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Educators need to denounce the smear tactics of Canary Mission

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As the movement for Palestinian rights has grown and broadened worldwide, so too have efforts in the U.S. to silence any criticism of Israeli policies; the anonymously staffed and funded Canary Mission website is one of the most disturbing examples of such censoring efforts.

Dedicated to harassing those critical of Israeli policies towards Palestinians, the website attacks many professors and many more students for writing, speaking, blogging, or tweeting about Palestinian rights. The numbers of the named (and pictured) have increased exponentially since the site emerged in 2015, rising from an initial group of 54 to more than 370 professors from around the country and more than 1400 students and recent graduates. The latter, presented under the rubric of “individuals,” are the most vulnerable targets of the site, which openly aims to harm young activists’ chances of future employment. Soon after the site went live, the curators posted a YouTube video addressed directly to those who might hire students. It ends by proclaiming that “it is your duty to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.”

Canary Mission operates through cyberbullying, defaming students without giving them any opportunity to explain or defend their views. Normally, this kind of bullying would be promptly addressed and condemned, especially at a time when its harmful effects are taken seriously by journalists, educators, and government officials. Yet university administrators and Congressional representatives have been slow to defend the targets of Canary Mission’s cyber-blacklisting and of other tactics of defamation by similar (and similarly funded) groups.

At six University of California campuses including UC Davis where we teach, students advocating Palestinian rights in 2016 found their names and photos on posters falsely accusing them of terrorism. The posters were part of a multi-million dollar campaign to combat criticism of Israel led by Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson.

Screenshot of the Canary Mission homepage

There are many egregious misrepresentations of fact on the Canary Mission site, as we can testify both because we know some of the 19 Davis students currently named and because one of us was recently added to the site after she wrote about resigning from the Modern Language Association, which passed a resolution censoring all future institutional debate of the call from Palestinian civil society groups for “boycott, divestment, and sanctions” against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. The falsehood repeated most often on the Canary Mission site is that all individual and organizational supporters of BDS are racist anti-Semites. The site’s first words purport falsely  to divulge a truth: “If you’re racist, the world should know.”

Israel’s Interior Ministry is also now actively and publicly engaged in attacking U.S. students, faculty, and others who support the campaign for BDS in whatever ways come to hand. Those Israelis who take a position against their government are finding themselves increasingly under threat, as we discovered on our own recent visit to Israel-Palestine. Israel’s Finance Ministry is reportedly working to deny tax deductions to citizens who donate to Amnesty International, an organization that has called for boycotting goods made in West Bank settlements. Non-Israeli Jews living elsewhere who dare to oppose the illegal occupation and settlement of Palestinian lands and the discriminatory policies Israel applies to its own Palestinian citizens also find themselves more than ever under fire. So it is no surprise to see, at the lower end of the food chain (which indeed gets ever lower), the sorts of activities pursued by Canary Mission’s curators and others who share their views. They are just doing their bit for a vigorous propaganda machine that successfully pushed all ten University of California Chancellors into signing a letter “encouraging” their Anthropology faculty not to support an American Anthropological Association resolution in support of BDS; the letter already lives in infamy, as well it should, and faculty have protested against its threat to academic freedom.

Canary Mission is one of a range of operations seeking to demonize anyone critical of the state of Israel’s current and past policies toward Palestinians. But what is distinctive, and distinctively ugly, about Canary Mission is its strategy of picking on students, all listed alphabetically on the main website page by their full names and with their pictures; if you search by university, you find students’ majors or doctoral programs along with their Facebook pages and twitter handles. Many students, but by no means all, have Arabic names, and Canary Mission’s social media strategy often utilizes anti-Muslim and anti-Arab language.

Though this intimidation impacts professors and their careers, the profiling is clearly worse for students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college. These are members of the coming generation, those seeking to carry forward the traditions of free speech and the value of critical debate that professors hold so dear. Most of these students do not yet have jobs, and if Canary Mission gets its way, they will never be employed.

