Tech and War

Paula LabrotBy Paula Labrot

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It’s hard to write as a futurist while civilization is spinning in chaos and brutality. How do we talk about progress in the face of the present destructive uses of modern technology? On October 7, on the Jewish Sabbath, 3,000 Hamas militants crossed into Israel and executed a coordinated attack on Israeli civilians and military personnel by land, sea, and air, killing an estimated 1,400. Over 239 hostages were taken, including Americans and people from other countries. The attacks caught Israel Defense Forces (IDF) completely by surprise. It was a massive intelligence failure by a country renowned for its high-tech protections. Sophia Goodfriend, writing for foreignpolicy.com, reports, “The failure by Israeli intelligence to anticipate the massacre was a shock, given the country’s cutting-edge surveillance systems and weaponry pioneered by its technologically advanced military. From borders equipped with hundreds of sensors, cameras, robotic machine guns, and automated drone swarms to biometric databases and spyware…somehow, Hamas mapped the sensors, cameras, watch towers, and military bases along the border—planning its sabotage without triggering a single alarm. The group hid its preparation by avoiding digital communications altogether while planning for the attack. (Over a period of two years) many of its operations were moved to underground bunkers equipped with hardwired phones outside the range of networks monitored by the IDF.” Complacency, Misinformation, Confirmation Bias and Deception Activities Countering terrorism requires intelligence agencies to confront biases, fight complacency, and think creatively regarding the evolving nature of terrorist attacks, according to John Chin and Haleigh Bartos writing for the Modern War Institute. “Israeli leaders almost certainly believed Israel’s military superiority would be able to repel any attack from paramilitary forces. In turn, this led to complacency, assuming Hamas would not launch a major attack because Hamas could not defeat Israel.” Other countries besides Israel feel threatened by Iran and its proxies like Hamas, especially after the Biden administration lifted the economic sanctions off Iran, allowing its nearly bankrupted regime to thrive again. Israel’s focus was on developing its new relationships with the Saudis, Bahrain, The United Arab Emirates, Morrocco and Sudan along with their treaties with Jordon and Egypt. So, videos from satellite cameras showing Hamas training activities were analyzed as “normal” and mostly ignored. Politico’s Daniella Cheslow reports, “Israel’s $1 billion security barrier on the Gaza border failed, as Hamas fighters used simple bulldozers to plow through and armed paragliders to soar above it. Barrages of rockets penetrated Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. And Israel’s surveillance system — a dense network of drones, cameras and cyber snooping — was proven fatally insufficient, with Hamas able to both work around and overwhelm it. The most common question is, where were the Israeli surveillance drones? The answer is everyone who should have called those drones was already dead.” The Tech Sector Response The first building in Gaza that the Israelis struck and demolished was the housing for the Palestinian Communications Company. Then, they cut electricity without which no water and no fuel could be pumped. Electronic equipment would be useless, without a power source. One very interesting thing I learned researching this article was how Gaza had a thriving fledgling tech sector which was attracting global investments, including U.S, tech giant, Nvidia. Nvidia acquired Israeli tech giant Mellanox, founded by Eyal Waldman. Jeremy Owens of Market Watch reports, “Eyal Waldman, a onetime Israeli combat fighter, founded Mellanox in 1999, and sold it 20 years later to Nvidia for $6.9 billion. He is known internationally for attempting to foster peace between Israelis and Palestinians through his work in technology — Mellanox hired Palestinian tech workers in Gaza, Nablus and the West Bank town of Rawabi. “We wanted to make peace, to work together, to bring prosperity to the Palestinian people, the same as we have in Israel,” Waldman said. “I brought even Apple to open a design center in Rawabi and I brought other companies to open design centers in Rawabi.” Since the West Bank and Gaza are so demographically young, how wonderful and hopeful that must have been in terms of putting together a future for the Palestinians. Eyal Waldman’s daughter and her boyfriend were murdered at the Peace Festival. Owens reports, Waldman said he would continue to try to hire Palestinians and work with them to be a part of the Israeli tech ecosystem, as long as they state “that they are working for peace, and they are not supporting — not financially and not in any other way — any terror actions, or any actions that are not civilian economics between the two nations.” Waldman said, “Our hands are always reaching out for peace. But at the same time, before we do this, we need people to understand that Israel is strong, Israel is united, and we will never let anyone harm the citizens of the state of Israel again.” Victor Frankel’s Words Holocaust survivor Victor Frankl wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms: to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” I have chosen not to look away from the demonic slaughter of October 7. I am committed to stand as a witness. Because of the internet, because of the go-pro cameras, the cell phone footage, the drone cameras, the videos shot and posted, and my fact-checking skills, it is possible to see the carnage directly. It is traumatizing. You know what’s weird? When it gets so overwhelming, I can make an electronic channel change and watch a cooking show in a country so blessed they have contests with food preparation. Prayers for peace. Vamos a ver.
Paula Labrot

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November 10, 2023

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