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21/08/2020 | Opinion - China has proven to be a bad actor. We owe them nothing

Jerusalem Post Editorial

Beyond the US-Israel partnership, China has proven to be an especially bad actor when it comes to communications and privacy.


Israel is on the way to signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the United States – as first reported by The Jerusalem Post’s Lahav Harkov over the weekend – that would, in effect, mean Israel promises not to use any Chinese equipment in its communications infrastructure.

This includes the new and advanced 5G Internet network, for which the Communications Ministry opened a tender earlier this month.

The MOU would involve Israel joining the US State Department’s “Clean Network,” meant to protect American allies’ national assets as well as individual privacy from “malign actors such as the Chinese Communist Party,” the State Department said.

“Being a clean country benefits Israel’s national security, its citizens’ privacy and its businesses’ hard-earned intellectual property,” a US government source said.

Israel has made the right choice here. It is so right, that it seems obvious. The US is Israel’s greatest ally and that alliance is also one of Israel’s greatest strategic assets. There would rarely be a situation in which Israel has to choose between the US and another country, and America would not come out on top.

But beyond the US-Israel partnership, China has proven to be an especially bad actor when it comes to communications and privacy. Chinese companies, even private ones, are subject to government intervention, and a myriad of Chinese products from Huawei communications infrastructure components to the popular video-based social media app TikTok have proven to have serious data breaches. This adds up to the data of millions, if not billions, of people around the world being in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.

Meanwhile, China’s reaction to the report was revealing. For the second time, Beijing mouthpieces tried to hold the fact that Jews fled the Holocaust to Shanghai over Israel, as if the country owes them something. This first time was when Israel closed its borders to people flying from China due to coronavirus.

Then, on Sunday, Chen Weihua, a popular columnist for China Daily, a state-run media outlet, tweeted in response to the brewing US-Israel MOU: “This is scandalous and ungrateful. Chinese cities like Shanghai provided safe haven to some 30,000 Jews fleeing Nazi Europe in WWII, but now Israel returns the favor by being a US poodle against China in 5G.”

This is ironic in so many ways. For starters, if Israel were to conduct its diplomacy based on how countries behaved during WWII – which, its close ties with Germany indicate is not so – it would anyhow owe far more to the US, which played a key role in defeating the Nazis.

But the biggest – and worst – irony of all is that this is the line of argument while China is developing ever-closer ties with the Iranian mullahs, which openly seek to destroy the State of Israel. Just a quick perusal at Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s Twitter account shows this genocidal regime’s intentions.

Yet, the Chinese Communist Party is known not to take the Iranian threat to Israel seriously, and Beijing is working on a massive deal with Iran, which would involve, among other things, defense cooperation and selling Tehran fighter jets, advanced missiles and more. Just last Friday, China vetoed an American proposal to extend the arms embargo on Iran, which is set to expire in October. This makes the security risks of giving companies with Chinese-government ties access to Israel’s lines of communications abundantly clear.

China has the right to prioritize its ties with Iran over relations with Israel – but Israel has every right to take that into consideration and reject their participation in critical infrastructure projects.

Israel’s economic ties with China should continue and flourish, but Jerusalem does need to be careful not to concede too much of its critical infrastructure to the Chinese. Too many mistakes like the Haifa Port have already been made.

And China absolutely does not have the right to weaponize the memory of the Holocaust at any time, but certainly not while cozying up to those who seek to wipe Israel off the map.

Jerusalem Post (Israel)


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