When U2 live-streamed parts of its recent North American tour via a trendy new app, the band’s singer Bono enthused about how modern technology removes barriers between performer and audience. Amid his excitement, Bono withheld a crucial piece of information: the app was developed by supporters of Israeli terror.
Meerkat, the firm behind this innovation, was set up in Tel Aviv.
Its founders include Roi Tirosh. Before starting Yevvo — as Meerkat was previously known — in 2011, he spent four years as an instructor with the Israeli military.
According to his online profile, Tirosh headed the army’s information technology instruction team for about half that period.
Tirosh has used his Facebook page to spread Israeli propaganda. During Israel’s 2014 attack on Gaza, he posted links to a blog post suggesting that basic Internet searches prove Israel is more sophisticated than Palestinian resistance groups.
Tirosh effectively endorsed the inane commentary with his own note, reading “In Google we trust.”
The post ignored how Israel committed numerous ceasefire violations. To cite just one example, 17 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces at a market in the Shujaiya district of Gaza City on 30 July last year during what was supposed to have been a four hour “humanitarian truce.”
Like no other army?
Another Meerkat founder, Uri Haramati, sanitized the conduct of Israel’s November 2012 offensive against Gaza.
Haramati alerted his followers on Twitter to an Israeli military video which purports to show “warning leaflets” being dropped on the Khan Younis area. The grainy images of paper descending from the sky proved the Israeli military was “like no other army,” he tweeted.
More than 170 Palestinians — among them 35 children — were killed during that eight-day attack. The distribution of a few leaflets provides no comfort to their families.
Ben Rubin, the chief executive of Meerkat, has also tweeted about how the Israeli military has been using his technology.
And Rubin has expressed a desire to hang out with Netanyahu, the man who ordered the Gaza assaults of 2012 and last year.
U2’s partnership with Meerkat has offered something of a lifeline to the company, Forbes magazine has reported. Twitter has been trying to neuter Meerkat by blocking access to key data and launching a rival service. Securing Bono’s help was a “strategic move,” the Forbes article adds.
It’s very possible that Bono has not undertaken a background check on Meerkat. Nonetheless, he has something of a penchant for embracing Israeli terrorists and their fellow travelers.
Playing in Toronto last month, Bono dedicated the ballad “One” to Shimon Peres, the former Israeli president. Bono praised Peres, who attended the show, as “the voice of reason in a region where the loudest voices are often the bellicose ones.”
U2’s music might display some originality; their frontman’s rhetoric does not. By portraying Peres as a living saint, Bono was recycling the same clichés trotted out each time a Western leader speaks to “the voice of reason.”
It would be uncouth of these leaders to mention how Peres was instrumental in introducing nuclear weapons to the Middle East or that — as prime minister — he authorized the slaughter of 102 civilians in Qana, Lebanon, during 1996.
Bono’s Israel connections
Bono is a venture capitalist, as well as a singer. He appears to have taken an interest in Israel’s flourishing technology sector for some time.
Earlier this year, Dropbox bought the Israeli firm CloudOn. Meir Morgenstern, who established CloudOn, worked in “development and system engineering” for the Israeli military from 1989 to 1993, his résumé states.
And in June, the Israeli “cyber security” company Adallom announced a partnership with Dropbox.
Two weeks ago, The Economist magazine identified the Israeli military’s nurturing of technology specialists as one of the key reasons why Israel accounts for around one-tenth of global sales in Internet security software. In 2014, Israel’s sales of that software was worth $6 billion.
Investors are making similar observations. Eden Shochat from Aleph Ventures, an Israeli firm, recently noted that “big data, deep learning and machine vision” are key areas of focus for Unit 8200 graduates.
In layperson’s terms, this means that the Israeli military is helping to shape the future direction of the Internet and of technology more generally.
Aleph Ventures is one of the main financial backers of Meerkat.
Should Meerkat be boycotted? Although I advocate a general boycott of Israeli goods and institutions, it’s sometimes necessary to be flexible.
I’d certainly be opposed to anyone buying shares in the company — unless he or she intended to ask awkward questions at the firm’s meetings. Downloading a Meerkat app is another matter.
Ben Rubin, Meerkat’s boss, has signaled his desire to making streaming of events like the Ferguson protests easier.
It would be deeply ironic, of course, if an app developed by supporters of Israeli brutality becomes an important tool in documenting brutality worldwide. If that does happen, then political activists should be aware of who is behind Meerkat.
We shouldn’t fall into the trap of constantly rhapsodizing about modern technology and the people behind it. Leave that to Bono.