Algorithmic State Violence: Automated Surveillance and Palestinian Dispossession in Hebron’s Old City

Goodfriend, Sophia
International Journal of Middle East Studies

This article provides an ethnographic account of automated surveillance technologies' impact in the occupied West Bank, taking Blue Wolf—a biometric identification system deployed by the Israeli army—as a case study. Interviews with Palestinian residents of Hebron subjected to intensive surveillance, a senior Israeli general turned biometric start-up founder, and testimonies from veterans tasked with building up Blue Wolf's database provide a rare view into the uneven texture of life under algorithmic surveillance. Their narratives reveal how automated surveillance systems function as a form of state-sponsored terror. As a globalized information economy intersects with the eliminatory aims of Israeli settler colonialism in Hebron, new surveillance technologies erode Palestinian social life while allowing technocratic settlers to recast the violence of occupation as an opportunity for capital investment and growth. Attending to the texture of life under algorithmic surveillance in Hebron ultimately reorients theories of accumulation and dispossession in the digital age away from purely economistic framings. Instead, I foreground the violent political imperatives that drive innovations in surveillance, in Palestine and worldwide.