Ahead of its annual al-Quds Day orgy of Israel-bashing on Friday, Iran’s parliament has unanimously passed legislation banning “any cooperation” with Israel — specifically including the use of Israeli computer hardware and software — as a crime against God.
In normal years, al-Quds day is marked across the Islamic Republic by orchestrated anti-Israel marches and speeches, the trampling and burning of Israeli flags, and other displays of hatred rather at odds with the regime’s frequent assurances to the international community that its friendly and peace-loving leaders have no interest whatsoever in acquiring nuclear weapons.
But this year, bedeviled by the fiendish COVID-19 (which “supreme leader” Ali Khamenei has claimed was partly “built for Iran” by the similarly loathed United States), the regime is having to scale back its mass public displays of animosity to Israel.
And so Khamenei has this week resorted to calling online for a “final solution” to the Israel problem, and for arming the West Bank, “just as Gaza,” in order to expedite it. Underlining the utter hypocrisy of his regime’s ostensible humanitarian concern for the Palestinian people, he has been castigating the United Arab Emirates for committing nothing less than “the biggest treachery… [in] the history of the Arab world” — by delivering 16 tons of coronavirus aid for the Palestinians via Ben Gurion Airport.
And his parliament has resorted to criminalizing Israeli tech.
Under the legislation passed Monday, any cooperation with “the Zionist regime” is henceforth to be considered “equal to enmity towards God and corruption on earth,” according to the semi-state news site Fars. “All Iranian bodies are required to use the country’s regional and international capacities to confront the Zionist regime’s measures,” it reported, and, specifically, “activities of the Israeli software platforms in Iran and using its hardware and software products is forbidden.”
Rather than protesting this latest legislative iteration of the ayatollahs’ relentless and doomed efforts to precipitate Israel’s demise, the free world might consider applauding the ban, if not actively demanding its enforcement, in those areas where it does not directly spell the deaths of innocents.
Because, given the centrality of Israeli innovation and technology to so many aspects of modern life, the new anti-Israel legislation, if implemented as required by the Iranian parliament, will set Iran back decades, raise Iranian public disaffection with the repressive ayatollahs to new heights, and likely spell the demise of the brutal, rapacious and cynical regime.
For a start, if the solemnly enacted legislation of the Majlis is to be regarded as anything other than hot air, Iran must now shut down all of its computers. They all feature Intel chips and/or technologies designed and/or developed in Israel.
As the then-president of Intel Israel, Mooly Eden, explained to The Times of Israel back in 2014, Israeli-developed chips and technologies are simply the mainstay of computer design. Intel set up shop in Israel in the 1970s, and Intel Haifa then developed the 8088 processor — which was used in the IBM PC, the first popular Microsoft-based computer for home use. Intel Israel has developed increasingly advanced processors through the decades ever since, for PCs, for tablets and for laptops. “The whole laptop revolution was kicked off by the Pentium M (Banias) processor, developed in Israel in 2003,” Eden noted.
Apple, which has been using Intel chips since 2009, also maintains a major R&D center in Israel.
Of course, Iran will henceforth have rather less need for computers anyway, since its new legislation means it will also have to stop using the internet. That’s because routers produced by Cisco Systems are a core component of the internet’s backbone — transferring information between computer networks at dizzying speeds — and Cisco Israel is central to the US multinational’s ongoing router development. “At the heart” of Cisco’s latest router, the firm announced last December, for instance, “is the Cisco Silicon One chip which is based on technology developed by Leaba” — a Caesarea firm acquired by Cisco four years ago.
But then Iran would be immensely constrained in using the internet anyhow, since, under the new legislation, it’s hard to see which search engines law-abiding Iranians would be allowed to use. Google does enormous amounts of R&D work in Israel, across a wide array of products. One small example: “Google Suggest,” which starts searching for you even as you type in your request — developed in Israel.
As for the Bing search engine, well, that’s a Microsoft product. And as Microsoft’s then-CEO Steve Ballmer famously declared on a visit to Israel in 2008 (17 years after the firm set up its first R&D division outside the US here), “Microsoft is as much an Israeli company as an American company.” (Hailing Israel’s “remarkable” tech on a subsequent trip four years later, Ballmer noted that Microsoft employs more workers per capita in Israel than anywhere else on earth.)
Cloud storage of data is going to be a problem from now on too, since the technology behind it is an Israeli specialty. Indeed generally, says Saul Singer, co-author of the bestselling “Start-Up Nation” who helped me with a lot of the material for this article, Israel is “big on routers and chips and all the core infrastructure that drives technology.”
The Iranians will also now obviously have to hang up their smartphones. Going back to Motorola, which was doing R&D in Israel even before Intel, cellphones are riddled with Israeli tech.
