In June of this year, the story of how Dubai Ports World was helping to squash opposition to the Israeli Zim shipping company in a small Canadian town caught the interest of many progressives worldwide. Lest anyone think this was an isolated incident, Canadian media recently highlighted another saga of Canada-UAE-Israel partnership.
This time around, former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper is taking centre stage as the head of the advisory committee to Toronto-based AWZ Ventures. According to a CBC article, “AWZ Ventures finances Israeli surveillance technology systems, including facial recognition and crowd detection systems and services that deliver comprehensive information on individuals in real time.”
The media focus now is that AWZ Ventures is facilitating the sale of this “technology to the United Arab Emirates — a country with a troubling human rights record”. (No mention of Israel’s “troubling human rights record”, mind you.)
Again, as with the Zim story, the finer details are bizarre. Not only does AWZ Ventures have former Mossad, CIA and MI5 figures on its advisory board, it is also opening a subsidiary in the UAE. And heading up this new subsidiary with be the former Canadian diplomat and representative to the Palestinian Authority, Katherine Verrier-Fréchette.
The new company, aptly dubbed AWZ Horizons, will also be helping to promote the sale of this Israeli technology “to other countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, and countries in North Africa.” This seamless transition from Canadian diplomatic envoy to high-level cybersecurity merchant speaks volumes about the “neutrality” of Canadian foreign policy.
AWZ Ventures itself is an interesting study. Along with the notable international figures, Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service works for the company. And former Conservative cabinet minister Stockwell Day is also reportedly involved.
Fadden, one of the few who was quoted by Canadian media, said: “A lot of this technology is useful in fighting terrorism and that was my main interest,” he said. “Some of the technology that has been developed helps develop a sense of what’s going on, on the one level on social media, so you can accumulate information…”
In July of this year, AWZ Ventures also entered into an official partnership with the Israeli Ministry of Defense and its Directorate of Defense Research and Development (MAFAT) and launched Awz X-Seed. The goal of this new spin-off will be to invest in “pre-seed” and “inception” stage companies in Israel developing innovative security technologies. According to Stephen Harper at the time: “Together, Awz and MAFAT will uniquely evaluate and develop early-stage technologies, creating a model that is unmatched anywhere.”
It was also noted that the “Portfolio companies will further benefit from Awz Ventures’ business development offices in Canada, the US, and UAE that will support the companies in expanding their global client base.”
So, to sum up, a Canadian-based company with an advisory board headed by a former Canadian PM and full of former spies, is marketing Israeli cybersecurity and surveillance technology to dictatorial Arab regimes. And even partnering with the Israeli government to help develop more of the same.
The detrimental use of these technologies has been well-documented in recent years, the most notable case being a possible link in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Journalists and human rights activists, including from Amnesty International, have reportedly been targeted by repressive governments with the aid of these Israeli surveillance tools.
However, the media parameters that focus only on the sale of these Israeli technologies to despotic regimes are flawed. The Israeli government’s
“troubling human rights record” is also relevant, and the fact that their security and defense innovations are field-tested on Palestinians and Arabs is well-known. And Israel’s abuse and torture of Palestinian prisoners is also well-known, as was evidenced by the recent treatment of the Gilboa 6 after being re-captured.
As the Dubai 2020 Expo is finally underway, with an Israel pavilion spearheaded by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, we must be clear on who is powering and financing this unholy alliance of Israeli apartheid and Arab reactionary regimes. Western governments and capital interests are fully complicit in these violations of Palestinian and Arab human rights.
(Article by Marion Kawas, that was published in Mondoweiss).