Since 2015, Canary Mission has launched a campaign to blacklist students and faculty engaged in work to highlight and put an end to human rights abuses carried out during the 60+ year illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine.
Or, as they put it, “The Canary Mission database was created to document the people and groups that are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on college campuses in North America.”
Canary Mission conflates criticism of Israel’s policies and treatment of Palestinians living within Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza — anti-Zionism — with anti-Semitism. Their accusations attempt to suppress the voices of students at best, or equate them with terrorism at worst.
By equating disapproval of U.S. foreign policy — in its only slightly unwavering support of Israel, apartheid laws, and colonial-settlement expansion — with terrorism, Canary Mission is undermining the rights of the mostly American students and faculty listed on their site to protest harmful policies –- fundamental U.S. liberties.
In documenting the identities of these activists, Canary Mission is perpetuating tactics regularly used by the Israeli Defense forces — the hyper-militarization of surveillance culture, and monitoring of mobility. The expansion of these tactics on to U.S. college campuses with the intention of maintaining the myth of legitimacy of Israel’s illegal and suffocating practices by harassing and intimidating young academics and professionals, to the extent that the organization routinely contacts future employers, current employers, and graduate institutions to intimidate, blackmail, and threaten future prospects, is unlike any barrier millennials entering the workforce have ever faced.
Students, standing for justice in Palestine — whether through the group Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voices for Peace, the Olive Tree Initiative, and others — are participating in the fundamental college experience of relearning histories, and grounding themselves and their future selves in inclusive and intersectional activism. Yet these same students are disproportionately targeted, and even labeled terrorists by Israeli and US political elite, and other organizations and persons uncritical of the countless human rights violations and breaches of international law conducted by the immaculate state of Israel.
Canary Mission’s tactics are not new. They are not unique. As a student activist pre-dating the launch of Canary Mission, I was routinely targeted by members of “students for Israel” organizations at my undergraduate institution -– to the extent where, on multiple occasions, I would be walking across campus by myself, only to have a white man step directly in front of me, blocking my path while unfurling a full-sized Israeli flag at me, and accosting me with profanities.
In Israel, this resulted in hyper harassment that started with my delegation waiting for over seven hours for me to make it through security, and neatly ended on my third trip with an early morning strip search behind a shower curtain at a desert check-point manned primarily by male soldiers.
Of course, this further degenerated into regular cyber bullying, which got worst when I began regularly traveling to Palestine and Israel to lead groups of students to the region to see the realities on the ground for themselves.
My undergraduate institution had an outstanding community engagement branch that followed the highly respected model of Break Away, which allowed student leaders to design and lead a diverse group of students to various parts of the world during spring, winter or summer breaks, to immerse themselves within a topic. Of course, in Israel, this resulted in hyper harassment that started with my delegation waiting for over seven hours for me to make it through security, and neatly ended on my third trip with an early morning strip search behind a shower curtain at a desert check-point manned primarily by male soldiers.
In any other situation, this form of student leadership and resourcefulness would have been highlighted as an incredible success – and whilst the university did so – many of my peers used the program as a means of further harassing members of the trip, activist circles, and myself.
This duality, perpetuated by supporters of Canary Mission and other unbalanced organizations uniformly unable to understand the grievances of Palestinians, or non-Palestinian allies, perpetuates a dangerous myth and irresponsible constrictions on the goals of the young, educated and active. It perpetuates Islamophobia. It appropriates service and critical humanistic thinking as something to be reserved only for the “correct populations.” Human suffering devolves into something that some are worthy of, and others are not. Palestinians are in the latter camp.
While Canary Mission’s tactics are worth mentioning, the truth is that they have made little to no impact on the future prospects of the young people and faculty they are targeting. In fact, we have seen employers fight back against their tactics.
This week, one thousand faculty signatories, representing a broad range of expertise, opinion and university affiliation, united in opposition of the Canary Mission tactics.
“Although, as individual faculty, we hold a range of viewpoints on Israel-Palestine, we recognize that student advocacy for Palestinian human rights is not inherently anti-Semitic, and that such advocacy represents a cherished and protected form of free speech that is welcome on college campuses. We reject the McCarthyist tactics used by Canary Mission. Canary Mission’s aim is to damage these students’ futures, and to punish them for their principled human rights activism.”
Signatories include Richard Falk, Robin D.G. Kelley, Marc Lamont Hill, Jasbir Puar, Moustafa Bayoumi, Sarah Schulman and Steven Salaita. If you are a faculty member, and would like to contribute your name to the signatory list, sign here.
It appropriates service and critical humanistic thinking as something to be reserved only for the “correct populations.” Human suffering devolves into something that some are worthy of, and others are not.
This news comes in the same week that California Governor, Jerry Brown, signed AB 2844 into state law. The anti-BDS Bill is the 13th State Law in the U.S. which targets society’s growing call for Israel to comply with international law through the tactic of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestments.