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Israel spyware scandal is similar to arms sales used to carry out genocides, analyst says

July 29, 2021 at 12:20 pm

This studio photographic illustration shows a smartphone with the website of Israel’s NSO Group which features ‘Pegasus’ spyware, on display on 21 July 2021 [JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images]

An Israeli columnist has linked the ongoing Israeli spyware scandal to previous Israel arms sales made to regimes that carried out genocides and war crimes.

Commenting on the spyware scandal, Judah Ari Gross wrote in the Times of Israel: “It is a practice that stretches back decades and crosses political lines, with left-wing governments under Yitzhak Rabin allegedly signing off on sales to South Africa during apartheid.”

This act, Gross said, was repeated “later to Rwanda and Bosnia during genocides there in the 1990s, and to more recent cases of right-wing governments under Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly approving defense exports to Myanmar and South Sudan during ethnic cleansing and massacres there.”

Gross said that Pegasus is widely considered to be one of the most powerful cyber-surveillance tools available, capable of taking complete control over a target’s phone.

The spyware sometimes gives the user access to the device’s files and messages, as well as its cameras and microphones without them having to open a file or click a link.

He said that Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Morocco, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Hungary, India and the United Arab Emirates were all said to have purchased the NSO Group’s Pegasus programme to target activists, political opponents and journalists, including French President Emmanuel Macron.

READ: Gantz denies Israel malware used to spy on France president