The Forward has now run two important stories (here and here) on successive days on the covert strategy of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and its right-wing NGO allies both in Israel and the United States, most prominently Canary Mission, to silence, marginalize and ultimately destroy the job and earnings prospects of young Americans on campus who have the temerity to advocate for Palestinian rights.
The attacks on student activists detailed in the articles are nasty, coordinated, and often have their intended effect: persuading students not to speak out, not to attend meetings, not to participate prominently in public debates and non-violent demonstrative events, and not to publicly support or vote in favor of Boycott, Divestment or Sanctions (“BDS”) resolutions publicizing, criticizing, and hoping to discourage Israel’s discriminatory racial policies disadvantaging and oppressing Palestinians. The fear of being “punished” for their advocacy, by being
featured prominently on the anonymous Canary Mission website as a “racist” (how ironic!), and being “blacklisted” and deprived of future job opportunities after college, is in many cases apparently having the desired deterrent effect which is the object of the Israeli strategy.
These covert operations, of course, are coming at a time when Palestinian-rights advocacy is starting to jell, boosted in recent months by the shameful Israeli shootings of unarmed Palestinian protesters at the Gaza Fence and the passage of the Jewish Nation State Basic Law, which enshrined Israeli Apartheid in Israel’s constitutional fabric. As the indomitable Richard Falk recently noted, these events, and a “rapidly expanding global solidarity movement,” exemplified by the ever-widening BDS campaign, provide “promising opportunities for the Palestinian national movement to move its own agenda forward.”
As the racism underlying Jewish oppression of Palestinians becomes increasingly clear, the cognitive dissonance between it and enduring Jewish religious and moral values has become more difficult to bear for some American Jews, particularly our young people on college campuses. Because American Jewish communal support has played such an important role in facilitating the oppression, it is entirely understandable that those supporters and the Israeli Government have focused their covert strategic attacks here. Their willingness to train their “guns” on young American Jewish advocates for Palestinian rights makes an ugly kind of sense, since their criticism of this Jewish racism presents an existential challenge to the ability of Jewish Israelis to maintain their dominance and control over Palestinian lives. The BDS movement that grew to support South African black national solidarity presented a similar, ultimately successful challenge to Afrikaner Apartheid there.
That is why we now see the Jewish State, for the first time in its history, barring Jews from entering, if they too fervently support Palestinian rights, notwithstanding that Israel was designed to be a safe haven where every Jew in the world could come. This is also why we have a significant portion of the American Jewish community willing to turn on its own young. It is because the stakes are so high for Israeli and American Jews and Palestinians that we, and especially our young people on campus, would do well to remember, in the immortal words of Mr. Dooley, that “politics ain’t beanbag.” This struggle is not for the faint of heart. And so those who feel compelled to take part, on campus or elsewhere, need to toughen up.
Having said that, however, I wonder if there is not more we can do – those of us in Jewish Voice for Peace and other parts of this solidarity movement — to help protect our young college advocates – Jews, Christians and Muslims — from the predations of Canary Mission and the like. I just went up on Against Canary Mission (againstcanarymission.org) to submit my profile in solidarity with all those who have been subjected to smear campaigns because of their Palestinian advocacy. There are now more than 2,000 activists profiled on the Canary Mission website. It would be great to have 10,000 or more profiles on Against Canary Mission.
More important, though, are the efforts we might make to mitigate the negative effects of these attacks on our young people. We should lobby our colleges and universities to provide additional job counseling assistance for any students or alumni smeared on sites such as Canary Mission. Campus Hillel’s, where are you, especially with respect to the Jewish victims of these attacks on your campus? Aren’t you there to help all of your Jewish kids? Or is there a political litmus test a Jewish student must meet to merit your succor?
Perhaps Jewish Voice for Peace and other advocacy organizations could sponsor an effort – either alone or together, with some dedicated staff and funding, to proffer such assistance to those who are blacklisted, especially if they find their educational, job or career prospects diminished or threatened. Those of us who have professional practices or own businesses might volunteer to help. We all need to think creatively to find the means to succor those in our communities who are courageous enough to speak out, protest and organize for Palestinian justice despite these attacks. And by “we,” I mean the broad Palestinian rights community, because those targeted include Christians, Muslims and others as well as Jews.
We also might make a greater effort to identify those behind the shadowy organizations perpetrating these attacks. To the extent that they are agents of a foreign government operating in the United States without registering under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (“FARA”), let’s refer them to the United States Justice Department for investigation and prosecution. Now that the Department is starting to take foreign interference in our politics more seriously in light of the Russian effort to subvert the 2016 election, let’s point out the hypocrisy of permitting Israeli agents to do the same without complying with FARA. Let the lawyers among us think of other creative ways to fight back against this intimidation of our young advocates.