Freedom Waves prisoners abused and imprisoned; ‘Anonymous’ hackers strike back

on 19 Comments

In the immediate aftermath of the illegal capture of the Freedom Waves flotillas, Israel’s public image has been tarnished, as reports of violence at sea surface to counteract its claims of a peaceful takeover, and as human rights cyber-resistance group Anonymous retaliates by shutting down Israeli government web sites. 

As Israeli naval soldiers boarded the Tahrir and Saoirse Friday afternoon, the IDF released a statement saying that the ships were intercepted peacefully, and that no activists were harmed in the takeover. In addition, in an attempt to portray its own reasonable benevolence, the IDF released a video of soldiers contacting the ship and offering to reroute its humanitarian aid by land or through Ashdod, shortly before releasing another video which seemed to show Israeli soldiers peacefully and non-threateningly boarding one of the flotillas. 

When Egyptian journalist Lina Attalah, an activist aboard the Tahrir, wrote an account of Israel’s seizure of the boats after her release on Saturday, however, the world began to see a different picture.  “Towards the early afternoon,” she said, “we saw three Israeli warships in the horizon… Soon after, the Israeli presence in the waters around us intensified. We counted at least 15 ships, four of which were warships, and the rest a mix of smaller boats and water cannons. From inside the smaller boats, dozens of Israeli soldiers pointed their machines guns at us. This is when our communications system was jammed and we lost contact with the world…the Israelis sent radio messages to our boat, asking us to stop sailing because they would board the boat and take us to the Israeli port of Ashdod. When our boat refused to surrender, they aimed their canons at us, showering us with salty water. The boat had become highly unstable and panic was in the air… Israeli ships hit our boat and soldiers started boarding. Dozens of masked soldiers screamed “on your knees,” and “hands up.”” 

The violent nature of Israel’s takeover of the Tahrir and Saoirse became more apparent with a statement released mid-Sunday by Fintan Lane, the National Coordinator of the Irish Ship Saoirse, in a hurried phone call made from an Israeli prison. “The whole takeover [of the Saoirse by Israeli naval authorities] took about three hours”, claims Lane. “It began with Israeli forces hosing down the boats with high pressure hoses and pointing guns at the passengers through the windows. I was hosed down the stairs of the boat. Windows were smashed and the bridge of the boat nearly caught fire. The boats were corralled to such an extent that the two boats, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, collided with each other and were damaged, with most of the damage happening to the MV Saoirse.  The boats nearly sank. The method used in the takeover was dangerous to human life.” 

The same day, Saoirse activist Paul Murphy, Socialist Party and United Left Alliance MEP for Dublin, related in a 3-minute phone call, monitored by Israeli prison authorities, that “our boat was almost sunk by the manner in which it was approached and boarded by the Israeli navy. People were shackled and deprived of all personal belongings. In Givon  prison the authorities tried to disorientate us through sleep deprivation and the removal of our watches and the prison clock recording the wrong time. We have been given no time frame as to how long we will be kept here before the deportation trial. We were denied our right by Israeli law to contact our families within 24 hours of our arrest.”  

Also on Sunday, Greek captain of the Tahrir Giorgos Klontzas, after his release from jail, told Greek Omnia TV that during interrogation, Israeli forces handcuffed him tightly and stuck fingers in his eyes. 

The clearest testament to the abuse suffered by the activists at the hands of the Israeli military has come from Canadian activist David Heap, in a letter smuggled out of his prison cell.  “I write to you from cell 9, block 59 Givon Prison near Ramla in Occupied Palestine”, the letter stated. “Although I was tasered during the assault on the Tahrir, and bruised during forcible removal dockside (I am limping slightly as a result) I am basically ok… [we] were transported in handcuffs and leg shackles…[we have created] a political prisoners’ committee in order to press our collective demands- association in the block, i.e. open cells; adequate writing and reading material; free communication with outside world- i.e. regular phone calls; [and] information about shipmate women held at same prison”. In response to the shortage of information regarding the female activists currently behind bars, the Women’s Organisation for Political Prisoners (WOFPP) offered Sunday night to send a lawyer free of charge to visit the female prisoners. 

