The Middle East Channel

Cyber attacks target Israeli airline and Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

Cyber attacks target Israeli airline and Tel Aviv Stock Exchange

A wave of cyber attacks disrupted Israeli online systems on Monday, hitting Israel's national airline, El Al, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE), and three banks. The attacks came days after an unidentified pro-Palestinian hacker released personal information and credit card details of thousands of Israelis. The attacks brought down the El Al and TASE websites, but did not disturb any vital services, with stock trading and flights operating as normal. According to Danny Dolev, a computer science professor at Hebrew University, these were merely surface level attacks targeting "websites that present information to the public, but happily it didn't touch the internal information systems." However the attacks raised serious concerns for a country deeply dependent on technology, particularly for security infrastructure. The Saudi Arabian hacker "0xOmar" wrote an email to Ynetnews saying he teamed up with the pro-Palestinian group "Nightmare" who claimed responsibility for the attacks. He demanded an apology from Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon for "threatening me to death," and warned that the attacks would only get more fierce. He stated, "I want to hurt/harm Israel in any way possible."


Daily Snapshot

An Egyptian protester with his his hands chained chants slogans as another holds hanging effigies representing ousted president Hosni Mubarak, his sons Alaa and Gamal and former interior minister Habib al-Adli and others from his regime outside the police academy on the outskirts of Cairo on January 17, 2012 during Mubarak's trial. Mubarak's main lawyer challenged prosecution calls for Egypt's former president to be hanged for the deaths of protesters, saying there is no evidence to show he ordered security forces to open fire (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images). 

Arguments & Analysis

'Preventing a nuclear Iran, peacefully' (Shibley Telhami and Stephen Kull, New York Times)

"Given that Israelis overwhelmingly believe that Iran is on its way to acquiring nuclear weapons and several security experts have begun to question current policy, there is now an opportunity for a genuine debate on the real choices: relying on cold-war-style "mutual assured destruction" once Iran develops nuclear weapons or pursuing a path toward a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East, with a chance that Iran -- and Arabs -- will never develop the bomb at all. There should be no illusions that successfully negotiating a path toward regional nuclear disarmament will be easy. But the mere conversation could transform a debate that at present is stuck between two undesirable options: an Iranian bomb or war."

'Saving face and peace in the Gulf' (Anne-Marie Slaughter, European Voice)

"It is time for cooler heads to prevail with a strategy that helps Iran step back. The key players here are Brazil and Turkey, whose governments negotiated an ill-timed deal with Iran in May 2011, whereby Iran would transfer 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for 1,200 kilograms of medium-enriched uranium for medical research at a Tehran reactor. That deal quickly fell apart, but it could be time to try again."

'What if the Iranians start killing scientists' (Avner Cohen, Haaretz)

"Israel may have rejoiced at the news of the hit, but let's consider how senior members of Israel's scientific community, especially the nuclear scientists, would view the assassination of scientists on the faculties of well-known academic institutions...They would probably have reservations about the wisdom of expanding the shadow war to the scientific community. Anyone who legitimizes the assassination of scientists in Tehran jeopardizes the personal security of scientists on the other side. The next phase of the assassination war is liable to turn international scientific conferences into arenas of assassination. It is entirely possible that the damage caused by the assassinations far outweigh the benefits they bring."

'A short critique of revolutionary comrades' (Samer Soliman, Ahram online)

"If SCAF does not hand over power to either parliament or the new cabinet or the next president, and if the people find out that elected institutions took over power but their performance is below expectations, this is when they can call for the overthrow of the head of the regime. Before that point, however, battling, protesting and going on strike should target partial victories and specific demands -- not the toppling of the head of the regime." 

Latest on the Channel

-- 'False flag' by Mark Perry

-- 'Violence and the Egytpian military' by H.A. Hellyer

-- 'Arabs in the shadow of their neighbors' by Hishem Melhem

The Middle East Channel

Violence and the Egyptian military

Egypt's military regime has cracked down on protesters with increasing intensity over the past month. Many in the West wonder how this is possible in post-Mubarak Egypt, and whether this situation will continue. All actors, including the military, must consider that despite high levels of support for the military among Egyptians, there are even higher levels of opposition to violence against civilians.

