Israel's export of technology used by repressive regimes to establish their authority, not only over their political opponents, but also against large parts of civil society, is nothing new. News of this has been spreading since 2017 at least and the inauguration of the Arab-Israeli alliance under the auspices of the Trump administration.
There is no doubt that the relationships hidden before the alliance was made public included the use of Israeli technology. This is what mostly unites the repressive Arab regimes with Israel. In 2019, WhatsApp informed 1,400 of its users that they had been under surveillance since 2016. We can guess how much further spyware has been developed over the past five years.
The scandal is the recent revelation about Israel's Pegasus spyware and the number of those targeted by such technology, as well as the number of the Israeli company's clients. Even some of Israel's allies have been spied upon, such as French President Emmanuel Macron.
Israel benefits from this in three ways. There is a direct security aspect, as the database that is created by its customers and their espionage activities will eventually flow into Israeli servers. This turns its customers into security agents for the occupation state. Ironically, they pay for this dubious privilege. Israel not only sells the technology but also gleans the information generated by customers' espionage. It's a very profitable deal for Tel Aviv.
This is just part of the economic aspect which benefits Israel enormously. It is worth pointing out that the technology being sold by Israel — whether this sort of spyware or advanced weapons systems — are all "field tested" on the Palestinians. This makes it very attractive to repressive regimes.
READ: Israeli spyware is a threat to all freedoms everywhere
This is also ironic because Israeli technological and intelligence development stems, in part, from the state spying on Arab countries, some of which buy the same technology for their own use. Moreover, Israel has become the headquarters and partner of many Western technology companies, especially from America. Since this type of technology is only sold with government approval, it is more than likely that the US itself is involved at the highest level, not just Israel. There are many political indications that this is the case, including the alliance launched by the Trump administration.
There is also a huge political aspect to these developments. Israel has made itself and its technology indispensable to many governments around the world, including regimes in Arab states. It is a complex situation which encourages conflicts to be prolonged — or at least not brought to a peaceful conclusion — so that Israel has a market for its products, and buyers know where to go for what they need to defeat their opponents. Ensuring that conflicts remain ongoing not only guarantees Israel an important industrial sector, security and hegemony, but also guarantees Arab subordination at very little cost to the colonial-occupation state.
The Arab regimes are thus paying large sums to spy on friends and foes alike and, in doing so, are serving Israeli interests. US support for the high-tech sector in Israel is part of the project to help the state protect itself. This is done within a regional environment that is not conducive to Israel's presence due to its lack of any historical, social or political legitimacy.
The Arab masses do not accept Israel's presence in their midst. Benjamin Netanyahu said in 2017 that Israel's problem lies with the Arab people, not the Arab governments. The Zionist state's policies will, therefore, focus on maintaining the repressive Arab regimes and their alliance with Israel, as well as ensuring their subordination.
In the meantime, of course, Israel's existence continues to depend on a fabricated historical narrative, the ethnic cleansing and oppression of the people of Palestine and unquestioning Western support. The state has no qualms about doing all it can — legitimate and illegal; good and bad — to promote depravity in human relations around the world because, in short, it needs conflict in order to survive.
The Pegasus spyware scandal illustrates clearly that "Israel the ally" is, simultaneously, "Israel the belligerent", a state that recognises and respects alliances only as long as they benefit its own interests. Looked at objectively, the whole world is a potential victim of the evil that is Israel and its pernicious ideology, Zionism. The sale and use of Pegasus spyware has global consequences.
READ: Pegasus spyware and the consequences for privacy
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 4 August 2021
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.