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Hydro-Québec says politics not why Israel accord ended

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The Hydro-Québec building in Montreal. (Hy-dro-Québec photo)

Hydro-Québec is denying a claim by BDS advocates that political reasons are behind the end of an agreement it entered into two years ago with its Israeli counterpart.

In May 2017, during a trade mission to Israel led by then-premier Philippe Couillard, Hydro-Québec and Israel Electric Corporation (IEC), both public utilities, signed a “partnership agreement,” to share of information and best practices in the field of cybersecurity.

After the Coalition BDS-Québec claimed that the agreement was terminated as a result of its campaign against it, Hydro-Québec tweeted:

“Regarding the end of our cybersecurity knowledge sharing partnership with IEC, we would like to state that it was not politically motivated in any way or the result of a pressure from BDS-Québec.

“The partnership agreement of good practices between Hydro-Québec and the IEC, signed in May 2017, lasted two years. It ended, as initially planned, in May 2019. The partnership was not renewed for the simple reason that our needs and expectations regarding the sharing of information in the area of cybersecurity were fully met in the course of our two-year collaboration.

“We continue to have excellent relations with the IEC & could eventually pursue our discussions should the need arise.”

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said that Hydro-Québec’s rebuttal demonstrates that the BDS movement is grasping at straws in looking for victories.

“Once again, BDS activists swing and miss. CIJA has been in contact with Hydro-Québec and has received assurances from them that their agreement with the IEC came to its natural end after having fulfilled its objectives,” the organization stated in a Facebook post.

“Hydro-Québec told us their relations with the IEC remain excellent and that it could consult with it on cybersecurity-related matters on a need-be basis. We are strong proponents of further co-operation between Quebec and Israel on cybersecurity, given Israel’s status as a recognized world leader in this increasingly important domain. This is not the first time that BDS advocates resort to pure fabrications to advance their agenda.”

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, the co-chair of CIJA-Quebec, added that, “No one should be surprised that a movement (BDS) built on falsehood would engage in a flagrant and shameless attempt to deceive.”

On Aug. 29, BDS-Québec and Palestiniens et Juifs unis (PAJU) held a press conference to “congratulate” Hydro-Québec on its decision. At the same time, its lawyer, John Philpott, disclosed a copy of what he claimed had been a “secret” agreement.

He said he had been trying to get a copy from Hydro-Québec since June 2017 and that the utility only gave him one on Aug. 22, just before he had a scheduled hearing before the access to information commission.

For the past two years, BDS-Québec has been denouncing the accord as bad for Quebec’s image, charging that the stated-owned IEC is complicit with the Israeli government in such “crimes” against Palestinians as punitive electricity cuts to the West Bank and Gaza, the electrification of the separation wall and supplying power to Jewish settlements.

Moreover, it contended that Hydro-Québec should not be sharing sensitive technological information with Israel.

The agreement was signed in Israel by IEC vice-president Yosi Shneck and Michael Penner, then chairman of the board of Hydro-Québec.

A 2017 Hydro-Québec press release quoted Penner as saying: “This is an extraordinary opportunity for Hydro-Québec to join forces with a company with world-renowned cybersecurity expertise. The velocity with which new technologies and threats are deploying motivate companies and countries to collaborate and exchange continually on these significant trends in order to stay ahead and protect against these menaces.”

IEC CEO Ofer Bloch stated that the co-operation would benefit both utilities in combating “hackers (who) are getting more sophisticated and organized.”

READ: COMMUNITY SECURITY STRESSED AT 2019 CJA LAUNCH

The press release spoke of setting up a steering committee comprised of representatives of both corporations. Among the activities planned were “reciprocal hosted site visits, semi-annual discussion forums and participation in research and development programs.”

The press release did not specify the length of the agreement.

Hydro-Québec spokesperson Louis-Olivier Batty said the utility learned a lot from IEC: “This agreement allowed us to share our knowledge. The Israelis are recognized as being the best in the world in the field of cybersecurity.”

Since 2013, IEC has offered a training program in cybersecurity to not only electricity providers, but also to those responsible for information technology in industry and financial services.

Penner, who was appointed chairman in 2014, was the first Jew, and one of very few anglophones, to hold the post.

He resigned in November, a month after the election of the Coalition Avenir Québec.

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