brought in by the military during their ground offensive in Gaza to create and use the facial recognition program.

After discovering that Corsight’s technology was faulty and had delivered false positives, the Israeli military supplemented it with Google Photos, the corporate giant’s free photo-sharing service.

At Corsight, board member and retired Israeli major general Giora Eiland has advocated for the ethnic cleansing of Gaza in Israeli newspaper articles.

In October, he wrote that Israel “has no choice but to turn Gaza into a place that is temporarily or permanently impossible to live in,” and that “creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza is a necessary means to achieving the goal.”

Later, he wrote that “Gaza will become a place where no human being can exist.”