The hacking war between Israel and Palestine rages on

Today I noticed the hashtag #HackerOmar trending on my Twitter feed. I instantly opened my news feed and yes it was as expected the ‘Saudi’ hacker 0xOmar strikes again. Almost two weeks ago the same hacker published information of tens of thousands of Israeli credit cards. This time 0xOmar decided to target the Tel-Aviv Stock Exchange and El-Al websites.

These cyber-attacks are nothing new, if you recall my previous post on the Internet going down in Palestine (although some may dispute it was a result of a cyber-attack). Israel and Palestine have engaged in a cyber-war for over a decade now. I recall writing a paper over two years ago about the hacking war between Pro-Israelis and Pro-Palestinians during the Gaza Offensive of 2008/2009, and while doing the research for the paper it came to my attention that this war spans back to over a decade.

This recent hacking incident is merely an escalation in a continuing cyber war between Israel and Palestine. However, this war is part of a larger global cyber-war that has seen many players join, yet the sides still remain blurry. The results of this war remain unknown, even though indications strongly point towards the fact that Internet users stand to lose their freedoms online.

No! Not under my name

On this Friday, and after almost two weeks of protesting by the Egyptian Youth against the Egyptian Military Council, the Muslim Brotherhood has called for a day long protest. No, not to end Military rule in Egypt, and no not to postpone the elections, but the demonstration has been called for the “Victory to Jerusalem”!

As a reaction to this, Palestinian youth have started the “Palestine is stronger with a free Egypt” campaign in which they post the following statement on their respective blogs:

“نحن، مجموعة من الشباب الفلسطيني، نرفض ان يتم الزج بالاقصى وبفلسطين لضرب الثورة المصرية العظيمة
فيما تشهد مصر، جولة جديدة من الثورة، يقودها شبابها الابطال، رافضين ان تسلب ثورتهم من العسكر، ومقاومين للقمع الوحشي الذي يتعرضون اليه، قرر الاخوان المسلمون في مصر، اعلان الغد مليونية “انقاذ الاقصى”، إننا نرى في هذه الدعوة التفافاً على كل الحركات والفئات المصرية التي أعلنت الغد مليونية “اسقاط المشير”.
للاخوان المسلمين الحق ان يقرروا ما يشاؤون في الشأن الداخلي المصري، لكننا نرفض أن يتبعوا ما اتبعه الطغاة العرب في استخدام فلسطين كحجة لممارسسة قمعهم واستبدادهم. لا يمكن لتحرير الاقصى وفلسطين ان يتم من خلال الدوس على كرامة الشعوب العربية.
نشد على ايادي أبطال التحرير وكافة المدن المصرية
فلسطين أقوى بمصر حرة وكريمة

We Palestinian youth refuse to use Al-Aqsa and the Palestinian cause as a tool to hit the great Egyptian revolution.

Egypt is witnessing a new wave of revolution lead by the brave courageous Egyptian youth who rejects SCAF’s hijacking their revolution. As the youth are resisting the oppression by the security forces, the Muslim Brotherhood called for a million man march in solidarity with Jerusalem.

We consider this invitation a detour on all Egyptian movements and sectors who announced tomorrow Friday a million man march to bring down Marshal Tantawi.

The Muslim Brotherhood has the right to take their decision in internal Egyptian issues. But we refuse MB taking the lead of the Arab tyrants who systematically used the Palestinian cause as a tool to practice their oppression.

The freedom of Al-Aqsa and Palestine does not come from stepping on the dignity of the Arab people.

We are in solidarity with the heroes of Tahrir square and all the Egyptian cities.

Palestine is stronger with a Free Egypt”

Palestinians after decades of struggle and decades of Arab appropriation of the struggle for their own interests, are making a stance, saying No! no more, not under my name.

