Anonymous anti-BDS group publishes ‘blacklist’ of boycott supporters in New York

Activism
on 20 Comments

Early last week, an unidentified group launched a shadowy website identifying New Yorkers believed to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights—placing their photos, social media links and email addresses on a “blacklist” located at OutlawBDS.com. The list features ninety-seven individuals divided into the categories Campuses, Public & NPOs and Private Sector Activists.

Among those who appear on the so-called blacklist are professors, journalists, students, non-profit staff-members and executives.

Project OutlawBDS claims it was established by a group who “consider themselves to be analytical in their approach to the BDS movement,” whose stated intention is to “provide support for New York State Senate Bill S2492,” the latest attempt to pass anti-BDS legislation in the state.

Though bill S2492 has already failed to pass the New York State legislature—not to mention a handful of other anti-BDS bills introduced over the past three years—the project apparently anticipates that given time, New York will outlaw support for BDS.

And though Palestine solidarity activists have stifled each attempt, there is reason to believe New York legislators will continue trying to outlaw the boycott of Israel.

Anti-BDS sentiment has gained traction among lawmakers nationally and as it stands now, 21 states have anti-BDS laws on the books. The legal stipulations vary somewhat between states, but their common goal is punishment of those who express support for or participate in boycotts against Israel through divestment of state funding and benefits from those individuals.

Project OutlawBDS wants the same for New York, stating on its “About” page that upon passage of such a law, the entire list of indiviuals compiled by the project “will be immediately delivered to state authorities, to ensure nothing is hidden from those who wish a better hope for this country.”

Peter Moscowitz, a New York City-raised journalist, writer and activist who appears on the so-called blacklist, said they weren’t surprised by the tactics of Project OutlawBDS.

Journalist Peter Moscowtiz’s information as it appears on the OutlawBDS blacklist. Nearly all of the information is factually inaccurate.

“A lot of these sites are linked to shady nonprofits and either directly involved with or at least influenced by the tactics of the Israeli government and its military,” Moscowitz told Mondoweiss. “What’s funny is how wrong all the information on the page is about me. To me this shows how desperate they are. [Opponents of BDS] cannot win on public opinion grounds so they turn to smear tactics.”

Despite their fervor, lawmakers who actually outlaw BDS are entering a civil liberties fight they are unlikely to win, as political boycott is considered free speech and protected under the First Amendment. But the issue would take years to wind its way through the court system.

Nevertheless, many of New York’s lawmakers have aggressively pursued anti-BDS measures, cowing to Israel-lobby pressure.

In June 2016, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a controversial, first-in-the-nation anti-BDS executive order. Although the order has proven mostly toothless since its passage over a year ago, Cuomo’s decision was simply part of pattern that sees elected representatives forever trying to prove their allegiance to Israel.

As Palestine Legal noted in the wake of this latest attack, Congress is presently considering passage of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, with intense lobbying from AIPAC and bipartisan support.

But to both those behind Project OutlawBDS, or the more prominent Canary Mission, the legality of BDS is something of an afterthought says Raja Abdulhaq, a Palestinian activist and cofounder of the Palestinian media company Quds Network.

As support for Palestinian liberation blossoms, “Israel and its Zionist allies in the US have been involved in tougher campaigns that make activists face threats of public shaming and character assassination,” Abdulhaq, whose photo and information appears on the site, told Mondoweiss. “The goal is to scare these activists before the beginning of their professional careers so they can drop activism for Palestine.”

The message is clear, Abdulhaq added: “if you would like to find a job, you should quit the Palestinian cause—or we will make it impossible for you.”

The as yet unidentified group responsible for Project OutlawBDS has gone to great lengths to remain anonymous. The site employs above-average security measures including the use of multiple proxies and scrubbed image files—images with their metadata manually removed.

When I queried Project OutlawBDS about this, an administrator responded, rather ironically, saying “we believe that our identity is not an issue.”

And an initial investigation reveals only a few, but potentially idenfiying vulnerabilities.

Before going live as OutlawBDS.com, for instance, the original name was Project Sugar Maple, a reference to the state tree of New York. The Project Sugar Maple site was created on June 1, nearly two months prior to the July 26 launch of OutlawBDS.

Project Sugar Maple is still accessible as of today, replete with errors that may yet expose whoever is behind it.

Since September 4, the site administrator has been emailing each blacklisted individual the same faux legal threat.

With the subject “You have been Black Listed!,” the identical emails state that each recipient has been identified as a supporter of BDS and warns that their business relationship with New York State will end—pending new legislation of course.

The text of the email appears below with names omitted:

From: <[email protected]>
Date: Wed, Sep 6, 2017
Subject: [Recipient] – You have been Black Listed as a BDS member!
To: [Recipient email]

[Recipient], Be aware that you have been identified as a BDS promoter.

According to new legislation in New York State, individuals and organizations that engage in or promote BDS activities with US allies will no longer receive public funding or support.

Moreover, the state and its agencies will no longer engage in business or hire these organizations and individuals as they have been deemed problematic and anti-American.

               You have been marked.

               You have been identified.

You have a limited window of opportunity to cease and desist or face the consequences of your actions in legal proceedings. In case you have ceased your past wrong-doing, please contact us at [email protected] for your profile to be removed from the Blacklist.

For your profile, visit us here:

www.outlawbds.com

OutlawBDS team

“You have been marked. You have been identified” each message states, in an end-of-days kind of tone, before offering an unspecified “window of opportunity to cease and desist” or face “legal proceedings.”

