'Cyber warfare on Israel is a serious threat'

By GIL STERN STERN SHEFLER
January 16, 2012 13:21

Public diplomacy and diaspora affairs minister rails against hacking attacks on Israeli companies, citizens.

3 minute read.



Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein

Yuli Edelstein 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem / The Jerusalem Post)

Cyber warfare is a serious threat to Israel's security, Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Yuli Edelstein said Monday, after hackers allegedly took down the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and El Al websites.

Speaking on a panel at the annual Women's International Zionist Organization conference in Tel Aviv, the minister said recent incidents like the posting of confidential credit card information belonging to Israelis on the Web by a hacker were a menace to the country.

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"The cyber war against Israel is very real," he said. "It's not just about writing Jews drink blood and something like that. It's an attack on [the Israeli air liner] El Al, on its companies and its people."

Over the past few weeks a person identifying as being from Saudi Arabia has leaked the information to the internet. The unknown individual told media outlets the motivation was political.

Israel itself has been accused of waging cyber warfare against its foes in the past. Last year Iran's nuclear program had been damaged by Stuxnet, a computer virus which some claim Israel and the US were behind.

Edelstein also spoke to delegates at the women's organization conference who came from dozens of countries about the state of relations between Israel and the diaspora.

"Things have changed," he said. "Israel is now willing to invest in bringing what people once called 'rich kids from America' to Israel on Birthright, I don't know if 20, 30 years ago that would happen."

Still, as the song goes, some things change, some stay the same. Edelstein shared a secret with the audience revealing that the word "diaspora" was dropped from the name of a Sukkot festival in Netanya last year because organizers were worried it would bore Israelis and deter them from coming. Edelstein said the festival, which went ahead without the word diaspora in its title, drew thousands of people offering them a glimpse into the lives of member of Jewish communities around the world.

"Thousands learned about communities abroad," he boasted.

Other speakers at the panel included former MK Collette Avital, MK Nahman Shai (Kadima), former general Elazar Stern, former WIZO head Evelyn Sommer and journalist Shmuel Rosner.

"I'd like you to know I have no intention to sing," quipped Avital in her remarks, referring to the controversy over the role of women in Israeli society.

Honorary WIZO president Evelyn Sommer lambasted left-leaning Jewish organizations JStreet and JCall for seeking to influence the Israeli government.

"Those are organizations who want to dictate, or at least influence, policy," she emotionally said, "I don’t know what the future of those organizations would be."

At the same time she cited several areas she thought diaspora Jews were allowed to influence Israeli policy like the definition of who is a Jew, supporting aliyah and Taglit-Birthright, which offers young Jewish adults free trips to Israel.

"Israel needs to take [Birthright] much more seriously and use state resources to fund it," she said, drawing a round of applause.

Of a different opinion to Sommer on the Israel-Diaspora dynamic was Rosner, who welcomed "meddling" from Jews abroad on one condition.

"To the Diaspora I would say come, criticize, intervene and meddle on one condition: Make sure you know what you're talking about," the journalist said.

Avital said influence from the diaspora on Israel exists on many levels either through lobby organizations like AIPAC or donations to partisan group like Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Such influence was inevitable, she claimed. What mattered was that lines are drawn relating to how diaspora Jews should relate to Israel.

"The limit is not to work against an elected Israeli government," she said.


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