As reports of Israeli military violence leaked throughout the weekend, an international group of hackers named Anonymous released a video threatening retaliation against “a clear sign of piracy on the high seas.” The ‘Open Letter from Anonymous to the Government of Israel’ was pointed in its critique- “your actions”, it claimed, “are illegal, against democracy, human rights, international and maritime laws”, and an example of “justifying war, murder, illegal interception and pirate-like activities under an illegal cover of defense” which “will not go unnoticed by us or the people of the world”. Anonymous, which has temporarily disabled many web sites in past publicized acts of moral retribution, further threatened that “if you continue blocking humanitarian vessels to Gaza or repeat the dreadful actions of May 31st 2010 against any Gaza Freedom Flotillas, you will leave us no choice but to strike back, again and again, until you stop….we do not forget, we do not forgive. Expect us.” 

A day later, Haaretz reported that “the websites of the IDF, Mossad and the Shin Bet security services were down”, likely due to an Anonymous cyber-attack. Hours later, however, the Israeli government released a statement on Facebook claiming that the websites were down “due to a systematic malfunction of the servers”, denying that Anonymous was behind the crash1. It is highly unlikely, however, for this shutdown to follow so soon after Anonymous’s threat as a matter of pure coincidence. 

As the international community rises in condemnation of Israel’s illegal takeover of a ship in international waters, 21 of the 27 activists captured by Israel remain in prison awaiting deportation, and the whereabouts of one, PressTV journalist Hassan Ghani, remains unknown. The Irish activists have refused representation by a lawyer in the Israeli court system, on the grounds that they do not acknowledge the legitimacy of Israel’s legal system. In addition, they refuse to sign a waiver which would forfeit their claim to legal representation before a judge and allow for their immediate deportation, because the offered waiver claims that they came to Israel voluntarily and entered illegally, statements which are patently untrue in light of the fact that Israeli naval boats seized the activists from the Tahrir and Saoirse, and forcibly transported them to Ashdod. They will therefore, according to Israeli law, be detained for 72 hours and then brought to court, where they will almost certainly be deported- though, because they refused to sign the waiver, the deportation will occur without their consent. 

As Israel unsuccessfully attempts to save face in the aftermath of its illegal and violent seizure of innocent civilians on a humanitarian aid mission in international waters, the international community once again bears witness to the fact that, in the words of a Saturday press release by the Canada Boat to Gaza team, “there is no legal justification for stopping or in any way impeding the passage of the totally peaceful Freedom Waves boats from the international solidarity movement with Palestinian people”. What is clear to all, in spite of Israeli repression, is that the recent aid mission is only the first of many Freedom Waves bound for Gaza’s shore. “Whatever the Israeli Occupation Forces do to us,” said David Heap and Ehab Lotayef, steering committee members of the Tahrir, from behind Israeli prison bars, “this flotilla marks the launching of the Freedom Waves. It is the continuation of many efforts over the years to bring the plight of Gaza and Palestine to the world’s attention. We will keep coming again and again, until the closure of Gaza is ended and Palestinians have been able to achieve liberation and justice… Expect us. Again and again. The Freedom Waves are just beginning.” 

Ben Lorber is an activist with the International Solidarity Movement in Nablus. He is also a journalist with the Alternative Information Center in Bethlehem. He blogs at

About Ben Lorber

Ben Lorber is a Jewish community organizer and activist living in Chicago, Illinois.

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19 Responses

  1. James
    November 7, 2011, 12:11 am

    i wonder about the veracity of this ‘anonymous’ video, whether this group anonymous is responsible for it, or is it some front for something else?

  2. anonymouscomments
    November 7, 2011, 1:02 am

    Does anyone think “anonymous” might be controlled opposition?

    It just seems they are too clean, successful, and exposed to not get infiltrated. And their profile is so high now, it seems the gov would be able to make serious inroads shutting them down and arresting members… if they *wanted* to.

