Middle East studies in the News
Anti-Israel Blacklisters Complain They Are Unfairly Being Blacklisted [incl. Steven Salaita, David Palumbo-Liu, Robin D.G. Kelley]
A war has been declared on Israel on campus by faculty and students supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
The rallying cry is to blacklist those acting on behalf of Israeli academic institutions or participating in "normalization" events, such as musical and cultural events.
On the faculty academic front, we have seen groups such as the American Studies Association and some smaller groups blacklist Israeli academics representing their institutions, as part of a formal academic boycott. That boycott has been declared by the American Association of University Professors to be a violation of academic freedom.
There also are many reports from Israeli academics of a silent boycott, in which individual U.S. professors refuse to interact with individual Israeli scholars and students, resulting in denied access to journals for publication and peer reviews. The claim by many pro-BDS faculty members that BDS does not target individuals is an outright lie.
On the student front, groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and its "allies" regularly and systematically engage in physical confrontation and intimidation.
The Israeli Studies department at UT-Austin was targeted by the UT Palestine Solidarity Committee and its leader law student Mohammed Nabulsi in a carefully orchestrated disruption in which PSC students shouted "Long Live the Intifada" at the Israelis in attendance. A smear campaign and highly edited video was used to falsely smear UT Prof. Ami Pedazur, who eventually was cleared of any wrongdoing by the university.
Such disruptions take place frequently, so much so that some Israeli or pro-Israel speakers shy away from appearing on campuses with active SJP chapters.
The NY Times reported a few days ago on the aggressive tactics of SJP at Tufts University in Medford, MA, where almost any and every Israel-related event is disrupted:
Whenever Friends of Israel or Hillel staged a lecture or event, it seemed, S.J.P. was there. There had been die-ins (students had to step over bodies on red cloths signifying blood) and checkpoints (mock Israeli soldiers conducted security checks around campus). Friends of Israel had already requested campus security at programs, but after the food festival they filed a complaint with Tufts's judicial affairs office.
"It's bullying masquerading as social justice," Anna Linton, co-president of the club, told me.
The intimidation is backed by a well-financed legal team at Palestine Legal, which acts as the legal shock troops ready to accuse critics of this intimidation of violating free speech rights. It's not freedom of speech they seek, but freedom from criticism.
The student BDS activists are supplemented by outside groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink, and the U.S. Campaign to End The Occupation, which visit campuses to provide logistical support, speakers, and strategy.
BDS declared war on campus. Much of it is the equivalent of trench warfare, very personal and up close.
Along came a group calling itself The Canary Mission, whose goal was to document the intimidation particularly on campuses. It describes its mission on its homepage as follows:
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.
Every individual and organization has been carefully researched and sourced. If you appreciate the work of the Canary Mission, please help us continue to expose hatred by alerting us to anti-Semitic activity on your college campus, or donating.
Canary Mission acts as an aggregator of publicly available information, often from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, much if not most of it posted by students and faculty themselves. It also engages in criticism and characterization of the conduct. From its About page:
The Canary Mission database was created in order to document people and groups that are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and the Jewish people, particularly on college campuses in North America.
Canary Mission is run by students and concerned citizens motivated by a desire to combat the rise in anti-Semitism on college campuses. The purpose of the website is to expose those who promote lies and attacks on Israel and the Jewish people. We pursue our mission by presenting the actions and records of individuals and organizations at the vanguard of the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. By shining a light on hate group members and their activities, the public will become better informed about those involved in hate movements in their communities.
Canary Mission believes that we all have the right to know if an individual has been affiliated with movements that seek the destruction of Israel, routinely engage in anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions, and promote hatred of Jews.
Canary Mission provides freely available material gathered from publicly available sources. We have organized this information in a concise and easily searchable format for the easy access of the general public and anyone interested in tracking hate movements on college campuses.