Within the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Israel operates a policy of “administrative detention” that allows it to imprison without charges, for six months, anyone deemed to be a security threat. These charges can be renewed indefinitely, and they often are. They are widely used against Palestinian student council leaders, most of whom have not committed any crime, because the charges provide a way to intimidate anyone in the younger generation who might be imagining a career in civil service or community organizing. They are an attempt to inhibit the flourishing of an educated and engaged civil society.  Canary Mission is engaged in a similar task here in the U.S.

Responsible educators must speak out against the smear tactics of Canary Mission.  Teachers like us have a particular responsibility to protect students who support Palestinian human rights from being denounced on a website that allows them no opportunity to engage in reasonable debate.

 

 

About Margaret Ferguson

Margaret Ferguson is a Distinguished Professor of English (Emerita) from the University of California at Davis.

Other posts by .


About David Simpson

David Simpson is Distinguished Professor of English and G. B. Needham Chair at the University of California, Davis.

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22 Responses

  1. Liz
    Liz
    February 25, 2018, 1:47 pm

    While it’s true that all educators should speak out on behalf of their students, it’s troubling here to read about students and their educators pitted against each other from within the field of education: “Though this intimidation impacts professors and their careers, the profiling is clearly worse for students, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college.” This kind of language risks setting up a binary between teachers and students, and is a divide and conquer tactic. Of course I stand up for my students, and yet I work in a school where administrators don’t stand up for teachers. Setting up this binary is not helpful. While certainly all educators should speak up, many (myself included as I use a pseudonym for protection) are in precarious positions in the workplace. Perhaps the larger, structural issue isn’t the professors, but the corporatizing and silencing occurring in educational institutions, many of which have become totalitarian models of seeming progressivism.

  2. US Citizen
    US Citizen
    February 25, 2018, 4:55 pm

    Every person who operates the Canary Mission website and those in their organization should be sued for defamation of character and their names made public on a website dedicated to those who try to smear and defame people who stand up for Human Rights and the Palestinians. if you’re a racist the world should know it.

    The Anti – Canary Mission website documents people and groups that promote hatred of the Palestinians and Islamaphobia on North American college campuses. The Anti – Canary Mission investigates hatred across the entire political spectrum, including the far right, far left and anti-Palestinian and jewish activists.

    Every individual and organization has been carefully researched and sourced. If you appreciate the work of The Anti – Canary Mission, please help us continue to expose hatred by alerting us to any racist zionist activity and/or the suppression of free speech in support of Human Rights of the Palestinians on your college campus, or by donating.

  3. Keith
    Keith
    February 25, 2018, 5:59 pm

    “Soon after the site went live, the curators posted a YouTube video addressed directly to those who might hire students. It ends by proclaiming that “it is your duty to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.”

    It is pretty easy to see which country has significant negative impact on American society and it ain’t Russia! This is power, coercive and abusive power by those with fundamentalist loyalty to Zionism and Israel.

    • JWalters
      JWalters
      February 28, 2018, 1:06 am

      Yup. And the economic tentacles of control reach out to threaten people economically. “We own your country.”

  4. ritzl
    ritzl
    February 26, 2018, 2:13 am

    If I still had my business, I would go to Canary Mission to find qualified people to hire. Anyone they list has profound courage, and that courage can only translate into enterprise and/or loyalty.

    A Canary Mission “listing” is a positive, not a negative, unless you subscribe to the belief that supporters of Israel rule the world.

  5. WebSkipper
    WebSkipper
    February 26, 2018, 8:44 am

    Has anyone ever learned who’s behind Canary Mission? Or even anyone associated with it? I’ve HEARD that Daniel Pipes had something to do with starting it, but I don’t know that for a fact. It’s definitely believable though.

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      February 27, 2018, 5:22 am

      RE: “Has anyone ever learned who’s behind Canary Mission?” ~ WebSkipper

      LEAD-IN: sound of a person very noisily sniffing (i.e., drawing in air audibly through the nose to detect a smell, to stop it from running, or to express contempt)

      REPLY: Canary Mission smells a hell of a lot like the old “S.H.I.T. list” to me. Rumor had it that it was the work of the JDL (Jewish Defense League) .

