The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Israel’s Big Brother TV show has some unwelcome guests: Hamas hackers

A screen shot of the Israeli TV program hacked by Hamas.

JERUSALEM -- The Israeli version of the reality TV hit Big Brother had some unwelcome guests on Friday night: hackers from the militant Palestinian group Hamas who interrupted the show for nearly three minutes with a dose of their own menacing reality.

It was considered one of the most anticipated episodes of season as three popular housemates were about to be booted out. However, as satellite viewers tuned in to see who out of their favorite celebs would get to stay on for the final episodes, the screen suddenly switched to what appeared to be a Hamas propaganda video showing dead bodies and lots of eerie warnings in Hebrew.

Set against a score of overly dramatic music, the clip urged Israelis to “learn from the past,” and accused them of murdering Palestinian women and school children in cold blood. The clip also included footage from recent attacks by Palestinians against Israelis and animated characters ramming their cars into Israeli bus stops or stabbing Israeli soldiers in the neck.

Subtitles in Hebrew splashed across the screen in red writing stated: “The year started in Tel Aviv” – referring to the New Year's Day attack by Arab Israeli Nashat Milhem who gunning down patrons in a bar on Tel Aviv’s central Dizengoff street. Followed by a reminder: “Now we are back on Dizengoff so stay at home, this story is not over.”

This is not the first time Hamas has managed to hack into Israeli Channel Two’s broadcast feed. In July 2014, at the start of a 50-day summer war between Israel and Hamas, which Israel and the U.S. considers a terrorist group, hackers broke into broadcasts telling Israeli viewers in Hebrew: “Prepare yourselves for a prolonged stay in the bomb shelters.”

That clip also urged Israeli mothers to keep their soldier sons at home. “If you don’t want your sons to be captured or killed in Gaza, hurry to call them home.”

Analysts speculated that the latest attack on Channel Two was in retaliation for an Israeli military raid Thursday night in Ramallah that closed down a Palestinian TV and radio station linked to the extremist Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. Israel seized the channel's offices and equipment on the grounds that it was broadcasting inciting material.

Israeli leaders claim that official Palestinian channels incite daily against Israel, and that this has led hundreds of young Palestinians to stab or shoot Israelis over the past six months.

In his cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel was “taking action against media channels that encourage the murder of Israelis and Jews.”

Over the weekend, Netanyahu said that he had urged French President Francois Hollande to take Hamas’ Al Aqsa channel, which used the services of French satellite communications provider Eutelsat, off the air. France complied but Hamas managed to get the channel back up broadcasting via another satellite provider.

“There is no question here of freedom of the press, but of halting incitement to murder,” said Netanyahu.