But the threats are legally illegitimate, not least because the law cited does not exist, said Radhika Sainath, a staff attorney at Palestine Legal, a Chicago-based legal resource and advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the legal rights of Palestine solidarity activists.

“The sender uses legalese as a scare tactic — but the threat is completely without merit,” Sainath told Mondoweiss. “They’re trying to bully principled New Yorkers advocating for Palestinian rights.”

Likening the tactics to McCarthyism, Moscowitz noted that such threats do indeed have “a chilling effect” even if the law in question has no direct bearing on an individual.

“These kinds of laws make me feel constantly under surveillance,” Moscowitz admitted, “and make me question my ability as a journalist to operate independently.”

About Jesse Rubin

Jesse Rubin is a freelance journalist from New York. Twitter: @JesseJDRubin

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20 Responses

  1. Emory Riddle
    September 7, 2017, 7:53 pm

    Those attacking our right to free speech need to be made to pay. They cannot be allowed to keep coming back without consequence after each defeat until they get their way

    • Mooser
      September 7, 2017, 10:05 pm

      “Those attacking our right to free speech need to be made to pay. They cannot be allowed to keep coming back without consequence after each defeat until they get their way”

      Better call Antifa. They’ll help you out with that.

      • Emory Riddle
        September 8, 2017, 8:57 am

        I was thinking more along the lines of legal consequences for repeatedly pushing this anti free speech legislation. Your response is odd and passive/aggressive.

      • Jackdaw
        September 10, 2017, 2:43 pm

        Jeez. You shine a bright light on BDS and they scream and hiss.
        What are they? Vampires?

      • Annie Robbins
        September 10, 2017, 3:57 pm

        nah, anonymous cowards can’t shine bright lights.

  2. JosephA
    September 7, 2017, 11:41 pm

    It’s rather un-American to attempt to stifle free speech in this manner. They may think they are winning the battle, but the zionists will lose this war.

    • JWalters
      September 10, 2017, 6:44 pm

      Agreed. This is clearly an attempt to threaten people with bodily harm by some crazy fanatic. However, it is completely consistent with Israeli tactics. Who else are they threatening with bodily harm? Could a US Senator be silenced by a threat to their grandchildren? Before we dismiss such a possibility we must consider the cold facts.
      “Terrorism: How the Israeli state was won”
      http://mondoweiss.net/2017/01/terrorism-israeli-state

  3. Annie Robbins
    September 8, 2017, 12:51 am

    meanwhile, bds expands their reach picking up more supporters every single day.

  4. Talkback
    September 8, 2017, 5:39 am

    The ugly face of Zionism.

  5. Elizabeth Block
    September 8, 2017, 9:45 am

    Someday it will be a badge of honour to be on this list.

  6. LHunter
    September 8, 2017, 9:46 am

    Do you think there will every come a day when people will voluntarily submit their names to the likes of canary mission or outlawbds or be offended that they didn’t make the list?

    The scales are tipping

  7. Misterioso
    September 8, 2017, 10:37 am

    Meanwhile, Roger Waters stands tall:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/07/opinion/roger-waters-congress-silencing-advocates.html

    New York Times, Sept. 7/17

    “Roger Waters: Congress Shouldn’t Silence Human Rights Advocates”

    EXCERPTS:
    “Pro-Israel groups have for years attempted to demonize supporters of B.D.S. — trust me, I know. I am currently in the middle of a 63-date tour of the United States and Canada. Audiences of tens of thousands are coming together at our “Us + Them” shows, which embrace love, compassion, cooperation and coexistence and encourage resistance to authoritarianism and proto-fascism. These appearances have been greeted by a few sporadic protests by right-wing supporters of Israel.

    “These protests would be of no consequence, if they did not occasionally have truly negative consequences. For instance, the city of Miami Beach prevented a group of school children from appearing onstage with me after pressure from the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. I understand that city officials have a democratic right to disagree with my opinions, but I was shocked that they were willing to take it out on kids.”

    “Polls show that nearly half of all Americans, and a majority of Democrats, would support sanctions against Israel because of its construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Indeed, more and more churches, student groups, artists, academics and labor organizations are backing the tactics of boycott and divestment as a means to pressure Israel to end its abuses of Palestinians. If passed, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act could put them all, from archbishops to altar boys, artists to artisans, at risk of arrest on felony charges.

    “Those who are attempting to silence me understand the power of art and culture. They know the role artists played in the civil rights struggle in the United States and against apartheid in South Africa. They want to make an example of us to discourage others from speaking out.

    “Instead of working to undermine B.D.S., Congress should defend the First Amendment right of all Americans and stand on the right side of history by supporting equal civil and human rights for all people, irrespective of ethnicity or religion.”

  8. amigo
    September 9, 2017, 1:40 pm

    At last , a good reason to move to New York .

  9. Jim Holstun
    September 10, 2017, 3:49 pm

    It’s such a sad little site–low content level, ungrammatical prose, forever buffering, with typo-ridden accompanying threat letters. I wonder if Yair Netanyahu put it together. Nothing of interest here. One yearns for the hydrophobic brio of David Horowitz, whose stable of haters could at least craft a hitjob.

  10. Citizen
    September 11, 2017, 6:22 am

    Has ACLU filed a lawsuit yet, against the sponsors of all this anti-BDS legislation?

    • Mooser
      September 14, 2017, 5:10 pm

      “The Zionists have so much in common with the altright:”

      It’s all too easy for an allrightnik to end up an alt-rightnik.

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