Say No To Sexual Harassment

In early October I received an e-mail with the title “Say No To Sexual Harassment”, in it was a call for a meeting to combat sexual harassment in the streets of Ramallah. Being a victim of sexual harassment in the street and someone who advocates for both human and women rights, I had to go. I was among 70 other participants who were eager to tackle this issue. What came to me as a shock at the time, was the accounts of people confirming the fact that sexual harassment has seen an increase in Ramallah during the two years that I had been gone.

The meeting started of with a call for action, and various accounts of harassment that served as a confirmation to the need for action. Finally, after much discussion amongst the participants, including representatives from women organizations such as Sawa, Women’s Afairs Technical Committee and Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counseling, we decided we were going to take action. We started off by creating committees that would work towards launching a full on campaign against sexual harassment in public spaces.

Having worked on crisis mapping in the past, I figured it could be used as a great tool, basically we would be crowd-sourcing the incidents and data on to a map. Once I suggested the idea, many participants sounded excited, indicating that a similar project had been running in Egypt for years. (Harassmap was started by both Rebecca Chiao and Engy Ghozlan to document sexual harassment in the streets of Egypt. I must say that I am very grateful to Rebecca for extending a helping hand, and giving us much needed advice and tips on how to process with our own map.)

The map itself would use the well known Ushahidi platform and link to FrontlineSMS. FrontlineSMS allows us to receive reports via SMS, and we’re given the option to immediately respond with an SMS giving tips and advice on how to deal with sexual harassment. The goal behind this map is to document incidents on the spot, identify hotspots in Ramallah and hopefully use it as a way to build a community willing to combat this horrible phenomenon.

So now a month later, the group has shrunk slightly, but many of us are still powering through. Since our initial meeting, many local organizations have shown interest in our initiative and have offered to help with our campaign. As for the map, well it’s in the process of being tested, we’re hoping to launch the map by the end of this month just in time for the 16 days of Action against Gender Violence. Till then stay tuned to receive more updates on the map and the initiative

Screenshot of the map:

Palestinian Internet is down!

This morning I had problems going online, I figured it’s not that big of a surprise when it comes to Internet and Palestine. As the morning hours passed, I realized I wasn’t the only one with problems connecting to the Internet. It seemed everyone in Ramallah couldn’t go online. I found out a few hours later and by a statement from the Minister of Information Communication Technology that Palestinian networks have been facing cyber attacks originating from 20 different countries. There are no details as of yet about the type of attacks or the origins. Awaiting further news on this matter.

This maybe the first incident in which the entire Palestinian network is targeted, however hacking is not a new phenomenon in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict that has roots going all the way back to over a decade ago.

Graffiti takes up a new meaning in Palestine

I remember being driven through the streets of Ramallah, during my first visit there back in 1994, and noticing the walls filled with graffiti. My cousin at the time said that “graffiti was our daily newspaper during the First Intifadah”, it reported the arrests and deaths of Palestinians during the uprising*. A few years later a campaign to clean up the graffiti took place and the daily records of that time period were erased and a cleaner Ramallah emerged.  With the start of the Second Intifadah in late 2000, graffiti made its way back to the walls of Ramallah, this time however the names of those arrested and killed also showed up in posters put up everywhere. What I also noticed was an increase in factional graffiti, almost like gang turf wars, each political faction tried to overtake the other by filling the walls of Ramallah with their symbols.

Of course when The Wall was built, the 8 meter high and 810 Km long cement wall offered the world’s biggest canvas to graffiti artists.  Luring artists like Banksy to leave their mark on various parts of the wall. During that time, the form of graffiti changed noticeably, more portraits emerged, whether of the late Yasser Arafat or the incarcerated Marwan Barghouti, and messages to western audiences started to prevail, even graffiti postcards made it to the Wall!

