The Arty Semite

Jewish Writers Sign Anti-Surveillance Petition

By Renee Ghert-Zand

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A number of leading Jewish and Israeli authors have signed on to an appeal in defence of civil liberties against surveillance by governments and corporations. The petition by Writers Against Mass Surveillance was made public on December 10 and came a day after the world’s largest tech companies, including Apple, Yahoo, Google and Microsoft, put out a call for changes to US surveillance laws in a bid to restore public the public’s trust in the internet.

Among the 500 signatories of the “A Stand for Democracy in the Digital Age” petition are Israel writers Amos Oz, David Grossman, Assaf Gavron, Zeruya Shalev, Etgar Keret, Sami Michael, and Yitzhak Laor. The American signatories include Jonathan Lethem, Ben Marcus, James Salter. Jewish writers from other countries back the stand, including the Argentinean-Chilean-American writer Ariel Dorfman and French-Canadian writer Martin Winckler.

Five Nobel Prize Winners have signed the petition: Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Elfriede Jelinek, Günter Grass and Tomas Tranströmer.

This global pledge was organized by an independent group of writers and was published in 30 different newspapers around the world.

The petition begins with the statement that “In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your e-mail, your social networking and Internet searches.” It claims that an individual’s integrity is violated when and a government or Internet company collects and stores personal data.

“This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes. A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy.”

The writers, along with another expected 50,000 other supporters call on citizens to demand that states and corporations follow laws and international conventions to be determined by democratic citizens, as to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; and to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.

Within hours of its publication, the petition received almost all of the 50,000 signatures it requires on the Change.org website.


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