      FROM ‘MASADA 2000’ (HOME OF THE INFAMOUS “Jewish S.H.I.T. List”):

      THE COSTANZA PEACE INITIATIVE
      (EXCERPTS) . . . How did this well-meaning Hollywood celebrity, albeit no-nothing Jew, suddenly end up in Ramallah, a cesspool more renown for disemboweling Jews? It appears that George heard a voice, just one voice and it came from OneVoice.

      OneVoice is the creation of the PeaceWorks Foundation. According to its own description, “PeaceWorks fosters coexistence through business. We unite peoples traditionally on the opposite sides of conflict via a shared goal. The Result? An exciting range of all-natural, gourmet foods AND a shared vision of the future.” And OneVoice wants to be a vehicle to that end through empowering the moderate majority of Palestinians and Israelis to come up with a viable and acceptable mandate for co-existence (while munching on Chanterelle Fricassee, perhaps?). But surely good food among so-called “moderates” cannot a durable peace treaty make.

      The real driving forces behind the OneVoice Initiative are David Leffler and the Vedic Maharishi scholar, Mahesh Yogi! David Leffler is the executive director of OneVoice-Israel . . .

      . . . This brings us right back to Jason Alexander / George Costanza and the “bee” that got under HIS “bonnet.” Has this little Jew boy become somewhat of a crypto-Zen Buddhist? Does he really think a primitive, barbaric Arab “Palestinian” culture that encourages, perpetrates and relishes the murder of Jewish children will jump at the chance to shoot the s**t with some fat little Hollywood Jew? Is he nuts! They’ll correctly size him up as yet another naive, self-indulging, egotistical “Progressive” Jew feasting on his own self-importance. In any case, we at Masada2000.org prefer the fat little George Costanza who at least recognizes his own limitations!

      ORIGINAL SOURCE (This site can no longer be reached | http://www.masada2000.org’s server IP address can no longer be found) – http://www.masada2000.org/Costanza-Peace-Initiative.html

      WAYBACK MACHINE ( Saved 26 times between May 15, 2007 and November 30, 2013 ) —
      https://web.archive.org/web/20131130025747/http://www.masada2000.org/Costanza-Peace-Initiative.html

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        February 27, 2018, 5:34 am

        P.S. FROM MASADA 2000’s JEWISH S.H.I.T. LIST (Self-Hating and/or Israel-Threatening):

        ■ Goodman, Amy
        Pro-Palestinian writer and host on Pacifica Radio and one of many leftist radical Jews who populate the airwaves on Radio Pacifica. The media watchdog group CAMERA condemned her Pacifica Radio for “repeatedly providing a forum for racists, anti-Semites and other critics of Israel.” She is also a ubiquitous speaker at anti-U.S. and anti-Israel rallies.

        Goodman, as she never tires telling audiences all over the country, is “a Jewish American, the granddaughter of an Orthodox rabbi and the great-granddaughter of a Chassidic rabbi.” She also happens to be a promoter of anti-Semites and anti-Zionists of nearly every stripe. For example, Goodman hosted lawyer Lynne Stewart on Democracy Now the day after Stewart’s conviction on charges of assisting the efforts of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman (the blind sheikh who plotted to take down the World Trade Center in 1993). No surprise there: Goodman was the featured speaker at an April 2003 fund-raising event for Stewart’s legal defense. Yes, this granddaughter of an Orthodox rabbi and great-granddaughter of a Chassidic rabbi did all she could to help a woman convicted of helping a terrorist whose life is dedicated to, among other goals, the destruction of America, Israel and all Jews!

        SOURCE (This site can no longer be reached.) – http://www.masada2000.org/list-G.html
        APPARENTLY NOT ARCHIVED @ WAYBACK MACHINE

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        February 27, 2018, 6:19 am

        P.P.S. ALSO SEE:
        “Who is Behind Canary Mission Website Targeting Pro-BDS Activists?” | By Josh Nathan-Kazis | Forward.com | September 7, 2015

        [EXCERPT] A shadowy website that posts dossiers on pro-Palestinian student activists has grown rapidly in recent months, while continuing to zealously guard the identity of its own staff and backers.

