Israel: The Innovative Nation

It has long been obvious that Israel punches far above its weight in contributions to innovations in science, research, and general culture.  For some time, Tel Aviv and its surroundings have been second only to Silicon Valley in scientific and technological developments.  Now the country's ambition is to become a major, and possibly the leading, cyber-nation in the world.

The abundant enemies of Israel readily swallow the Palestinian narrative of unique victimhood and eagerly publicize illustrations of the bigoted companies, organization, and academic units engaged in or proposing boycott of the State of Israel.  The courageous action of Scarlett Johansson has highlighted the cowardice of Oxfam International in succumbing to the pressure of politically correct, anti-Semitic Palestinian pressure groups.

By standing up to Oxfam, Johansson made the bigots there, and the businesses, colleges, and academic organizations who have called for boycott of Israeli institutions and people, aware of the contributions of the Israeli firm SodaStream to economic development and alleviation of poverty of Palestinians in its factory just outside Jerusalem.  Those bigots are unfortunately less aware of or ignore the remarkable new Israeli developments that will contribute to the security of people and organizations in the world.

The key to those developments is that Israel will become an enhanced innovation nation with the establishment of a national cyber-park in Beer Sheva, in the Negev, that will be called Cyber Spark.

Cyber Spark will be the first of its kind, and will include leading cyber industries, advanced academic research, security organizations, educational institutions (especially Ben-Gurion University), and governmental agencies.  Through a joint technical infrastructure, the Israelis aim at global leadership in the cyber field.  The new initiative brings together multinational companies, investors, start-up companies, academic research, and even a high school.

The announcement of Cyber Spark was made at the opening of Cybertech 2014 on January 24, 2014, the first international cyber conference in Israel, which hundreds of companies are attending.  Among the many sponsors of the event are IBM, EMC, Microsoft, Netcom, Cisco, and Symantec.  It is encouraging to know that the U.S. delegation includes 50 people from the White House and the Department of Homeland Security.

The world is well aware of security issues as a result of the hacking of Target in the U.S. in December 2013.  At least 40 million of customer credit and debit cards used by people in its stores were compromised by a data breach.  For commercial enterprises, this is now a challenging problem.  Not surprisingly, because of past attacks and continuing threats against the State of Israel, concern for security is paramount.  Cyber Spark follows the creation in 2012 of the Israel National Cyber Bureau, a body that advises the prime minister and the government on policy in the cyber field and helps formulate cyber defense policy, both for government and for private enterprises.

The importance of Israel's activity cannot be underestimated.  The worldwide market for cyber security products and services currently amounts to about $80 billion a year, and Israel accounts for about 10% of this.  This makes Israel a power in cyber-security.  For some time, Israeli companies have been providing security assistance for individuals, businesses, and enterprises.  To these have been added a number of start-up companies, all concerned with cyber-defense strategies.

Some of these companies may emulate the success of Checkpoint, started by graduate students, which now has sales of more than $1 billion a year.  Specializing in network security and making software packages and hardware appliances, including firewall solutions, it protects corporations from leaks and threats.  It is a compliment that all the firms on the Fortune 500 list use their products.

The democratic world is well aware that international cooperation is essential if cyber-defenses are to be effective.  The Israeli initiative is to encourage nations to join together in this endeavor.  Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear that Israel will share its experiences and talents with others, though some exceptions -- a diminishing number -- will be made on grounds of national security.

The relationship has already begun.  IBM announced that it would open a cyber-tech R&D program in Israel.  Deutsche Telekom and EMC already have research centers.  Lockheed Martin Corp. and the data storage equipment maker EMC Corp. plan to invest jointly, about $1 million, in advanced technology projects at the tech park in southern Israel.  The intention of the companies is to develop joint partnerships with Israeli political, economic, and academic institutions, especially Ben-Gurion University. The objective is to explore research and development projects in cloud computing, data analytics, and cyber technologies.

The EMC Corp. already employs more than 1,000 people in Israel and has invested billions of dollars in nine Israeli companies, in Israeli technologies, and in sales and R and D centers.  Lockheed Martin will expand its interests beyond those presently in aerospace and defense projects to foster applied research and growth in Israel's technology sector.  The value of recent mergers of 18 international corporations in Israel is calculated to be more than $2 billion.

Perhaps the mainstream media may make the bigoted boycotters of Israel aware of this exciting development, the even greater spread of knowledge and the technological advances in education and health, and security matters that will happen in Israel as a result of the creation of Cyber Spark and the critical innovation mass it will produce.  Israel is a small country, but it will not succumb to the bigots like Oxfam and other boycotters.

Michael Curtis is author of Jews, Antisemites, and the Middle East.

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