In fact all of Iran’s international connections — communications, banking, freight shipping, even its vital oil exports — are going to require careful examination by the Majlis, for fear of cooperation with us Zionists.
Depending on how stringently it interprets its law, Iran may have to unilaterally constrain its already sanctioned international banking interactions, because numerous major international banks — Citibank, RBS, Deutche Bank et al — do R&D in Israel, have bought Israeli companies, and/or use Israeli cyber systems.
Shipping is going to be a problem, since Freightos — the Expedia of global freight shipping — is, well, Israeli.
Iran’s vital oil exports are going to take a massive hit: The international oil refineries that handle its black gold rely on Israeli-developed monitoring systems, Israeli cyber defense systems and other protective technology developed in Israel.
Back home, many of its cars are going to have to come off the roads. It imports tens of thousands of vehicles each year, and it’s a safe bet that many of them include features developed in Israel. Manufacturers such as General Motors have technology centers in Israel, their innovations feeding into the production process. Israel’s Mobileye, meanwhile, has its driver-assistance technology installed in over 40 million cars — over 300 models.
Iran’s health services are going to be terribly affected. Medtronic, the largest medical device company in the world, whose equipment is a mainstay of hospitals the world over, has acquired a great deal of Israeli tech and maintains an Israeli R&D center.
Indeed, medical innovation is a major Israeli focus, and multinationals have long been engaged here, buying Israeli startups and setting up their own centers here. General Electric and Change Healthcare also maintain major healthcare divisions here.
Lots of drugs are now off-limits, too. Teva, the world’s largest generic drug manufacturer is henceforth forbidden, which means no more use of its patented Copaxone treatment for multiple sclerosis. Many other of the most important drugs in the world, manufactured by global pharmaceutical behemoths, include Israeli development.
On and on it goes.
The list of major companies that invest in, own and/or deeply engage with Israeli firms and innovators, that also have done business with Iran — and are thus now presumably off-limits for all Iranians — and that I haven’t mentioned above, also includes, to give just 10 examples (with their Israel activities): Boeing (3D parts printing, cockpit systems); Daimler (tech hub; car tech R&D); Deutsche Telekom (cyber-security innovation lab); Hyundai (innovation hub, investments); LG (smart TVs, smartphones, cybersecurity); Renault (innovation lab, smart car incubator, auto-tech fund); Samsung (software tech; startup investments); Siemens (innovation lab); Volkswagen (tech hub in Tel Aviv); Volvo (tech investments, innovation center)… You get the idea.
Jerusalem-based Singer (whose “Start-Up Nation” is itself now of course off-limits in Iran) suggests Iranians might still be okay with pocket calculators and landlines, though he’s not even sure about that.
“It’s endless,” he said, when considering the impact the Majlis ban on all things Israeli will have. “If you count all the Fortune 500 companies that have critical development centers in Israel — including Siemens, an Iranian favorite, IBM, GE… — there’s not much left. I guess they would have to go back to pen and paper, horses, and home visits by doctors with stethoscopes and World War II-era hospitals.”
An Iran without “Israel inside,” Singer said, “would make North Korea look advanced and cosmopolitan. Essentially, Iran would go back to the world of 50 years ago, maybe more. It would look like a huge Amish colony in Muslim garb
An Iran without “Israel inside,” Singer said, “would make North Korea look advanced and cosmopolitan. Essentially, Iran would go back to the world of 50 years ago, maybe more. It would look like a huge Amish colony in Muslim garb. Meanwhile, it would be party time in the US, Israel, and most of the Arab world.”
On the other hand, of course, Iran could acknowledge the centrality of Israeli innovation to the improved functioning and health of society, stop subverting its diminishing resources to the vile cause of wiping us out, and rejoin the family of nations. Legislators of the Majlis, seriously now, do you truly believe that would be a crime against God?
Just two months ago, a senior Iranian cleric was quoted saying that, if “Zionists” were the first to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus (of this writing, COVID-19 has killed over 7,000 Iranians), it would be permitted for use by Iranians. Would that too, now, constitute a criminal act?
Meantime, Supreme Leader Khamenei himself will evidently need not only to shut down his laptop and dump his cellphone, but also to hurriedly rethink his transportation arrangements.
German manufacturer BMW, which noted in 2019 that it “has been collaborating with Israeli firms from various technology fields for a number of years,” announced plans for a new Tel Aviv “office for trend and technology scouting in Israel.”
Back in 2013, Khamenei was pictured emerging from his BMW. As of this week’s legislation, for any Iranian to do so, much less the supreme leader, would most emphatically be a crime against God.
With reporting by Shoshanna Solomon