February 23, 2019

Is It OK for Israel to Sell Spy Software to Dictators?

“Israel has always prided itself on being, as the Book of Isaiah says, “a light unto the nations” — an exemplar of “righteousness” to inspire Jews and gentiles alike and bring salvation to mankind. That is why the menorah is the symbol not only of Hanukkah, which Jews are now celebrating, but also of the state of Israel. But Israel’s light is dimmed when veterans of its famed armed forces, whose mission is to defend the Jewish state’s freedom, misuse their expertise to aid oppression in other countries.

Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, who lives in Canada, has filed a lawsuit against an Israeli technology company called the NSO Group accusing it of providing the Saudi government with the surveillance software to spy on him and his friends — including Jamal Khashoggi. The program, known as Pegasus, not only allows the monitoring of all communications from a phone — all texts, all emails, all phone calls — but can also hijack a mobile phone’s microphone and camera to turn it into a surveillance device.

The information gathered on Khashoggi may have motivated his murder by alerting the Saudi authorities that he was stirring up electronic dissent within the kingdom, while denouncing Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in vituperative terms as a “pac-man” who devoured all in his path. “The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” Abdulaziz told CNN. “The guilt is killing me.””

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