Professionals said to be behind hack attack on Russell Tribunal website

UPDATE, 9 November: The site is finally back up as of this morning. It took 1&1 four days to restore service. It’s also worth mentioning that Harry Fear himself has now published an article on Ceasefire about the attack.

As the second day of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine’s South Africa session was underway in Cape Town on Sunday, the tribunal’s website was taken offline by a sophisticated cyber attack.

The internet consultant who founded the Russell Tribunal website says the attack was “no amateur attempt”.

He said attackers targeted the company with which domain name is registered. They appear to have used a technique known as a DNS (Domain Name System) attack. This has rendered the domain name useless for the time being, automatically redirecting all visitors straight back to their own computers.

This means that since Sunday, journalists and members of the public visiting the Russell Tribunal website will see nothing but an obtuse error message (see screen shot above). Nevertheless, the live internet stream from Cape Town went ahead as it was hosted by another site, and the tribunal continues to release news via its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Harry Fear, who built the site last year, told me the attack had been “executed, quite extraordinarily, without any ostensible compromising of the settings” that control the domain name. The attackers “penetrated the DNS system at a deeper level, showing their degree of sophistication and will,” said Fear.

In other words, the attackers appear to have compromised the domain registrar company itself, even covering their tracks as they went.

Fear has reported the attack to 1&1, the German compan with which is registered. Fear says 1&1 are now investigating but are “currently stunned” and saying little. The website remains inaccessible as I am writing this.

1&1 is one of the biggest internet hosting companies in the world. It claims to handles over 11 million domain names. Fear thinks this alone is significant: “that this monolith of a company has been hacked (it seems) is quite something”.

The cyber attack comes as part of a wider Zionist campaign against the tribunal’s South Africa session. Russell Tribunal coordinator Frank Barat wrote on Facebook last week that “Zionists in South Africa are going mad. Every newsroom in the country has received [a] gift box and anti-Russell Tribunal material”.

Zionist groups have set up “Russell the kangaroo” Facebook and Twitter accounts especially to attack the tribunal. However, this campaign seems much less successful than the cyber attack, with only 184 Facebook followers to date.

The now-infamous op-ed by Richard Goldstone denying Israel practices apartheid also appears likely to have been timed (at least in part) to coincide with the tribunal. The South Africa session examined the question: “is Israel an apartheid state?”

Until the website is back up, you can find out more on the Russell Tribunal Facebook page – including by downloading the session’s preliminary findings.

Last week, internet service in Palestine was taken offline in what officials called a “serious act of sabotage,” according to the Ma’an News Agency.

Disclosure statement: I co-edited a new book with Frank Barat on the Russell Tribunal and also did some press work for the London session last year.




They, the Zionists, are losing the argument. the only language they know is of violence and sabotage.

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).