    I agree with the things they say and do, currently. But couldn’t “members” overstep to discredit their “position” in time, or might their future actions support the passing of “patriot act”-like restrictions on the internet? I guess I do not know about their organizational structure… but seems ripe for CIA/others to co-opt for their own ends.

    • Frances
      November 7, 2011, 4:40 am

      My thoughts exactly. They build a bit of left cover, with causes that are dear to progressives, and then the govt gets the excuse it wanted to shut down sections of the Internet.

    • Chaos4700
      November 7, 2011, 9:29 am

      No offense but aren’t you guys being a little tin-foil hat? Anyway, the online hacker/coder community isn’t organized in a traditional fashion that would lend itself to being punk’d by any government.

      • anonymouscomments
        November 7, 2011, 11:51 am

        in fact it is their lack of organization, and “take all comers” leaderless approach that makes them remarkably easy to co-opt or “infiltrate”.
        link to

        the core group that started it is likely 100% sincere, or had some minimal infiltration. but now it is open-source, like an al-qaeda, but for hacking to support progressive issues.

        who controls where this goes? can gov hackers (and the gov has many many hackers in their pay) start making anon attacks on US state dept/CIA targets (iran/syria) that can also be played as progressive? can they do something which alienates the public as it goes too far or impacts your average civilian? the answer seems to be an obvious yes.

        this is no tin foil hat. the CIA and the USG must obviously be infiltrating wikileaks and anonymous as much as they can….. and anonymous seems very easy to either utilize or discredit.

        • Chaos4700
          November 7, 2011, 7:00 pm

          I’m sure they are trying to infiltrate these groups but the culture and mindset is completely different. You can’t subvert the leadership of a group that has no leader. There’s no one to buy off, or assassinate.

        • anonymouscomments
          November 8, 2011, 7:08 pm

          pay some hackers to simply “join”, and push ideas/issues/acts you want done… and with no leader, they can likely just do things and credit it to anonymous (just like US/Israel can post things on terrorist websites, and commit false flags).

          i’m not disregarding the movement, i’m just pointing out risks that are there, and i think will materialize. especially with the illegal nature of anonymous activities, which means there is no reliable and accessible representative of the organization, they are open to medling.

      • Charon
        November 7, 2011, 6:36 pm

        Just to add a couple things to what anonymouscomments already wrote, anon has already hacked Iranian websites. To me, that sends off red flags (no tin foil hat required) that it has already been infiltrated by intelligence agencies (perhaps Mossad in this case). Why would anon care about taking down Iran? They wouldn’t, at least not the ‘core’ participants.

        This is already on the agenda: Anonymous will be attributed to a ‘cyber 9/11′ and laws will be passed to curb net neutrality in an effort to undermine the influence that the Internet has on public opinion. Anon’s lack of organization and self-proclaimed ‘hive-mind’ means it’s open season, no conspiracy here. It has already happened. The sheeple will gladly accept a restricted and policed browsing experience with no alternative media (terrorists!) and no rouge social network outlets… And taxes on political websites to ensure the elite maintains their monopoly on campaigning as a tool for the wealthy only

        On a side note, the hive-mind thing always bothered me… takes individuality and thinking for yourself away in favor of a collective. Always bad news in the end.

  3. JohnAdamTurnbull
    November 7, 2011, 3:18 am

    Thanks Ben for this report.

    As of 10:00 local time, I am waiting for a three-minute call from Karen DeVito — one of the five(?) women who are detained. I was told last night by Canadian Foreign Affairs that she would be allowed a call this morning.

    It’s possible that the women, too, have decided not to sign.

    The five (that I’m sure of) are Kit Kittredge of Washington State, Jihan Hafiz, who should be a protected journalist (she is there for Democracy Now), Karen De Vito from Vancouver BC, and two Irish women, Mags O Brien and Zoe Lawler.

  4. justicewillprevail
    November 7, 2011, 5:10 am

    Same old Israel. Apparently unable to react in any way except threats, relishing the opportunity to use violence, abducting people they have no right to. What is absurd and stupid about them is their inability to deal with a completely unthreatening, humanitarian group in a way which garners them some positive press. It would be so simple to check the ships cargoes, then escort them civilly to the nearest port to offload it. The fact that they feel threatened, paranoid and aggressive over this kind of thing indicates how untenable their position is and, like bullies, they only way they know to cover up their inadequacy is to lash out aggressively and illegally. They lose every time they act like rogue, petulant, arrogant bullies.

