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iPads are now kosher

Two weeks after imposing a ban on bringing iPads into the country, Israel's communication ministry has lifted the restriction.

Last modified: 25 Apr 2010 15:32

It can handle the flak from the international community, condemnation from powerful states and the scrutiny of the world's press, but when Israel's technorati decided to go to war with the state over its ban of Apple's iPad, something had to be done.

And it was.

Two weeks after imposing a ban on bringing iPad's into the country, the communication ministry on Sunday decided to lift the restriction. 

They provided as little information as to why they lifted the ban as they did about why they imposed it in the first place. The bottom line - iPads are now kosher.

Authorities say they have carried out "intensive technical scrutiny" on the little shiny tablet which appears to no longer be the security threat it was yesterday.

Confiscations

In the past two weeks, no less than 20 Israelis and tourists had their iPads confiscated at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport.

They were given a choice - ship the device back to the US (paying the cost of shipping of course) or keep it locked up at the airport until you leave (paying a daily storage fee).

The reason given for the ban was that the iPad emits such a strong signal that it could throw off others’ wireless connections. 

But every expert we spoke to agreed that this argument makes no sense.

"First of all, the iPad’s Wifi frequency is no higher than the standard Blackberry and Israel allows those in," one IT specialist told us.

"Secondly, the argument is that the frequency doesn’t meet European standards but no state in Europe imposed a ban.

"Lastly, Apple themselves say all their devices match American and European standards - they were hardly going to design a device that couldn’t be used in the whole of Europe!"

Frenzy

So, the question remains, why did they ban it to begin with? Better to be safe than sorry? 

"Not at all" said a man known in Israel as Mr Mac. He provides all the tech geeks in Israel with their Apple gear from his underground shop in Tel Aviv. 

"It’s pretty simple, the only official Apple distributor here is iDigital. They didn’t want everyone buying their iPads cheaply from the US instead of expensively from here so they put pressure on the ministry to impose this ban, using a reason that makes no sense, in the full knowledge that it would only be used to stall for a while."

The argument may have some merit - the son of Shimon Perez, the Israeli president, owns iDigital. We asked them for a comment but they declined our request.

Certainly the frenzy caused by the ban would have been a motivating factor for lifting it. Articles, blogs, everyone was talking about the iPad this week. 

Knesset members lobbied the ministry to lift the ban arguing that it was harming Israel's reputation as a leader of innovative technology. 

But it may be that Apple themselves provided the most incentive - although they never publicly commented on Israel's restrictions. Bloggers claiming to be company insiders said Apple was not happy about the confiscations, and especially the reasoning behind them.

In their statement lifting the ban, Israel's communication ministry tried to clarify the reversal saying the device could be operated in various standards so in Israel "it will operate according to local standards".

But the standards on the device are exactly the same today (when iPads are being let in) than yesterday (when they weren't).

It doesn't really make sense, but then again when it comes to matters relating to Israel's security the state never really feels the need to explain its actions.