        Since a Forward report drew international attention to the Canary Mission this past May, the number of students and other pro-Palestinian activists on whom it has posted lengthy dossiers had jumped to 140 from slightly less than 50. The site includes photographs, and encourages employers to shun the students profiled on its pages.

        The identity of the activists behind the site is still unknown. In recent days, however, the Forward has gathered some clues about their connections…

        Read more: https://forward.com/news/national/320473/who-is-behind-canary-mission-website-targeting-bds-activists/

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        February 27, 2018, 6:42 am

        P.P.P.S. ALSO SEE:
        “Israeli Foreign Ministry director slams government’s clandestine anti-BDS arm” | By Noa Landau | Haaretz.com | Feb 26, 2018 | 6:05 PM
        • The clash at the Knesset Transparency Committee highlighted infighting between the foreign and strategic affairs ministries.

        [EXCERT] The director general of the Foreign Ministry, Yuval Rotem, escalated its spat with the Strategic Affairs Ministry on Monday, accusing it of operating in the dark.

        Rotem charged that the staff of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, which is headed at the cabinet level by Likud Knesset member Gilad Erdan, insist on joining overseas delegations and then hide what they’re doing. The spat began with the Strategic Affairs Ministry complaining to the Knesset’s Transparency Committee that in fact the Foreign Ministry was uncooperative.

        “The people at the Strategic Affairs Ministry join Foreign Ministry delegations, then when they get there, they disappear. They don’t report on their actions, they hide the content of their actions and it’s impossible to know what they did and where they went,” Rotem told the Transparency Committee.

        Incensed at the allegations, the Strategic Affairs Ministry called the allegations strange: “We know nothing about ministry people joining Foreign Ministry delegations and certainly about them disappearing. We thank the director general of the Foreign Ministry for his concern and can report that the ministry people are present and working zealously against the boycott and legitimization movements [BDS], according to the mandate given them by government.” . . .

        SOURCE (paywall) – https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-foreign-ministry-chief-slams-government-s-clandestine-anti-bds-arm-1.5849993

        P.S. PHOTO ~ Strategic Affairs Minister Erdan, left, at the Knesset with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

      • JLewisDickerson
        JLewisDickerson
        May 4, 2018, 3:56 am

        P.P.P.S. ALSO SEE:
        “Exposed: Pro-Israel Modern Day McCarthyites Going to Extremes to Slime Human Rights Activists”
        By Max Blumenthal, Julia Carmel | AlterNet | Sept. 30, 2015
        · As pro-Israel extremism reaches new depths with the notorious Canary Mission project, the FBI investigates growing threats against BDS activists.
        LINK ➤ https://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/modern-day-mccarthyists-are-going-extremes-slime-activists-fighting-israels

  6. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    February 26, 2018, 9:37 am

    “Has anyone ever learned who’s behind Canary Mission? Or even anyone associated with it?”
    Cowards hiding behind anonymity. They don`t have the courage to identify themelves for fear of being challenged to explain and justify their smears. Plus they would be sued for straightforward defamation of character. Typical sewer bred Ziorats.

  7. Sisyphus
    Sisyphus
    February 26, 2018, 2:09 pm

    It seems to be a bit absurd that websites can operate anonymously; this only encourages bullying behaviour.

    Is there not oversight of hate or defaming web-sites on Google that I can alert or register a complaint? Has anyone tried to reach Google for example?

    Am I revealing myself to be naive when expecting Google to be more transparent about such issues. A couple of years ago the so called “Shit List” was removed. The Canary Mission seems to be that same sort of stuff

  8. JLewisDickerson
    JLewisDickerson
    February 26, 2018, 5:16 pm

    RE: “At six University of California campuses including UC Davis where we teach, students advocating Palestinian rights in 2016 found their names and photos on posters falsely accusing them of terrorism. The posters were part of a multi-million dollar campaign to combat criticism of Israel led by Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson.” ~ Margaret Ferguson and David Simpson

    MY COMMENT: I suspect the involvement of Canary Mission is what caused Haim Saban to distance himself from Adelson’s campaign to combat criticism of (and BDS against) Israel.