    • seafoid
      November 7, 2011, 5:43 am

      + 1

      The Gaza siege is a strategic disaster for Israel but they have to defend it since if it fails it’s a massive defeat for Israel. Zionism’s dependence on militarism leads it increasingly to act against its own interest.

  5. dumvitaestspesest
    November 7, 2011, 7:06 am

    Tuesady, November 1
    “Globalists Using London Cyberspace Summit to Push for Global Internet Treaty
    Eric Blair
    Activist Post

    For the next two days, leaders from around the globe will collude with tech giants to discuss how to respond to the challenges and opportunities of the Internet. Translation: they’ll be negotiating a global Internet treaty.

    It’s reported that officials from 60 countries will join Google, Facebook, Microsoft and (Chinese video sharing site), as well as cyber crime agencies, and computer security firms at the London Conference on Cyberspace.
    The London summit is hosted by Foreign Secretary, William Hague, who said the purpose is to “discuss ideas and expected behaviour in cyberspace”.
    To which he claims the goal is bring together major players to determine how “collectively, we should respond to the challenges and opportunities which the development of cyberspace presents.”
    A few days before the conference, Council on Foreign Relations members Adam Segal and Matthew Waxman wrote that the conference presents those calling for a global Internet treaty with “a step in that direction”……………….”
    Rest is here.
    link to

  6. pabelmont
    November 7, 2011, 7:23 am

    The jamming of all communications could, perhaps, be attested to by onshore supporters of th flotilla. We should be shown videos transmitted up-until the shut-down of communications.

    Shutting down communications seems to me as much an act of war as shooting at people. It certainly makes it impossible for a counter-narrative to be shown to the world simultaneously with whatever Israel chooses to put forward.

    I assume the entire stopping of the flotilla happened outside Israel’s (or Gaza’s) internationally recognized national waters. Stopping ships in international waters and SHUTTING DOWN THEIR COMMUNICATIONS seems massive and illegal. Also dangerous. what if a ship needed to send as SOS (for instance, if it ran into another ship; or if the bridge caught on fire)?

    • Chaos4700
      November 7, 2011, 9:31 am

      I’m thinking there has to be an international crime for blocking someone’s distress call. I suppose Israel has learned better than from the heady days of the 1960′s when they would use their opening salvo to destroy someone’s radio transmitter and hope that they could sink the ship before a backup transmitter went online.

    • seafoid
      November 7, 2011, 9:34 am

      link to

      What a mess the Zionists have made of Palestine.

  7. rosahill
    November 7, 2011, 7:53 am

    Although a lot of attention is, rightly, being focused on Israel’s attack on the boats to Gaza, the rest of Mondoweiss’s items — constant widespread militarized attacks on Palestinian existence — make it clear that the media everywhere has it upside down. The major news is Israel’s efforts to exterminate a people, the sidebar is Israel’s attack on the Gaza flotilla.

    • seafoid
      November 7, 2011, 9:24 am

      link to

      The readers’ editor on… averting accusations of antisemitism
      Guardian reporters, writers and editors must be more vigilant about the language they use when writing about Jews or Israel

      o Tweet this
      o reddit this
      • Comments (53)

