World Review: Israeli spyware, Cummins, Tokyo Olympics and Haiti

In this weekend’s review, Tom Arms asks, who you believe, Cummins or Johnson?

Spyware produced by an Israeli company and sold to right-wing governments for spying on domestic and foreign opponents. The Israeli government’s denials of not being involved is fooling no one. The arrest and imprisonment of Jacob Zuma whom many Zulus see as their leader despite his flaws, has led to riots but his arrest was only the spark. Some are claiming that the Florida-based Haitian Pastor Christian Emmanuel Sanon was the man behind the murder of Haitian President Jovenel Moisie.

On more cheerful news, it is a minor miracle that the Tokyo Olympic Games are happening.

Another black eye for Israel. This one involves spyware produced by an Israeli company and sold to right-wing governments for spying on domestic and foreign opponents, including journalists, human rights activists and political opponents. It is a clever piece of software called Pegasus that infects mobile phones and turns them into spyware controlled by the hacker. It not only enables intelligence operatives to listen into phone conversations and text messages, it also records and videos everything in reach of the phone. How it is used is nothing to do with us, claims the Israeli company NSO which is backed by the UK private equity company Novalpina Capital. We just sell it, says NSO, to recognised governments with good track records in human rights. Furthermore, it has nothing to do with the Israeli government. Rubbish on all accounts. Their main customers are such paragons of human rights as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Hungary, India, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates. The people behind NSO are former Mossad agents. On top of that, all export licenses for weapons and spyware have to be issued by the Israeli government. And finally, all of the countries on the above list are those which the Israeli government is trying to establish closer diplomatic relations. Israel has a long tradition of using arms sales as a diplomatic weapon. In the era of cyber warfare, it has extended this policy to spyware. Denials fool no one and make them look silly.

It is a tough choice in today’s world of alternative facts. Who do you believe? Whom are what do you support if everyone is lying and pursuing conflicting personal ambitions? Nowhere was this problem more evident this week than in Britain where Dominic Cummings—former special adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson—subjected himself to a long interview with BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg.  Cummings revealed that within days of Johnson entering 10 Downing Street, the Rasputin-like figure decided that Johnson was not up to the job and was discussing his removal from power with other aides. The assessment of Johnson was, in my opinion, accurate. It is a commentary on Cummings lack of perspicacious judgment that it took him so long to arrive at the same conclusion. But more important was the fact that an unelected political adviser had appointed himself as the person who should decide whom should be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. That is not how the British constitution works. I don’t like Johnson, I believe Cummings when he says the Prime Minister is incompetent and should be replaced. But I do like and support the rule of law and the constitution. Another dilemma.

The fact that the Tokyo Olympics are even opening is a minor miracle and a credit to both the Japanese government and the Olympic Movement. Hamstrung by the pandemic and Woke culture it was touch and ago that the world’s athletes would have the opportunity to parade around the Olympic stadium—albeit an empty one—on Friday. The Olympics and Paralympics have been postponed. Foreign fans are banned. Japanese fans are banned. The bill for the games is climbing, climbing…. Key officials have been sacked at the last minute because of politically incorrect past actions. Athletes have supported the anti-racism gesture of taking the knee despite Olympic rules banning political gestures. And the Olympic committee has caved in on the issue. The games have been shortened. The Japanese public oppose the games. And many athletes will be unable to participate because they have tested positive for coronavirus. It is even doubtful that the games can be completed. As I said, it is a minor miracle that they are happening at all.

South Africa is a de facto one-party state—the African National Congress (ANC). The ANC’s largest tribal contingent is the Zulu nation and the accepted leader of the Zulus is former 79-year-old President Jacob Zuma who is currently serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court imposed during an inquiry into corruption charges. Unemployment in South Africa is over 30 percent. The country has the greatest levels of unequal income distribution of any in the developed world. And finally South Africa is suffering heavily from the coronavirus pandemic. All of the above contributed to the perfect storm that has created an orgy of looting and riots that has ravaged Johannesburg, Soweto and other cities. Billions has been wiped out of the economy. The riots will doubtless act as a supaspreader which will mean hundreds of thousands more will be infected with coronavirus. President Cyril Ramaphosa has been forced to send 25,000 troops into the streets to restore order. The spark was the arrest and imprisonment of Jacob Zuma whom many Zulus see as their leader despite his flaws. But his arrest was only the spark.

Christian Emmanuel Sanon is either one of the world’s biggest con men or biggest patsy or a bit of both. Some are claiming that the Florida-based Haitian Pastor was the man behind the murder of President Jovenel Moisie along with former Haitian intelligence officer Joseph Felix Badio. Sanon has been arrested. Badio is still at large. Police who raided Sanon’s home found DEA hats, guns, ammunition–all the coup-type equipment. Associates say that Sanon wanted to be president to introduce a multi-billion dollar reconstruction programme for his country. He actually held meetings with construction companies and others and raised money for the projects and his bid for the presidency. To help raise millions to take office and pledges of billions when he was secure,  Sanon claimed the backing of prominent American politicians on both sides of the aisle. So far the American government has denied any connection with Sanon. And no politician has stepped forward to claim an association. Friends and relatives said he never would have countenanced violence, and the reports are that the hired mercenaries weren’t told of the murder plans until the night of the event. The Haitian authorities are convinced that there are unknown Mr Bigs (or Ms) out there who were using Sanon as an unwitting front man and protective shield in case things did not go exactly to plan. If so, they succeeded—for now.

* American expat journalist Tom Arms is LDV's foreign affairs editor and Campaigns Chair for Wandsworth Lib Dems. His book “America: Made in Britain” is published on 15 October.

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