Israel may be in a tense standoff with U.S. President Barack Obama, but the high-tech-savvy country seemed to be picking a fight this week with another formidable foe: Apple. And the Jewish state’s decision to ban the iPad, Apple’s vaunted new e-tablet, had tech writers and bloggers the world over scratching their heads trying to understand the move.
The reason? Israel’s explanation of the ban didn’t seem to add up.
“This device’s wireless strengths violate Israeli law and will overpower other wireless devices in Israel,” Ministry of Communications spokesman Yechiel Shavi told The Wall Street Journal, claiming that U.S. wireless standards permit stronger signals than those acceptable in Europe and Israel.
As of Sunday, customs officials had confiscated dozens of the devices, at Ben-Gurion International Airport, according to reports.
Tech writers are bewildered as to why other European countries haven’t voiced similar qualms. Among other mobile gadgets, Apple’s ever-popular iPhone — a device that Israel readily allows — actually carries a stronger signal than that of the iPad, noted tech analyst Richard Doherty in that same Journal article.
Some experts are even suggesting that the Israeli powerbrokers are actually trying to rig the country’s iPad market. By barring consumers from bringing in the device from the U.S., the government will force Israeli consumers to purchase iPads through Israel’s sole licensed Apple retailer, iDigital, blogs David Shamah, a high-tech correspondent for the Jerusalem Post and other publications. iDigital, several articles have noted, happens to be owned and operated by Nehemia Peres, the son of Israeli President Shimon Peres.
“Israel has some of the leading experts in the IT [information technology] area in the world,” said new-media scholar Andre Oboler. “The Israeli government should move to get independent advice.”
Oboler suggests that the Israeli government turn to an independent international organization like the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers], who he says creates the wireless Internet standards in question and has more than 1,300 members in Israel.
“If the claims are true and the device is no different from those already sold in Israel, approval should be fast-tracked,” said Oboler, who himself is chair of the IEEE Computer Society Chapter in Victoria, Australia. “If the device has the potential to interfere with the communications of the security services, that is another matter entirely, but one that needs addressing in a general manner rather than by attaching special conditions to the iPad.”
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