      o Chris Elliott
      o, Sunday 6 November 2011 19.00 GMT
      o Article history
      The Guardian has always had a strong commitment to reporting on the Middle East. That means a lot of news reporting, as well as comment and analysis, on the Israel-Palestine situation. It is one of the world’s most contested conflicts, in which thousands of people have died or have been displaced. As a newspaper the Guardian has been critical of all sides, but it is seen as being especially critical of the Israeli government and its actions. And that has led to complaints that the Guardian, in print or online, is carrying material that either lapses into language resonant of antisemitism or is, by its nature, antisemitic.
      It also leads to the much more rare allegation of Islamophobia. In this column I intend to address the former rather than the latter, because recently there has been a preponderance of such complaints.
      This is not a fresh concern. It is a particularly sensitive issue for a core of the Guardian’s Jewish readers because CP Scott held strong Zionist sympathies, as did WP Crozier, who came after him as editor. In the Guardian’s archives is a letter of thanks from the first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, thanking Scott for his help in securing the Balfour declaration, the 1917 statement by the British government approving the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine.
      A shift in attitudes came after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, as Daphna Baram outlines in her book Disenchantment: The Guardian and Israel, published in 2004. So, it’s not new. But there has been an increase in complaints of antisemitism within the last few months.
      As the web has widened the debate, so it has also enabled more opportunities for articles and comments to be questioned. Individuals and organisations monitoring the Guardian’s coverage examine the language in articles – and the comments posted underneath them online – as closely as the facts.
      For antisemitism can be subtle as well as obvious. Three times in the last nine months I have upheld complaints against language within articles that I agreed could be read as antisemitic. The words were replaced and the articles footnoted to reflect the fact. These included references to Israel/US “global domination” and the term “slavish” to describe the US relationship with Israel; and, in an article on a lost tribe of Mallorcan Jews, what I regarded as a gratuitous reference to “the island’s wealthier families”.
      Two weeks ago a columnist used the term “the chosen” in an item on the release of Gilad Shalit, which brought more than 40 complaints to the Guardian, and an apology from the columnist the following week. “Chosenness”, in Jewish theology, tends to refer to the sense in which Jews are “burdened” by religious responsibilities; it has never meant that the Jews are better than anyone else. Historically it has been antisemites, not Jews, who have read “chosen” as code for Jewish supremacism.
      One reader wrote of the column: “The despicable antisemitic tone of this rant is beyond reason or decency.”
      An important feature of the Guardian online is that the comment threads are post-moderated: a team of moderators check almost half a million comments a month posted on the site for language that breaches the community guidelines across a whole range of issues – not just antisemitism. They are experienced in spotting the kind of language long associated with antisemitic tropes such as Jews having too much power and control, or being clannish and secretive, or the role of Jews in finance and the media.
      Newspapers have to be aware that some examples involve coded references. They need to ask themselves, for example, if the word Zionist is being used as a synonym for Jew.
      I have been careful to say that these examples may be read as antisemitic because I don’t believe their appearance in the Guardian was the result of deliberate acts of antisemitism: they were inadvertent. But that does not lessen the injury to some readers or to our reputation. The Guardian should not be oppressed by criticism – some of the language used by our critics is abusive and intimidatory – or retreat into self-censorship. But reporters, writers and editors must be more vigilant to ensure our voice in the debate is not diminished because our reputation has been tarnished.

      • Taxi
        November 7, 2011, 10:30 am

        If most zionist jews didn’t behave in such an entitled way and thought of themselves as actually equal to others, they would drop the exclusive ‘antisemitism’ description and just accept that it’s simply (and gravely) ‘racism’ or ‘religious discrimination’ that they’re experiencing, same the world over with other minorities – they should not harp on about a special and exclusive kind of racism that they force everyone to work with, even giving it it’s own special and exclusive category name.

        At this stage of the game, in the 21st century, if it quacks like a duck, no amount of swan feathers can stop people calling it a duck. Or is it antisemitic to call a banking duck, a banking duck? Really now… Should a country have an over-representation of jewish citizens in banking, in media, in medicine etc, I don’t believe that stating such facts, if they indeed are facts, is tantamount to being antisemitic.

        Why don’t zionists make better use of their PR time, like ending the frigging ethnic cleansing and violent occupation, instead of trying to shut people up either aggressively, or passive-aggressively. In other words, zionist jews should clean up their criminal house first – before they go around wanting to censor goy this and censor goy that.

  8. dahoit
    November 7, 2011, 10:43 am

    The Guardian has become another neocon lie machine.Their recent treatment of Julian Assange has been despicable.Screw them.Boycott all MSM media.Kill the beast.