Bor­der­line Tac­tics The Trou­bling Spread o Ca­nary Mis­sion

Forward Magazine - - FOREGROUND - By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Last De­cem­ber, An­drew Kadi flew to Is­rael to visit his mother. As he walked through Ben Gu­rion Air­port, of­fi­cials pulled him aside and said that the se­cu­rity ser­vices wanted to speak with him.

Kadi is among the lead­ers of a ma­jor pro-Pales­tinian ad­vo­cacy group, and bor­der au­thor­i­ties al­ways ques­tion him when he trav­els to Is­rael to see his fam­ily. This time, how­ever, some­thing was dier­ent.

Dur­ing his sec­ond of what ended up be­ing three in­ter­ro­ga­tions, span­ning more than eight hours, Kadi re­al­ized that much of what the in­ter­roga­tor knew about him had come from Ca­nary Mis­sion, an anony­mously run on­line black­list that tries to frighten pro-Pales­tinian stu­dents and ac­tivists into si­lence by post­ing dossiers on their pol­i­tics and per­sonal lives.

Kadi’s in­ter­roga­tor asked ques­tion af­ter ques­tion about or­ga­ni­za­tions listed on his Ca­nary Mis­sion pro­file. A pro-Pales­tinian or­ga­ni­za­tion that Kadi had been in­volved with but wasn’t listed on his Ca­nary Mis­sion pro­file went un­men­tioned. Hours later, a third in­ter­roga­tor con­firmed what Kadi had sus­pected: They were look­ing at his Ca­nary Mis­sion pro­file.

Ca­nary Mis­sion has said since it went live in †‡ˆ‰ that it seeks to keep pro-Pales­tinian stu­dent ac­tivists from get­ting work af­ter col­lege. Yet in re­cent months, the threat it poses to col­lege stu­dents and other ac­tivists has grown far more se­vere.

The site, which is ap­plauded by some pro-Is­rael ad­vo­cates for ha­rass­ing hard­core ac­tivists, is now be­ing used as an in­tel­li­gence source on thou­sands of stu­dents and aca­demics by Is­raeli o‹cials with im­mense power over peo­ple’s lives.

Ru­mors of the bor­der con­trol o‹cers’ use of the dossiers is keep­ing both Jewish and Pales­tinian ac­tivists from vis­it­ing rel­a­tives in Is­rael and the West Bank, and pro-Pales­tinian stu­dents say they are hes­i­tant to ex­press their views for fear of be­ing un­able to travel to see fam­ily.

Mean­while, back on cam­pus, proIs­rael stu­dents are fac­ing sus­pi­cion of col­lud­ing with Ca­nary Mis­sion. The stu­dents, and not the op­er­a­tives and donors who run Ca­nary Mis­sion from be­hind a veil of anonymity, are tak­ing the blame for the site’s work.

The Dossiers

Ca­nary Mis­sion’s pro iles, of which there are now more than †,‡‡‡, can run for thou­sands of words. They con­sist of in­for­ma­tion about the ac­tivist, in­clud­ing pho­to­graphs and screen­shots, cob­bled to­gether from the in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia, along with de­scrip­tions of the groups with which they are a‹li­ated.

The phrase “If you’re a racist, the world should know,” ap­pears on the top of each page on the site.

In ad­di­tion to the thou­sands of pro­files of pro-Pales­tinian stu­dents and pro­fes­sors, Ca­nary Mis­sion has added

a smat­ter­ing of pro­files of prom­i­nent white su­prem­a­cists, in­clud­ing mem­bers of Iden­tity Evropa and a hand­ful of oth­ers.

The site’s pro­files ap­pear to be based en­tirely on open source in­tel­li­gence that could be gath­ered by any­one with a com­puter. But the re­searchers are thor­ough, and some of what they post is ex­cep­tion­ally per­sonal. Ca­nary Mis­sion’s pro­file of Es­ther Tszayg, a ju­nior at Stan­ford Univer­sity whose pro­file went on­line in May, in­cludes two pho­to­graphs of her as a young child and one taken for a cam­pus fash­ion mag­a­zine.

“It feels pretty aw­ful and I re­ally wish I wasn’t on that web­site,” said Tszayg, the pres­i­dent of Stan­ford’s chap­ter of Jewish Voice for Peace, a pro-Pales­tinian group.

Ca­nary Mis­sion’s pro­file of Rose Asaf, a leader of the lo­cal chap­ter of JVP at New York Univer­sity, in­cludes nearly ŒŽ pho­to­graphs of her and screen­shots of her so­cial me­dia ac­tiv­i­ties. It went on­line in Novem­ber ‘Ž ’, when she was a col­lege ju­nior.

Liz Jack­son, a sta” at­tor­ney at the le­gal ad­vo­cacy group Pales­tine Le­gal, said that she was aware of one case in which Ca­nary Mis­sion posted old pho­to­graphs a stu­dent had deleted a year be­fore. The stu­dent be­lieves that Ca­nary Mis­sion had been track­ing her for over a year be­fore it posted her pro­file.

Some of what Ca­nary Mis­sion cap­tures is gen­uinely trou­bling, in­clud­ing anti-Semitic so­cial me­dia posts by col­lege stu­dents. But of­ten, the eye-catch­ing charges it makes against its sub­jects don’t quite add up. A pro­file of a NYU fresh­man named Ari Ka­plan charges him with “de­mo­niz­ing Is­rael at a Jewish event.” In fact, he had stood up at a Hillel din­ner to make an an­nounce­ment that was crit­i­cal of Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion to move the U.S. Em­bassy to Jerusalem.

“It’s re­ally weird when they’re try­ing to have some­one who looks like me [as] the face of anti-Semitism,” Ka­plan said, jok­ing that he looks stereo­typ­i­cally Jewish.

The Bor­der

It’s these pro iles that Is­raeli bor­der con­trol ošcers were look­ing at when they in­ter­ro­gated Kadi, who is in his Žs and is a mem­ber of the steer­ing com­mit­tee of the U.S. Cam­paign for Pales­tinian Rights. Kadi is a U.S. ci­ti­zen, but his mother and her fam­ily are Pales­tinian cit­i­zens of Is­rael.

Kadi’s case is not unique. In April, be­fore de­port­ing the Columbia Law School pro­fes­sor Kather­ine Franke and telling her she would be banned from the coun­try per­ma­nently, an Is­raeli bor­der con­trol ošcer showed her some­thing on his phone that she says she is “œŽ% sure” was her Ca­nary Mis­sion pro­file.

The ošcer, Franke said, had ac­cused her of trav­el­ing to Is­rael to “pro­mote BDS.” When she said that wasn’t true, the ošcer ac­cused her of ly­ing, say­ing she was a “leader” of JVP. He held up the screen of his phone, which ap­peared to show her Ca­nary Mis­sion pro­file, and told her, “See, I know you’re ly­ing.”

Franke, who had pre­vi­ously sat on JVP’s aca­demic ad­vi­sory coun­cil steer­ing com­mit­tee but at that time had no for­mal role with the group, told the ošcer she was not on JVP’s sta”. The ošcer de­ported her any­way.

“Ca­nary Mis­sion in­for­ma­tion is of­ten nei­ther re­li­able, nor com­plete, nor up to date,” said Is­raeli hu­man rights at­tor­ney Emily Schae”er Omer-Man, who rep­re­sents ac­tivists and hu­man

NIKKI CASEY

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