Exposed Israeli role in Pegasus spyware scandal downplayed by EU MEP
A report by The Electronic Intifada details how an EU lawmaker sought his own pro-Israeli version of the scandal, suggesting that Israeli businesses are relocating to Cyprus "by accident".
Few companies in recent years have shown as much brass neck as NSO Group. The spyware producer immediately welcomed the "big news" after being named one of Time magazine's "most influential companies of 2022."
Being "influential" is not always a good thing. The spyware, Pegasus, may "steal personal data" from mobile phone applications, according to Time, which also noted that "some governments have reportedly used it to target political dissidents, activists, and even the wife of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi."
NSO Group bragged that it was one of just two Israeli companies on the list, despite being connected to a notorious murder, and that it was "proud" to be on it. The company pledged to keep developing "life-saving technologies."
By publicly confirming the findings of its investigation into the scandal, the European Parliament will ensure that Pegasus remains in the headlines this week.
A report by The Electronic Intifada detailed how one of the reasons for "Israel's" occupation of Palestine is making financial gains. The report also shed light on the EU's role in the process, among other issues.
According to evidence cited in the investigation, "Israel's readiness to test new surveillance systems on Palestinians" offers "incentives for a business model" that NSO has benefitted from.
Buyers of Pegasus, including at least 14 European Union nations, "contribute to human rights violations."
These results don't cover the entire scope of the investigation. An attempt to defend "Israel" from criticism is one part of it that has eluded examination.
The obvious attempt was orchestrated by Lukas Mandl, an Austrian member of the European Parliament.
Saving the face of Netanyahu
Mandl objected to the way the study incriminates Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
According to the report, Pegasus was purchased in 2017 by Hungary and Poland after their leaders met with Netanyahu. Mandl put up changes that would have Netanyahu's name removed.
Similar efforts were made by Mandl to shield the Israeli military from shame.
Tal Dilian, the CEO of the Intellexa consortium, was one of the spyware entrepreneurs whose name surfaced throughout the investigation.
Mandl asked that the report exclude Dilian's "former career" in the Israeli occupation forces, one of his biographical facts.
According to the paper, around 30 Israeli businesses have established bases in Cyprus in order to expand into the European market.
The report further entails that there is a "close connection between the trade in spyware and diplomatic relations." Cyprus reportedly got Pegasus and other products in exchange for allowing Israeli companies to operate there.
Mandl requested the deletion of the statement on the cordial relationship between "Israel" and Cyprus, which has been well documented and even supported by Netanyahu.
Mandl also gave directions to include a statement that claims that Israeli companies operating in Cyprus are "not related to the Israeli government."
Mandl wants to make his own pro-Israeli version of the report, suggesting that Israeli businesses are relocating to Cyprus "by accident".
He sought to delete a line that stated that some companies moved to Europe, specifically Cyprus, "each time the regime for export licenses was tightened in Israel."
'An arm of the Israeli army'
It should be emphasized that all of this tightening happened in response to the Pegasus scandal. However, the fact that spyware companies now believe they can operate more freely in the EU, where obstacles to their operations can be readily overcome, rather than in "Israel", is instructive.
Mandl is being dishonest in his attempts to disassociate spyware companies from the Israeli occupation. NSO is one of the companies that is now established in Europe. It has chosen Luxembourg as its new home instead of Cyprus.
According to Antony Loewenstein, author of The Palestine Laboratory, media coverage of Pegasus typically missed the point by painting NSO in a negative light. Rather than acting independently, NSO is, in Loewenstein's words, "an arm of the Israeli state."
It's possible that Lukas Mandl isn't being honest about his actions on Pegasus.
There have been calls for legislators in Brussels to reveal all of their interactions with countries and pressure organizations in the wake of the "Qatargate" bribery scandal.
Mandl has disclosed that he took part in one expense-paid travel to the Middle East since the start of the current European Parliament session in 2019. Aside from that, he has not listed a single meeting with "Israel" or organizations that support it on the website of the European Parliament.
In contrast to his readiness to be seen socializing with pro-Israeli lobbyists, he appears to lack transparency.
We are back in the EP 🇪🇺 studio to discuss the changing geopolitical dynamics in the #MiddleEast!— European Coalition for Israel (@EC4Israel) June 6, 2023
Stay tuned for a new #EuropeanReport featuring ECI Founding Director Tomas Sandell, MEP @lukasmandl and host Yossi Lempkowicz! pic.twitter.com/QlrSczlFNS
Additionally, he has long had a prominent position in the Transatlantic Friends of "Israel" organization, which brings together political officials from the US and Europe.
Despite Mandl's strained efforts, the Pegasus probe report is incriminating "Israel", although it is not as harsh as it should be.
Unshockingly, no sanctions will be imposed on "Israel"; Europe will only hold talks to "establish a framework for spyware marketing and export licenses."
By setting such low expectations, the European Parliament is allowing Israeli businesses to continue profiting from the suffering of Palestinians.
"By making such weak demands, the European Parliament is accepting that Israeli firms will continue milking the opportunities afforded by the oppression of Palestinians. The “framework for spyware marketing” it covets may ultimately mean that Israel goes on turning a brutal occupation to its commercial advantage," the article concludes.