One result of the most recent conflict in the ongoing saga of Israel and Palestine, is that it introduced a new factor centered on the Internet.
There's a loosely organized collective of cyber-activists known as Anonymous who have one issue they commit themselves to above all others and that is the protection of the Internet.
Since there is no official structure or spokesmen it is very difficult to get a handle on exactly what the collective does, how or why actions come to be. Because Anonymous has been a protector of Wikileaks and leaked corporate documents to expose criminal and corrupt actions they are generally painted as terrorists in American media. There's also been a lot of misinformation flowing from Anonymous Ops or actions.
But in the course of global events and government actions we ultimately come back to individuals acting with personal objectives. One of the few opportunities to see the human face behind the mask of Anonymous is their radio network that has weekly interviews by a host that goes by the name Lorax. On Friday night by New York time Lorax interviewed a legendary member of the collective known as Commander X who relayed the amazing story behind the launch of OpIsrael.
This isn't meant to be a transcribed version of the interview, but one listener's best retelling of what struck me as an extraordinary tale of how a few individuals can be in the right place at the right time to change the course of human history, especially in an era of digital connectivity. Whenever a link is available to download the live interview I will add it, because nothing can do justice to hearing it straight from the source.
You can't get a sense of the passion and personality of CommanderX in the details related here; but he's charismatic and inspirational and his passion is infectious. In the interview Commander X says he doesn't believe in religion or God, but does have faith in a universal power of synchronicity that puts the right pieces in the right places through some cosmic balance of energy. I'm not sure it matters what powers you have faith in as long as you believe in miracles happening when a few good people refuse to stay silent and ignore wrong doing.
The collective of Anonymous communicates with each other through two primary forums, the Twitter feeds and the IRC or internet relay chat networks. The IRC networks are public places that have different channels anyone can join if they know the name of the channel. Like any other social networking site individuals with different interests gather in different areas with virtual friends or shared interests.
On the night OpIsrael was launched there was a group of what CommanderX describes as "Freedom Ops old fags" hanging out and shooting the breeze in an IRC channel known to all of them. It was a rare event for the group to find themselves together in that place on this particular night and more of a nostalgic bit of serendipity that their rarely crossing paths now had landed them all together to catch up as old friends do when life makes a once tight knit team into a memory by far flung life paths.
One of the group happened to spot a tweet by a 15 year old Palestinian boy who was monitoring the IDF Twitter feed. The boy had become alarmed about threats to shut down the Internet in Gaza and was calling for help from anyone who could help him keep his communication link open if this did in fact happen.
Struck by the SOS from the boy from Gaza the Anon took the boy into the IRC channel where these old friends were. They investigated his source for alarm and verified the threat by Israeli Defense Forces and questioned the boy about his skills and resources; all quickly agreed they needed to do something to protect the ability of the people of Gaza to communicate.
It is also important to note that in the group were both activists strongly allied with Israel and with Palestine. Both sides were passionate about the validity of claims made by their respective side with regard to rights so it was quickly agreed that the action they would undertake together would be narrowly focused on protecting the Internet; it would not be taking sides in the conflict or endorsing any government, simply defending the right of individual citizens to have a vehicle to communicate with the outside world.
The old fag, Freedom Ops anons took and maintained one position throughout OpIsrael, no one shuts down the Internet on our watch. It was their shared belief that bad things happen more frequently and easily in dark places and open communication saves lives. This was a life saving mission with a basic human rights aim and politics had no role.
They sprang into action. Within four hours they had gathered the care package materials that had been used in OpEgypt and OpSyria begun in the spring of 2011 that were already in Arabic. They built the boy an IRC network and website to serve as a central hub within Gaza. Word of the care packages was spread through the Internet and downloaded from the new website. The young boy who had lucked into an encounter hours earlier was now at the center of a global information campaign to defend the internet.
The Anonymous Care Packages, with emergency instructions for backup communications were printed by individuals throughout Gaza and handed out in the streets. Ordinary people who weren't plugged in to the 24/7 web world of direct action were extending the virtual networks into traditional human networks and elated that unseen powers in the outside world would not let them sink into darkness.
Anonymous issued a press release with a warning to the government of Israel that said any threat to the Internet was a threat to the realm protected by Anonymous and it would not be tolerated. Over the course of many days that followed the conflict between Anonymous and world governments escalated. Official Israeli websites were taken down and defaced and the people of Gaza remained able to communicate with the outside world.
Mainstream media in America were forced to react to the news making actions of Anonymous and give the conflict more visibility than the hackneyed tale normally receives. World news sources had to report details of the conflict that might have been ignored or untold if the communication black out for Gaza had occurred.
The plight of the Palestinian people took on new relevance as the cyber-warfare element changed the playing field. A marginalized, impoverished group in Gaza, living the shadow of the mighty powers of US backed Israeli government, suddenly had tangible evidence that their voices did matter to the outside world.
Days ago, sixty five years after the United Nations partition of the Palestinian lands that created a State of Israel, the Palestinians won recognition of Statehood and a place at the UN.
In the spirit of Anonymous OpIsrael, no editorial about the politics of the vote will be noted here just the mention of it as another epic point in modern history and perhaps a bit of the synchronicity Commander X has faith in.
End notes and opinion...
As a footnote to this story, the FBI is aggressively pursuing information about anyone involved in OpIsrael. Sadly the same can't be said of US government appetite for investigating war crimes, corporate fraud or tyrannical regimes.
But as OpIsrael shows, power shifts do happen when a handful of individuals stand up for fundamental rights and legions of supporters stand behind them.
Lorax shows are broadcast live 6 days a week 24:00 gmt that's 7pm NYC on Anonymous radio. While it does go out through a series of IRC networks and channels, basic Internet users can tune in by going to a regular web page and even join their IRC through a Mibbit portal provided! http://www.anonplus.com/radio.html
All of the artwork is from one of my favorte Anonymous artists known as F8C3 and available at deviant art. http://f8ce.deviantart.com/gallery/
Reuters report on UN vote for Palestinian Statehood