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      February 27, 2018, 3:46 am

      P.S. SEE:
      Haim Saban Leaves Pro-Israel Coalition Over Sheldon Adelson’s Right-Wing Push
      Sep 30, 2015 – Democrat Haim Saban and Republican Sheldon Adelson put politics aside to back a megabucks push against BDS on campus. Three months later, the bipartisan front has collapsed amid charges Adelson only wanted to fund far right-wing projects.
      LINK ➤ https://forward.com/news/israel/321793/haim-saban-dumps-pro-israel-coalition-over-sheldon-adelsons-far-right-wing/

    • JLewisDickerson
      JLewisDickerson
      February 27, 2018, 4:15 am

      P.P.S. ALSO SEE:
      Twitter Suspends Account Of Site That Blacklists Israel Critics
      February 26, 2018 | By Josh Nathan-Kazis

      Twitter has suspended the account of Canary Mission, the shadowy group that publishes an online blacklist of pro-Palestinian student activists.

      Founded in 2015, the site says that it aims to prevent pro-Palestinian students from finding work after college. It hides the identities of its own staff and funders.

      Canary Mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the suspension. Twitter did not immediately say why it suspended the account, though common reasons include abusive tweets or other violations of Twitter’s terms of service.

      Jewish academics have accused Canary Mission of “McCarthyite” tactics, and pro-Palestinian advocates have called it an online bullying campaign. But last year, a mainstream Jewish organization, the Israel on Campus Coalition, endorsed the group.

      Canary Mission’s website includes dossiers on 300 professors and another 1400 people, many of them undergraduates.

      SOURCE – https://forward.com/fast-forward/395277/twitter-suspends-account-of-site-that-blacklists-israel-critics/

  9. JustJessetr
    JustJessetr
    February 26, 2018, 10:03 pm

    Nothing will ever happen to the students or the professors because of Canary Mission. I guarantee it.

    • Mooser
      Mooser
      February 27, 2018, 1:28 pm

      “Nothing will ever happen to the students or the professors because of Canary Mission. I guarantee it.” “JustJessetr”

      Because the “Canary Mission” is first and foremost a fundraising fraud, and secondly some kind of boost to the egos of those involved?

    • annie
      annie
      February 27, 2018, 2:05 pm

      even if you’re right justjessetr, and i don’t think you are, it’s beside the point. read Noa Kattler Kupetz’s article and how it made her feel. this should not happen you young people.

      Read more: https://forward.com/scribe/393278/i-was-publicly-blacklisted-by-a-shadowy-website-for-my-views-on-israel/

      oh, and i assume everyone has heard twitter suspended canary mission. sorry if someone already posted that!

  10. February 27, 2018, 1:21 pm

    soon people will be offering their names and what they said, did and supported to Canary Mission demanding that they be put on their SHIT list – can you imagine if millions did so and all at once?

    the most telling thing about the vile site is the anonymity of it’s owners/organizers/founders – cowards who cant face the music – be a nice target for activists / hacktivists of Anonymous – here is what they have said about Israel/Zionism/USA – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evnfhGJlPm0

  11. rhkroell
    rhkroell
    February 27, 2018, 6:52 pm

    This website seems to target college professors and young college students, particularly current students and recent graduates, which is to say: people vulnerable to being denied employment because of their criticism of Israel (and especially because of their support for the BDS movement). I have viewed the website and find it very interesting who is named/picture on this website and — more importantly — who is NOT named/pictured on this website. They seem to be pretty selective.

  12. Citizen
    Citizen
    March 3, 2018, 3:00 am

    Twitter reinstates group that tracks campus anti-Semitism after ‘barrage of complaints’ http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/42446/ via @collegefix

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