A call from Palestine: Unite against Cyber-Surveillance & Repression
The growing international scandal around the Israeli NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, used by dictatorships and authoritarian regimes in perpetrating numerous crimes and human rights violations, is only the tip of the iceberg. For years, Israel and its high-tech companies have been exporting spyware and other intrusive surveillance technology across the globe, including to some of the most ruthless regimes.
Military, security and surveillance technology trade form the bedrock of Israel’s ties with the rest of the world.
This technology is a direct outcome of the research and practice that sustains Israeli apartheid in its repression of the Palestinian people. Mass as well as targeted surveillance of disenfranchised Indigenous Palestinians, who are denied basic rights and recourse to justice, is a core feature of Israel’s system of repression, oppression and colonial dispossession.
Israel’s military, in partnership with its universities and research centers, has not only developed the technology and methodology used in subjugating and oppressing Palestinians. It has also set up an elaborate system that channels its “field-tested” military and mass surveillance technology to the profitable global market of the surveillance industry. It has transformed its military intelligence Unit 8200 into a startup incubator, aggressively promoting its capacities, including the very fact that they are rooted in the oppression of the Palestinian people.
In 2020, Israeli cyber firms received approximately 31% of global investment in the sector. Acquisitions of Israeli cyber companies generated some US$4.7 billion, and Israeli cyber exports stood at US$6.85 billion. Israel has become a leader in the spyware and surveillance market, providing expertise for data collection and processing including spyware, facial recognition, ‘user tracking tools’ that are used for policing, electoral manipulation, and more. It sells this technology to democratic governments, contributing to the steady erosion of civil rights, and to authoritarian regimes, enabling and aggravating their existing human rights abuses, as the revelations from the ongoing Pegasus Project confirm.
Saudi Arabia’s despotic regime had used Pegasus spyware in tracking Saudi dissident Jamal Kashoggi, who was brutally murdered in the Saudi embassy in Turkey in 2018. The families of the 43 high school students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico, who were murdered and disappeared in 2014 were targets of the Israeli spyware as they were fighting for justice. Pegasus was used as well in the persecution of activists and lawyers in the Bhima Koregaon case in India.
Research on the NSO Group, its spyware Pegasus and the less known Circles, has revealed the intimate cooperation between the military, state and business within Israel’s apartheid regime and lays bare the revolving door that Israel’s military industrial complex has created. The Israeli minister of defence closely regulates the NSO Group, granting individual export licences and NSO, in turn, is ready to sell its technology when the Israeli government is interested in advancing diplomatic ties by supporting repressive and authoritarian regimes in the Arab world, Africa, Asia, Latin America and beyond. The US intelligence community assumes that Israel has access to the data illegally collected through Pegasus. Unsurprisingly, the Israeli government is reportedly setting up a task force to manage the crisis generated by the latest revelations.
This is not only about the NSO Group - it is time to stop cyber-surveillance companies now.
As Edward Snowden says: “Their only products are infection vectors. They’re not security products. ...They don’t make vaccines – the only thing they sell is the virus.”
For nearly two decades now, as digital technology takes centrestage in our world, mass surveillance and targeted spying has been exposed as a means of authoritarian states and corporations to watch, control, manipulate and crackdown on activists, journalists and ordinary people. This global repression, a large part of which originates within the surveillance-military matrix of Israel must be challenged by us all, together.
We call on justice movements, progressive organizations, and people of conscience around the world to:
Join us in campaigning to ban cyber-surveillance and to end its role in the violation and erosion of human and civic rights.
Stop the NSO Group's dirty - and deadly - business across the globe.
Call for an end to military and security relations with apartheid Israel.