This week a new form of graffiti emerged as part of a campaign run by a group of young Palestinian activists. Their graffiti is trying to direct messages not to a western audience, or political factions, but to their own people. They are asking their people to ‘think’, they are also expressing their ‘Hunger for freedom’ and I even spotted an ‘#occupy wall st. not Palestine’ around the city, linking the Palestinian uprising to that of the Occupy Wall st. movement that started in NYC and has now become a global phenomenon. As one of the activists wrote on their blog, they are “aiming to move the society and create public pressure in regards to fundamental issue such as the Palestinian prisoners hunger strike, the need for the people to think and act.”

I look forward to seeing more of their art covering the walls of Ramallah and other cities across Palestine.

 

Here are some pictures I took of the graffiti campaign happening in Ramallah recently.

* Here is an interesting article on the role of new media in Palestine, but also on how Palestinians had no broadcast media prior to the Oslo accords, and print media was highly censored by Israel. So Palestinians used graffiti as a way to spread the news.  The author also address the development of graffiti from the first Intifadah to the second.

Palestinian Diaspora, Identity and Cyberspace

Over a year and a half ago I started to do some basic research for my thesis, at the time I didn’t have a clear idea on what I wanted to write about, all I knew was that I wanted to write about Cyberspace, activism and the Palestinian youth. Although I ended up focusing on ICT development through ICT literacy projects targeting the youth in the West Bank, I did go through tons of material focusing on online activism and identity. More importantly material on online community and identity in relation to the Palestinian Diaspora. After going through articles addressing this topic I pushed it aside making room for the work I needed to do for my thesis, knowing that one day I will return to it, and certain that my past as a Palestinian living in diaspora will nag me to follow up on this issue.

Over a month ago I attended a lecture by Dr. Karma Nabulsi, on the status of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), Palestinian National Council (PNC) elections and the effects of the Palestinian UN bid on the PLO. What struck me most during that lecture was Nabulsi’s focus on the need for a unified platform amongst Palestinians all over the world. It got me thinking, well how are we going to unite a people that are scattered across the globe, and have lived in diaspora for over 60 years?

I figured it was time to link both my passion for digital media and my past and  look towards Cyberspace as a tool for this unification. While there have been numerous attempts to connect, or reconnect Palestinians with their roots, and their fellow Palestinians living in Palestine. With projects such as Across Borders, or websites like Palestine Remembered, my research has shown that there hasn’t been a single project that has attempted to create an online Palestinian community across the globe. Though if there is a project out there that does just that then please do correct me!

Now bear with me, because these are some raw ideas. What if a digital platform was created to promote an extensive Palestinian online community, aiming to engage Palestinians with each other and attempt to unify the Palestinians under a common platform or identity? Create a social network that would offer much more than just social connections, but also context. Arguably, attempt to create what Benedict Anderson coined: an “Imagined Community”, or as I would say: a Cyber ‘Imagined Community’.

For the time being, these are my initial thoughts on the matter and I hope to further develop this concept.

Indy Media Center in Palestine

The Indy media center in Palestine has been in the back of my mind for about 2 years now, if not longer. I went to NYU back in 2009 to do my masters in Digital Media while thinking I need to study the digital media landscape in Palestine. At NYU, I managed to learn so much about media activism, policy and literacy and rub shoulders with some of the greats in our field. I completed my thesis on ICT development and literacy in the West Bank and managed to collect enough information to realize that much is lacking in this field in Palestine. So now that I’m back in the country, I’ve set about to start an Indy Media center here in Palestine. Yet, my plan is that the center will work mainly on promoting media literacy and offering the Palestinian youth a ‘place’ to express themselves. I’ve looked at some amazing models here in the Arab world such as 7iber and I’ve realized that this model can be used here, as we do have a group of active bloggers with a history in blogging and activism. However, I would like to take it a step further and add a physical space where these bloggers, activists and social media experts can meet, exchange ideas, and more importantly help me in my quest for creating a community of young citizen journalists in Palestine!

Palestinian Beer and the water problem

Palestine has a beer?? Tends to be the first reaction from most foreigners when I start bragging about the fine quality of our own Taybeh Beer. Yesterday after a long absence I decided to pay Palestine’s only micro-brewery a visit.