Even before the revolution, Gallup data showed Egyptians universally reject violence against civilians -- whether perpetrated by military or non-military actors. The 97 percent of Egyptians who reject individual attacks against civilians, for example, is one of the highest percentages worldwide.

Egyptians' confidence in the military, however, has also been high. Gallup polling in Egypt since the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak shows this is still the case: Gallup surveys in December 2011 show that 88 percent of Egyptians currently express confidence in the military. At the same time, 91 percent of Egyptians also think that continued protests are a bad thing for the country, while 9 percent believe continued protests are a good thing.

Egyptians' ongoing confidence in the military establishment and their lack of support for continued protests may be perplexing. How can Egyptians be against violence against civilians, and yet express such confidence in a military that is subjecting civilians to violence?

Public opinion against continued protests does not necessarily conflict with strong feelings against violence. Egyptians could very well consider protests a bad thing for the country, while defending the right of those same protesters to protest freely without being subjected to violence. Gallup's latest figures show that 94 percent of Egyptians said they would agree to include a provision on "freedom of speech" in a new constitution for Egypt. The majority of Egyptians consider freedom of speech a very important right -- even if they do not necessarily agree with what is being said.

Egyptians' confidence in the military is more difficult to explain. To partially clarify this discrepancy, some commentators have offered that Egyptians at large distinguish between the military and the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). There is little evidence to support that premise. Eighty-nine percent of Egyptians surveyed in December express confidence in the SCAF, essentially equal to the 88 percent expressing confidence in the military.

What may be more important to consider is how Egyptians consume information, and the means by which they are informed. Egyptians at large have firsthand experience with some public institutions, which leads them to form their opinions directly or via close friends and family. For example, it is unsurprising if a majority of Egyptians lack confidence in the police -- because of the widespread presence of the police all over the country, most Egyptians have personal, direct experience with the police force on a regular basis. For other public institutions, however, Egyptians rely on media rather than more direct sources of information.

Some might argue that websites such as Twitter and Facebook, and the Internet in general, have been rife with information about the military's violence against civilian protesters. Public opinion in Egypt is likely to shift on that basis, due to Egyptians' propensity to abhor violence against civilians. Such an argument, however, is flawed. Gallup data show that despite the continuing myth that the Egyptian revolution began as a "Facebook revolution," 8 percent of Egyptians relied on Facebook or Twitter to get their news on the nationwide protests that led to Mubarak's downfall. Even among protesters during January and February, 17 percent reported Internet access in their homes.

Egyptians do not get the narrative of what is happening in the country from such online sources. Rather, it comes from other media, particularly state television. Al Jazeera was also a source of protest news for a significant majority of Egyptians, but that majority (63 percent) is substantially less than the majority (81 percent) who said in March and April that they received their news about Egypt's transition from state television. State television is free, which means it is likely to be used far more frequently, as well as by more people, than satellite sources. Moreover, 59 percent of Egyptians are confident in the accuracy of the state media, according to Gallup surveys in December. Whether the state is actually accurate is immaterial -- the majority of Egyptians at least perceive it to be.

As more and more people become involved in standoffs with the military regime, word is likely to spread among the public, whether state media accurately reports the events. At one point, Mubarak's government was popular, but it eventually became so unpopular that the majority of Egyptians supported the uprising against his regime.

The Egyptian military regime should not take Egyptians' support for granted. If news of violence against civilians spreads, whether due to increased incidents of violence or to the ability of protesters to effectively disseminate online sources in a grassroots manner, then popular support for the military regime could drop as it did for Mubarak's administration.

Dr. H.A. Hellyer is Senior Practice Consultant and Senior Analyst at Gallup.