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Israeli Aggressive Assault on Internet Worse Than China

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Aug/18/2010
Israel

Israel may be the most Democratic, liberal, free thinking nation in the Middle East.

One would hardly know this by the country’s latest assault on Internet Service Providers (or ISPs).

Injunctions have been signed by Israel Police, the country’s Tax Authority and State Prosecutor’s Office to block access to online gambling sites, and this ruling is being enforced.  Until now Israel was considered a powerhouse in the sector and birthplace of some of today’s largest online gambling enterprises, including PokerStars and 888.com. 

Internet service provider 012 Smile on Tuesday began blocking access to gambling sites from abroad, following the leads of China and nearby Abu Dhabi.  That later two websites prevent access to gambling sector news sites such as Gambling911.com.
YNet News reports that, according to a Calcalist investigation, as of Tuesday, 012 internet service subscribers may only access a censored version of the internet – one that does not include access to large gambling sites like Victor Chandler.

Police officials began issuing stern warnings against ISPs last month (see:  Israel the New China, Shuts Off Internet Access to Online Gambling Sites)
YNet also points out that police claim that using this administrative tool as part of the enforcement serves as an important measure in the war on internet gambling and is intended to prevent the continued operation of those sites in Israel.
Law enforcement agencies have identified online gambling as "a phenomenon that leads to crime," and as a source of huge profits for crime organizations closely linked to the gambling sites.

 

Israel’s Strong Roots In Online Gambling

 

The world’s largest online poker room, PokerStars, was founded by one of Israel’s most prominent families, the Scheinbergs. Isai Scheinberg worked as a senior programmer for IBM prior to founding the company and moving it to the Isle of Man, off the coast of Great Britain. It has long been understood that Mr Scheinberg and his family own about 75 per cent of PokerStars. The employees own most of the other 25 per cent.

Long before the Scheinbergs entered the picture there was Casino On Net (888.com), for years the most recognized name in online casino gaming along with Golden Palace.

Israeli brothers Avi and Aaron Shaked owned approximately fifty percent of the parent-company through family trusts. Another pair of brothers, Shay and Ron Ben-Yitzhak, control approximately eleven percent through a family trust.  The company was founded in Antigua in 1997.

Then there is Playtech’s Teddy Sagi. In March 2006, the 34-year-old Teddy Sagi offered his Playtech, which makes software for Internet gambling sites, on the London Stock Exchange. He sold 25 percent of the company for $250 million in cash while still maintaining 40 percent ownership of the company, which, at the time, boasted a market capitalization of 400 million pounds ($788 million).  That year, Sagi ranked as Israel’s 30th richest men. 

Many of the online gambling enterprises with Israeli roots were known to operate marketing centers from the Middle Eastern nation, which helped to reduce cost while providing customers with English-speaking and well educated service advisors.  Affiliate branches also maintained a strong presence in Israel. 

 

Writing on The Wall

 

Israel displayed its show of force when it busted a 10-year online gambling business that operated partially from the country.

Internet1x2.com was busted by Israeli law enforcement last December. The company was started by two brothers, both of whom were former Israeli basketball players.  Unlike most of the Israeli-born online gambling establishments, Internet1x2.com had long endured a checkered past of slow pays.

At the end of a lengthy undercover investigation, police arrested five people suspecting of operating an offshoot online gambling network directed at Israeli gamblers.

Other suspects, who police believe were involved in providing technical support to the websites, and managing finances and payments, were also detained, according to the report.

Even some gamblers were detained as a result of the investigation. 

 

Free Speech Not Always Adhered To

 

PrimeChoice.com writes of Israel and its free speech policy:

Compared to the countries surrounding her, Israel is a shining light in a sea of dictatorial Islamic fanaticism.  However when it comes to free speech in Israel, the light is flickering.

The attack on freedom of speech in Israel by the Jewish left has a long history.

In Israel the media is controlled by the government.   There were two radio stations that were not controlled by the government, Abie Nathan's left wing radio station and Israel's right wing, Arutz 7 radio station because both broadcast from offshore.  While the right wing were in power in Israel they respected Mr. Nathan's right to free speech.  However Israel National News radio has been silenced by the left wing Israel supreme court.

With Israel’s recent crackdown on Internet Service Providers through ordering the blockage of online gambling and related websites, one must wonder who the government and police agencies will target next.

Alejandro Botticelli, Gambling911.com

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