The Israeli government often likes to use its normalization deals with some Arab regimes as a means of projecting some sort of moral remedy for past afflictions, yet the gesture of “peace” in fact demonstrates the pure contempt Israel has for human rights in the region.
It is no secret that the Arab regimes with which Israel has normalized ties, like Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco, Sudan and less recently Egypt and Jordan, are not exactly models for Human Rights, in fact they are all de-facto or open dictatorships. These regimes do not represent the popular will of their own people, in fact, they desecrate it.
Another one of those regimes which Israel longs to normalize ties with but still manages a behind-closed-doors relationship with is Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Kingdom is of course, again, like the regimes mentioned above, a real champion of Human Rights and even has the beheading videos of women’s rights activists, along with the decapitated heads of Yemeni children – where it is currently carrying out mass murder – to show for it.
Aside from the savagery engaged in by the regime in Saudi Arabia, a very serious topic has reared its head and has to be taken note of. The Israeli regime has been revealed to have secretly authorized and even encouraged private cyber-surveillance firms to work for the Saudi regime.
Despite the warning of Saudi Arabia’s historic abuse of such cyber-surveillance technology to go after dissidents and human rights activists, leading to their brutal executions, Israel not only gave the green light but sought to push private companies to go ahead.
The most well known of firms involved, which was to aid Saudi spying, was NSO. NSO is perhaps the most well known Israeli cyber security firm, especially after its Pegasus software was revealed to have been used to hack 1,400 people’s phones, across 20 different countries, through Whatsapp. Not only this, but the software had been sold to the likes of the UAE which reportedly used it to spy on human rights activists and political dissidents. A real no joke issue, as the software could have been used as an instrument which governments used to kill or seriously injure innocent people.
Israel’s intelligence software ‘Cellebrite’ has also been revealed to be supplying surveillance tools to the Vietnamese government, allowing it to digitally combat its political opposition. The company’s CEO, Yossi Carmil, has stated broadly that the intelligence firm had developed equipment so that it did not fall into the wrong hands. Yet an investigation carried out by Israeli Human Rights lawyer Eitay Mack, concluded that the Vietnamese authorities had used the software, specifically pointing to a case in which it was used in 2018 where a man was detained for raising a South Vietnamese flag.
Even more interesting, is that Israel is now harboring a wanted fugitive, former senior Mexican federal prosecutor, Tomas Zeron De Lucio, who is connected to the misuse of the NSO groups software. Being accused of misusing the NSO’s software, and wanted for falsifying evidence and torturing witnesses, De Lucio is suspected of skewing an investigation into the abduction and murder of 43 students in 2014 from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College.
According to Israel, Mexico’s support for the Palestinians is the reason why it is not extraditing De Lucio and that Israel’s regime views the refusal as a tit-for-tat move against Mexico for voting at the UN to approve an investigation into Israeli war crimes. However, the publicly stated reason may well be untrue. There are many questions that are still to be asked about how this criminal ended up in Israel after going off the map and into hiding for some time, and why Israel decided to help him. Was the NSO the main factor in the decision, by Israel, to shield De Lucio?
A key point to note here is that the private Israeli companies have been proven to not be acting alone. As noted earlier in this article, in the case of spy technology being sold to Saudi Arabia, it was the Israeli government that was directly encouraging the companies to get involved.
An Interactive website has even been launched by the research agency ‘Forensic Infrastructure’, in conjunction with Amnesty International and internet watchdog group Citizen Lab. The website, entitled “Digital Violence: How the NSO Group Enables State Terror”, maps out all available evidence, found by them, to outline the extent to which the NSO has done damage internationally. Amnesty International has even said that the NSO’s Pegasus software “has been used in some of the most insidious digital attacks on human rights defenders,” which doesn’t seem to have slowed either the company or the Israeli government from being involved in the forwarding of such spying tools.
To touch on the point made at the beginning of this article, Israel uses its relationships with corrupt undemocratic Arab regimes as a means of attempting to make its image brighter in the world. Yet in reality, what it is actually showing is that it is willing to be part of the darkest elements of these illegitimate regimes.