Microsoft deal with Israel alarms Arabs

Friday, January 24, 2003

TEL AVIV Israel has signed a $20 million contract with Microsoft Corp. in a move that has alarmed Arab states.

Microsoft Israel, a subsidiary, signed a 100 million shekel [$20.2 million] contract for the supply of services, programs and support for computers in the Defense Ministry and military.

Arab diplomatic sources said the contract has sparked rumors that Microsoft is helping Israel crack the computer systems of the militaries of its neighbors. An estimated 50 million people use Microsoft in the Middle East and the company has 29 offices in the region, according to Middle East Newsline.

The contract will last three years and was financed by U.S. military aid to Israel.

A report on an Arab website accused Microsoft of providing Israel with software that can trace thousands of Arab Internet sites. Israel has been tracking sites linked to Al Qaida, Hamas and other Islamic insurgency groups.

"Microsoft does not develop software programs especially for military purposes," Fahd Al Sudairi, Microsoft's marketing manager in Saudi Arabia, said. "But at the same time [it] has no restrictions for its use in this field."

Industry sources said this was the largest contract between Israel's Defense Ministry and Microsoft. They said the company will supply Israel's defense and military establishment with services in the field of data protection that will prevent hackers from entering and disrupting computers in the military and security agencies.

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