Go to alaqsabrigade.com and you get this about the terror group linked to Yasir Arafat’s Fatah party: Al Aqsa is a group of Iraqi citizens "trained by Saddam to terrorize cities in Israel."
Head to the apparent Web page of another Palestinian terror group, tanzim.net, and there’s this: Tanzim is an "unofficial Palestinian army which can engage Israeli security forces and Jewish civilians without officially breaking signed agreements with Israel." At Jenin.com, the refugee camp is described as "best known for harboring terrorists because of its proximity to the Green Line."
If these descriptions sound like they’re coming straight from the Israeli playbook, it’s because the phony sites are the latest front in Israel’s hasbara war. Although the Israeli Consulate here said its government had no part in creating the sites, officials alerted the Jewish media to them last week.
"This is a backhanded way of getting someone who may be interested in terrorism from a malicious point of view to actually see what’s out there in terms of Israeli hasbara," says Adina Kay, a consulate press officer. Kay said someone in Israel sent the URLs, or Web addresses, to the consulate.
The creator, who insists on remaining anonymous, wrote in an e-mail to The Jewish Week that an "underground society" has founded the sites in order to "counter the propaganda" of CNN and BBC. On a facetious note, the author claims to have made aliyah four years ago while working as "the Chief Weather Girl for a major television network."
The nearly identical sites include tanzim.net, fatah.org, alaqsabrigade.com and palestinetv.org, among others. On each of them, clicking on "examples of our work" connects to an Israeli army information site showing bomb blasts and detailing perpetrators that were released from Palestinian jails. Select Cyber TV, and you go to Arutz Sheva, the Israeli news service.
In the anonymous e-mail, the Web site creator said preventing real terror groups from using the domain names was one goal, while another was providing "hardcore facts on what these terror groups are about."
The sites feature the Islamic date and links to Arabic recipe pages. Click on "bazaar," and you can find out about purchasing a hookah, or Arabic smoking device.
But less likely to be sold by Islamic militants are the books "From Time Immemorial" by Joan Peters and "The PLO" by Barbara Tuchman. Both are highly critical of the Palestinians. With a few clicks, the books can be purchased from Barnes and Noble via a link.
The electronic front to Israelís image war may be new, but the process of hijacking URLs is as old as the Internet itself. Political campaigns frequently grab up names likely to be used by opponents, and entrepreneurs often snatch up brand names so they can sell them to corporations at a profit.