Monday, September 20, 2021

the guilty laissez-faire of the State of Israel

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Editorial. The outcry over the NSO affair, revealed since Sunday, July 18 by a consortium of international media, including Le Monde, mainly focused on the clients of this Israeli cybersurveillance company. Almost everywhere on the planet, public opinion was indignant at the Orwellian use that these States made of the spyware marketed by this company, called NSO.

Thanks to this ultra-sophisticated program, supposed to help them fight terrorism and crime, the intelligence services of a dozen countries, such as Morocco, Mexico, India, the United Arab Emirates, Hungary and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia, have had the means to break into the smartphones of thousands of journalists, human rights defenders, political opponents and leaders of foreign countries.

But Pegasus could not have become a weapon of mass repression, the favorite spy kit of autocrats and populists, without the blessing of the State of Israel. The authorities of this country, which have a right of veto on the exports of equipment of cybersurveillance, validated without blinking the contracts concluded by NSO with Rabat, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and others.

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Former Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu even encouraged these transactions. He used them as a way to get closer to countries that did not have official relations with Israel and could not ignore that these states, not frankly respectful of human rights, would not be content to use Pegasus for legitimate security purposes. Moreover, in the occupied Palestinian territories, the State of Israel is not more concerned with individual freedoms.

Complacency

The new Israeli government, led by ultra-nationalist Naftali Bennett, does not seem in any hurry to break with this cynicism. Significantly, the cause of outrage at the moment in Israel is not the NSO affair, but the Ben & Jerry’s affair. The decision of this famous American ice cream brand to stop selling its products in the Jewish settlements of the West Bank sparked a political-media storm, even though it was a simple compliance with international law. In comparison, the revelations of “Project Pegasus” had the effect of a ripple.

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This indifference is not surprising. NSO is one of the flagships of a sector which accounts for almost half of the country’s exports and employs nearly 10% of its working population. National pride, organically linked to the army and the security services, high-tech is seen as the repository of the pioneering spirit which presided over the creation of the country.

The complacency of the Israeli ruling elites towards NSO also stems from political calculations. There is a convergence of interests between, on the one hand, the Israeli right and, on the other, the clients of this firm, whether they are illiberal democracies like Hungary and India, or regimes. despotic like those of the Middle East. In Jerusalem as well as in the palaces of the Gulf, the “Arab Spring” of 2011 was seen as a dangerous challenge to a rather comfortable authoritarian order.

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The victims of Pegasus have a nice game to point the finger at the countries which targeted them. Their grievances should also be addressed to the Israeli authorities. A few admonitions to NSO will not be enough. New start-ups specializing in digital piracy have already entered the Saudi market, from which NSO says it has withdrawn. It’s the entire cybersurveillance industry, the dark face of Israeli tech, that needs to be regulated. Emergency.

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