A after extraordinary revelations that the mercenary cyber-surveillance tool of the Israeli company NSO Group, Pegasus, was used to target political dissidents, militants of human rights, journalists and politicians around the world, Israel should ask itself some questions and questions. Does its revolutionary hi-tech industry have a dark side? Are the players involved in the export of lucrative surveillance products - including the Ministry of Defense , who must approve these sales, or maybe the upper levels of the previous government - bear the responsibility?
While senior Israeli officials take the revelations seriously, the Israelis appear neither ashamed nor shocked. The day after the NSO storybroke, another company announced it would eclipse discussions of malicious spyware surveillance. Ben & Jerry 's announced that it would stop selling its products in the "occupied Palestinian territories". By midweek, you had to squint to find NSO in the Israeli media, as the ice cream incident was making the headlines. Persecution of human rights defenders, sabotage of press freedom, surveillance of the political opposition and possible links to grisly murder all took second place, while a nonviolent political protest from one companyprivate, which is slated to begin in a year and a half (when Ben and Jerry 's license agreement expires), has eclipsed everything.
The ensuing ice cream fever offers insightful insight into Israel 's public priorities. Orna Barbivai, Minister of Economy of Israel, made a video of her throwing Ben & Jerry 's containers in the trash, while former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wrote a cheeky tweet supporting a counter-boycott. Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Yair Lapid called Ben and Jerry 's move a "shameful surrender to anti-Semitisme ”. Channel 13's US correspondent rushed to the company 's home state of Vermont to cover the latest developments, and the Israeli president called " a new type of terrorism ".
The war cry for throwing the pots seriously threatened the local Israeli franchise factory that produces the stuff and employs 160 employees . The owner of the factory pleaded for the Israelis not to boycott his product. Social media filled with people posting big Ben & Jerry 's purchases, confusing either in support of the company's anti-occupation protest or the Israeli factory. Ben & Jerry 's Israel reportedly saw a 21% increase in ice cream sales.
Why was NSO drowned by B&J? It must be said that Israel will survive even if all 440,000 - odd Israeli settlers in the West Bank must cross the pre-1967 Green Line if no other ice cream will do. (Presumably, Israeli or Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem can just walk to a neighborhood in West Jerusalem in a pinch.) In fact, no attempt to boycott, divestment or sanction has not affected Israel's overall robust economy in the slightest. In that sense, Israel is really not South Africa and has not suffered from the same isolation economic and cultural which helped to overthrow the oppressive regime of this country.
On the contrary, the ice cream injury is pure and compelling symbolism. Israelis believe that Ben & Jerry 's attacks the victim: Israel and the Jews. According to this national account, the company has been manipulated and brainwashed by a cabal of insatiable haters. A settlement boycott targets all of Israel and ends in its destruction.
On the other hand, the absence of a national conversation on NSO, except for a smatter of reviews columns , is also symbolic. Israelis are fine aware that advanced technology is the driving force ofwe save. In 2019, industry was the target almost half of all the country's exports, employing nearly 10% of the workforce and protect the Israeli economy from the worst economic devastation of the Covid crisis. In addition, Israeli technology is essential to the country's national image and identity in the 21st century. In the popular imagination, high tech is the modern embodiment of the courageous pioneering spirit of Israel that once made the desert blossom.
For Jewish Israelis, high technology symbolizes the Jewish exception. In a 2018 speech , Netanyahu said that Israel is“ hitting above its weight. ”In front of an admiring American audience, he claimed that Israel, barely 0.1% of the world's population, received 20% of global investment in cybersecurity startups. These companies, he explained, protected bank accounts, data cars and planes (Netanyahu didn't mention phones.) Like NSO, who reaffirms that his company fights terrorism and pedophiles , Netanyahu described Israel as saving the world.
For Israelis, technology ogie industry proves that Israel is the good guy and neutralizes the dark side of the country: the occupation of the Palestinian territories since 1967 and the conflict since 1948. Of course, the conflict involves many of the same rights violations and destruction of democracy that Pegasus allowed in the whole world. It is not a coincidence. Israel excels in surveillance, because Israel watch all day, every day, the Palestinians. Cyber-tech pioneers are often graduates of high-tech military surveillance units. NSO and the Ice Cream Boycott aren't strange bedfellows - they're inseparable. The symbolic image of Israel as a serious victim who can program its exit from politics is the real illusion.