Israel has recently been swept by a wave of, reportedly, over 250 large fires, which led to dozens of arrests on suspicion of arson. Tuesday night, hackers compromised two major Israeli news channels, unexpectedly interrupting the broadcast. The hackers then showed images of Muslim holy cities and suggested the recent wave of fires was divine retribution shown in their place.
The hack came before the Knesset – the Israeli parliament – voted on a bill that aimed to prevent the use of loudspeakers for religious purposes. The bill would restrict Muslim call to prayer- known as adhan – as these would be outlawed in mosques.
Programs on Channels 2 and 10 were interrupted for a brief period. During the interruption, images of Muslim holy cities were shown while the call to prayer could also be heard. The call to prayer is usually heard five times a day to market regular observance times.
A message in Hebrew also appeared on screen. It said “God is the greatest”, “God’s punishment” and “the fire that inflames the heart”, hence the correlation with the wave of wildfires in the country.
Channel 2 published images of the hackers’ message on Twitter:
האקרים השתלטו על שידורי מהדורת חדשות 2, ובמקום – שידרו קריאת מואזין pic.twitter.com/lCmDajZXh4
— חדשות 2 (@Channel2News) November 29, 2016
New Bill Highly Unpopular amongst Muslims
Israel’s new bill seeks to ban the use of loudspeakers for religious purposes. These are used by Muslims to announce times of prayer in the morning and at night, so the ban is highly unpopular amongst them.
The bill is sponsored by the right-wing Jewish Home party, and cites noise pollution as the reason for the ban. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
I cannot count the times, they are simply too numerous, that citizens have turned to me from all parts of Israeli society, from all religions, with complaints about the noise and suffering caused them by the excessive noise coming to them from the public address systems of houses of prayer
A few locals have reported bans on the call to prayer in 3 mosques in the country’s capital of Jerusalem. The issue has been causing a lot of controversy. Regarding the bill, Yair Lapid, chairman of the center-left party Yesh Atid, said:
They want to insult Muslims — just insult them, without there being any tangible value — because it works well for them with their constituencies, with the Likud Central Committee, for the upcoming primaries
Critics have praised the fires on Twitter, claiming it was punishment against Israel.
Hackers Got to Israeli Institutions in the Past
This isn’t the first time hackers manage to breach Israeli cybersecurity. During a bombing campaign in 2014 that targeted Palestinian militants, pirates managed to control the military’s Twitter account.
Earlier than that, in 2012, an alleged group of Saudis and Palestinians from Gaza hacked major Israeli websites. These included those of the Tel Aviv stock exchange and of El Al, a major airline. The attack exposed tens of thousands of credit card details.
The country does have the ability to breach security as well. Last year, Hacked.com reported an Israeli security lab was using electromagnetic waves to extract private keys.
Image from Shutterstock.