Netta Barzilai
Netta BarzilaiREUTERS

Anti-Israel hackers have set their sights on an Israeli contestant for an international music competition, hoping to block fans from voting for the singer by overloading online applications which count votes for the singer.

Last week, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists launched a campaign aimed at barring Netta Barzilai, Israel’s contestant at the Eurovision, from advancing to the finals.

Dubbed the “Eurovision Boycott of Israel” and using the hashtag “#ZeroPointsIsrael”, the campaign called on music fans not to vote for Barzilai, claiming that a vote for the Israeli singer would be seen as a sign of support for the State of Israel.

“If you live in one of the participating countries, take care to participate in the televoting and give Israeli Apartheid zero points – and ask your friends and family and anyone you know to do the same. If the Israeli song is eliminated already at the semi-finals – well and good, nothing further should be done. If the song does get into the finals on 13 May, then the effort should be repeated and redoubled,” the campaign urged.

Despite the campaign, however, Barzilai advanced Tuesday night to the finals, slated for Saturday evening in Lisbon.

In addition to Israel, the other countries that qualified on Tuesday were Austria, Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Albania, Finland and Ireland.

But efforts to derail Barzilai’s bid at the Eurovision were not limited to calls for a boycott.

Hackers launched cyber-attacks on Barzilai’s cell phone application used to reach out to fans and provide them with a link to vote for the Israeli contestant. The hackers flooded the app system with a sudden wave of traffic, in an attempt to crash the system with a denial of service attack.

Anti-Israel social media users also flooded Barzilai’s Facebook and Twitter accounts with hostile or defamatory messages, forcing the closure of the two pages to users outside of Israel.

“The company’s tech team, with the help of information security companies, attempted to bring the systems which had been affected back online,” said Gil Rabbi, CEO of Rabbi Interactive Agency (RIA), which promoted Barzilai’s bid online.

“Unfortunately, since Facebook did nothing to filter out the online violence by BDS [activists], we were forced to close the Facebook page to users outside of Israel in order to stop the wave of [cyber] attacks. Basically, the BDS movement got what it wanted – Israel’s isolation from the rest of the world. At this point we’ve erased the hateful comments [from the Facebook page], so that at least Israeli users can enjoy visiting the page.”