An investigation by Israeli newspaper Haaretz has revealed how Israel has “become a leading exporter of tools for spying on civilians”, with “dictators around the world” using the tools to “eavesdrop on human rights activists, monitor emails, hack into apps and record conversations”.
According to the paper, “within a few years, the Israeli espionage industry has become the spearhead of the global commerce in surveillance tools and communications interception.”
“Today,” the report added, “every self-respecting governmental agency that has no respect for the privacy of its citizens, is equipped with spy capabilities created in Herzliya Pituah.”
Haaretz notes how Israel’s Defence Ministry “refuses to disclose the list of countries to which military exports are prohibited, or the criteria and standards that underlie its decisions” – not even the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee “is privy to basic details of the lion’s share of Israel’s defence exports”.
In one 2016 court case, Supreme Court President Justice Esther Hayut justified the state’s requests for secrecy by noting, “Our economy, as it happens, rests not a little on that export”.
The investigation shows that “Israeli industry have not hesitated to sell offensive capabilities to many countries that lack a strong democratic tradition, even when they have no way to ascertain whether the items sold were being used to violate the rights of civilians.”
The investigation “also found that Israeli firms continued to sell espionage products even when it was revealed publicly that the equipment was used for malicious purposes”.
Private Israeli companies, the investigation discovered, have sold espionage and intelligence-gathering software to Bahrain, Indonesia, Angola, Mozambique, the Dominican Republic, Azerbaijan, Swaziland, Botswana, Bangladesh, El Salvador, Panama and Nicaragua.
In addition, the investigation corroborated earlier reports over the years about sales to Malaysia, Vietnam, Mexico, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Honduras, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, Colombia, Uganda, Nigeria, Ecuador and United Arab Emirates.