Amnesty International is a human rights NGO lionized by the media that disproportionately singles out Israel for condemnation. Even when occasionally denouncing human rights violations in other Middle Eastern countries, it endeavors to impute much of the responsibility directly or indirectly to the Jewish State.
Lately Amnesty has been targeting Israel through its fixation on Pegasus, a software that can be “injected” into smartphones to track the user’s location, calls, messages, etc. (a technique known as “spear phishing”). Pegasus was developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cybersecurity company founded in 2010 for combating the incessant terrorist attacks that target Israel’s civilian population. It was, and continues to be, instrumental in saving the lives and limbs of countless men, women and children.
It stood to reason that this important tool could be equally effective in preventing terrorist attacks all over the world, as well as disrupting drug and human trafficking and various other crimes. To minimize the possibility of it being misused, the company chose to sell this and other technologies only to “authorized governments,” more recently “in alignment to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.”
The Israeli Defense Ministry licenses the export of Pegasus to foreign governments but not to private entities. To cite just one of numerous examples, the Mexican government reportedly recaptured the notorious drug lord El Chapo in 2014 by means of the Pegasus software.
It is common knowledge that even life-saving medications may cause undesirable and at times dangerous side-effects. Penicillin and acetaminophen can and have caused deaths. Practically no human inventions, including software programs, are totally and predictably risk-free or immune from misuse.
That was the case with Amnesty’s allegation that Saudi Arabia used Pegasus to spy on, and later murder, Jamal Khashoggi, according to analyses performed by Citizen Lab at the behest of Amnesty that indicated that certain “domain names point[ed] to websites that appear to be part of NSO’s Group’s Pegasus infrastructure.”
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the uncertainty provided by words such as “appear to be” is often absent in Amnesty’s reports, as are other Citizen Lab caveats like “apparently,” “believe” and “suspected.”
Last year, Amnesty allegedly uncovered “targeted digital attacks [by Moroccan authorities] against two prominent Moroccan Human Rights Defenders using NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware,” and last month the similar targeting of a “prominent activist and journalist from Morocco.” A “security researcher with Amnesty... suspected the hackers worked for the Moroccan government, although conclusive technical evidence was not found.”
Morocco’s prime minister vehemently denied Amnesty’s accusations and demanded “a copy of the report of the scientific expertise” it had employed. A Washington-based Moroccan journalist provided extensive documentation of Amnesty’s bias and double standards.
Morocco, like other Arab countries allied with the US and the West, has been the target of terrorist attacks by Islamist and other radical groups in Casablanca, Marrakesh and near Mount Toubkal. Tens of Moroccans and foreigners were killed.
Since 2002, Moroccan authorities have dismantled almost 200 terrorist cells and thwarted more than 350 attempted terrorist attacks. But that, unlike the questionable hacking of three activists’ cell phones, is something about which Amnesty is totally unconcerned.
This week a Tel Aviv District Court rejected Amnesty’s petition to have NSO’s export license revoked because it received “no evidence that an attempt ha[d] been made to monitor a human rights activist while trying to gain access to his telephone.”
As an NSO statement pointed out, “[a]dvanced encryption by terrorists and criminals necessitates the kind of legal and proportionate response that NSO provides to authorized and verified government agencies... [NSO’s] regulatory framework... is of the highest international standard.”
While Amnesty fights its propaganda war against the Jewish state, Israeli-founded companies continue to innovate for the common good. Indeed, NSO itself is currently marketing Eclipse, a “cyber counter-drone platform designed to automatically detect, take over and safely land unauthorized commercial drones in a designated zone.”
Thankfully, Amnesty’s desperate attempts to slander Israeli entrepreneurs are no match for the Start-Up Nation’s ability to develop life-saving technologies.
The writer is a former president of American Friends of Likud.