The human cost of surveillance and weaponry is hard to remember when the business of militarism is dressed up like a Silicon Valley work retreat.

By Sophia Goodfriend, +972 Magazine

Nadav Zafrir’s old colleagues from the Israeli army’s elite intelligence unit, 8200, describe him as the ‘James Bond’ type. The ex-director of Israel’s high-tech spy unit – the equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) – appears like a cross between a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and a commander of special operatives. On the one hand, he wears dark sunglasses and dresses in a smattering of contemporary designer clothes that is rare for career generals in the Israeli military, known for their open collar shirts and leather sandals. On the other hand, his stint as an Israeli paratrooper means that he carries himself with the flex of someone who spent years in an elite infantry brigade.

Cyber Trojan Horse sculpture outside of Tel Aviv University

In a speech on June 28, during Tel Aviv University’s annual Cyber Week, Zafrir described a new military landscape, one where governments outsource the tools and tactics of high-tech warfare to private firms, entrepreneurial citizens, and corporate conglomerates alike.

“You are seeing cyber offensively and defensively crowdsourced.” Zafrir said, “You’re seeing the integration of government capacity, whether it be civilian, government, military, private sector, and nation-states.”

The blurred line between the private technology sector and Israel’s military is par for the course at Cyber Week, a conference founded 11 years ago by Isaac Ben-Israel. A decorated Israeli general, mastermind of Israel’s cyber policy, current head of Israel’s Space Agency, and military philosopher, Ben-Israel once wrote a book promoting the use of post-structural theory in military intelligence operations. In the 2000s, he taught the IDF how to calculate the number of targeted assassins needed to maintain an edge over the Gaza Strip according to the entropy equations of physics.

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