Wednesday, May 29, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

Boycott Israel's IT industry

Migrating to Linux and other alternative open source software solutions is an easy way to hit Israel where it hurts

Update : 15 Apr 2024, 01:01 PM

For six months, the world has watched helplessly as the Israeli military mercilessly bombed and now starves more than two million Palestinians. To most of the world it's obvious that what's happening is ethnic cleansing and genocide in Gaza. But what can we do? 

Just as South Africa was ultimately forced to abandon its policy of racial apartheid by an economic boycott which increasingly isolated it, the same could work for Israel. While it may seem that countries like Bangladesh already have very little direct trade with Israel, our consumers continue to support the massive Israeli IT sector by using the products it develops for American companies. 

For example, Microsoft has huge investments in Israel. Windows Defender, the anti-virus built into recent versions of the MS Windows operating system, has been reported to have been largely developed in Israel. This is the outcome of the Israeli state relentlessly focusing on its own security, including cyber-security, and developing the relevant technical expertise which eventually attracted investment from American companies like Microsoft. 

Practically all computers in Bangladesh run Microsoft Windows, which means that part of the Windows license fee of $50-100 per computer is ultimately being paid to Israel. The average computer user probably resigns themselves to this as they see no alternative: But this is easy to change. Since 2009, over 1000 computers at my company, Kazi Farms, have run the free open-source Ubuntu Linux operating system. This provides a Windows-like graphical interface and includes the free Firefox web browser and the free LibreOffice word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software. Since LibreOffice is very similar to MS Office, and can read and edit almost all MS Office files, it's very easy to replace Microsoft with Linux. This would also save Bangladesh a large amount of foreign exchange which is now used to pay for Microsoft licenses. Our experience at Kazi Farms is that it takes only 10 minutes for the average Windows user to learn to use Linux. 

Linux also includes free/open source alternatives to most popular Adobe software. Photos can be edited in Gimp much like Photoshop. Graphics can be drawn in Inkscape much like Illustrator. Desktop publishing can be done with Scribus much like InDesign. At Kazi Farms’ associated television station, Deepto TV, journalists edit news videos on KDEnlive instead of PremierePro. Kazi Farms and Deepto TV have saved millions of dollars in Microsoft and Adobe license fees by using Linux. 

Microsoft’s investments in Israel may inspire wealthier consumers to think that buying Apple products is a more ethical alternative, but that is not true. The M1 chips inside modern Macs are designed in Israel. So Linux is the only really ethical computing alternative available. 

All of the softwares included in Linux are open-source, meaning they have been produced collaboratively by international teams of programmers via the internet to meet their own computing needs. Fortunately for countries like Bangladesh, open source software can also meet most of our needs for free. Linux represents the best and cheapest way to stop the software piracy which is common in the country, and which will inevitably have to be reduced as US trade authorities stop looking the other way. 

So why don't more organizations use Linux? The short answer is advertising. Companies like Microsoft and Adobe have huge marketing budgets to establish their brands. Free software like Linux has no one to advertise its many capabilities, and mainly relies on word of mouth to spread. But countries like China have already moved at least four million computers from Microsoft to their own versions of Linux (one of which, OpenKylin, is a modified Ubuntu) in an attempt to be more technologically independent from the US.

The onus is on us. Migrating to Linux is an initiative that all people opposed to Israel’s brutality against Palestinians should join. 

Zeeshan Hasan is a director of Kazi Farms Group and Kazi Media, the company behind Deepto TV. He is also the managing director of Sysnova.

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