Once there, you get to watch a 7 minute long introductory film about how a family from the village of Taybeh (where the beer gets its name from) established the brewery after the Oslo Accords in 1995. Once the short film and beer tasting are over, you get a personal and detailed tour of the brewery by one of the family members.

Taybeh beer is based on the German Purity law, and uses the natural spring water near the village to brew their beer. What came to me as a shock yesterday was that the brewery has had no access to water in over 10 days. Water is a major problem in the West Bank, where Palestinians have access to water for only 2 days a week. Controlled by Israel and the settlers, the water from the West Bank is diverted to the Settlements built across the Territories, so that they could have water access 24/7. I recommend reading this blog post to get an idea of the water situation and infrastructure in the West Bank.

Going back to my story, it turns out that the previous summer the brewery had to adjust their brewing schedule to that of the water schedule set by the settlers. These settlers (and I counted at least two settlements near the village) have control over the water via a water valve that directs the water from the Palestinian villages to the settlements. The brewery used to receive about 2-3 days of flowing water last summer, which has turned to at least once every 10 days now! Now you may wonder why the villagers don’t adjust the water flow by turning the valve, well I asked that question, and it had been done. Yet, each time the water is diverted back to the villages, the settlers under the protection of the Israeli military redirect the water once again.

This story is typical amongst many villages and even in Palestinian cities throughout the West Bank, not only has it disrupted the access of water to many Palestinians, it is also disrupting the production of the only Palestinian beer in the world!

If you’re in the region on October 1st and 2nd, I do recommend you pay the village of Taybeh a visit and check out the Oktoberfest that’s held annually.

Reconcilation or escalation?

Once the demonstrations were underway in Palestine it seemed both Hamas and Fatah rushed to ‘support’ the demonstrators and called for reconciliation. Except here’s what happened, Hamas’ Ismail Haniyah first declared that he wants to go back to the negotiation tables with Fatah to work towards achieving a solution and end the division, Fatah officials responded by echoing the same concept, pushing for Salam Fayyad’s unity government proposal as a start. Then came the big announcement, President Abbas declared he will visit the Gaza Strip as an effort to end the division, how and when that visit was going to happen I and many are unsure of. The response from Hamas however, has been rather muffled, perhaps Hamas fears that Abbas will stand to gain from his trip to Gaza, especially amongst the demonstrators in Gaza, whom Hamas has violently cracked down on.

We could say that Hamas’ official response was the barrage of rockets that they fired onto Israel three days ago, the highest number of rockets since the Gaza offensive in 2008/2009. Of course Israel responded, and so far the victims are the innocent Gazans and the reconciliation process! After months of relative quiet, why did Hamas choose now to escalate matters with Israel? Their response would probably be ‘to avenge the Hamas member that was killed by Israel last week’, though that wasn’t the rule of conduct in the past. The way I see it, Hamas is willing to escalate matters with Israel, at the expense of innocent women and children, to avoid reconciliation with Fatah.

Dismanteling the PA and more

After the demonstrations in Palestine and across  the world, I decided I should support my fellow Palestinian youth and demonstrate in NYC. Sadly, the demonstration (pictures below) was rather smaller than I expected, at some point I felt the security presence was larger than the demonstrators, however I decided to stick there till the end. Getting over my initial disappointment, I managed to meet and talk to some interesting people with many differing views . I managed to have some discussions with a few of them and the prevalent sentiment that I walked away with is their demand to dismantle the Palestinian Authority. That I must say unnerved me slightly, so I decided to write a post on why I disagree with this notion. However, I ended up going to a Mahmoud Darwish recital with the presence of Marcel Khalifah, both who are dear to my heart, and an opportunity I could not miss out on. As it is now almost 3 am, I will leave this matter for now and write an in-depth post soon, explaining why dismantling the PA may just be a bad idea now. Till then enjoy the pictures :)