Canary Mission has an Ethics Policy:
1. All Individual and Organizational profile subjects have shown themselves to be either one or more of the following:
a. Anti-Semitic according to the U.S. State Department's Definition
b. Supporters of terrorism, terrorists or terrorist organizations e.g. Hamas, PFLP, Hezbollah, Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Al Qaeda
c. Violating the personal safety of Jews or supporters of Israel
d. Disrupting Jewish or pro-Israel speakers or events
e. Inciting violence or hatred towards Jews, Israel or supporters of Israel
f. Using language or speech that demonizes Jews, Israel or supporters of Israel
g. Promoting BDS in any of its forms, including:
– BDS against the State of Israel, Israeli products or Israeli companies
– BDS against individuals, companies or institutions that trade with or have a working relationship with Israeli companies or institutions
– The academic or cultural boycott of Israel
h. Part of, or supporting of, events or organizations that violate the above points a-g
2. All information written on Individual and Organizational profiles is aggregated from open sources on the internet i.e. tweets, posts, articles etc.
Canary Mission frequently tweets information about the people it has researched.
The people behind Canary Mission are not known. Anti-Israel fanatic Max Blumenthal published research claiming the people behind Canary Mission are in Israel. Ironically, Blumenthal and his cohorts regularly engage in naming and shaming tactics of pro-Israel advocates, including in the same publication where Blumenthal published his Canary Mission research.
Canary Mission has been controversial from the start, with claims it was creating a blacklist. I've yet to see a claim that Canary Mission published false information; rather, the objection is that students may have their careers damaged if prospective employers found out about the outrageous conduct and rhetoric they have engaged in.
That's an interesting concept, that aggregating public information about things students actually said or did somehow is an unethical blacklist. Others may call it accountability — certainly we see it played out on the left all the time, where some contribution or statement is dug out from the past which is then used to try to get someone fired or pressured to resign. See, e.g., Brendan Eich.
It seems that Canary Mission may be having an impact, because a group of faculty issued a letter condemning Canary Mission and pledging to prevent information aggregated by Canary Mission from being used in graduate admissions evaluations, Graduate Admissions Faculty Condemn Canary Mission Blacklist:
As faculty who serve, have served, or are likely to serve on an admissions committee at graduate and undergraduate university programs across the country, we unequivocally assert that the Canary Mission website should not be trusted as a resource to evaluate students' qualifications for admission. We condemn Canary Mission as an effort to intimidate and blacklist students and faculty who stand for justice for Palestinians.
Canary Mission is a website and social media initiative designed to slander student, faculty, and community activists for Palestinian rights as extremist, anti-Semitic, and sympathetic to terrorism. By publicizing the names, social media accounts, employment history, and other personal information about student activists, Canary Mission mobilizes a small online community of pro-Israel advocates to harass and threaten these activists. Over the past six weeks, the now two-year old Canary Mission site has added over 100 new students to its blacklist . As of this writing, in the first half of 2016, Canary Mission has on over 30 occasions tweeted the names of employers in order to rally their followers to intimidate students . In a few cases, Canary Mission also has contacted the prospective graduate schools of these students, claiming without evidence that the students are anti-Semites, terrorists, or both . The goal of their campaign is to use fear and intimidation to pressure activists to cease their human rights advocacy. Though the creators of Canary Mission remain anonymous, it has been linked to, and utilized by, such well-known individuals as Daniel Pipes  and David Horowitz , who have been labeled as purveyors of hate speech by the Southern Poverty Law Center  .
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. We urge our fellow admissions faculty, as well as university administrators, prospective employers, and all others, to join us in signing below and standing against such bullying and attempts to shut down civic engagement and freedom of speech.
 On June 13, the site had listed 426 students on its blacklist. By July 28, the number had risen to 539.
 Sourced from Canary Mission's Twitter and substantiated by accounts from students.
 Sourced from personal account to the organizers of this sign-on letter.
I don't know if all the several dozen signatories are BDS supporters, and I'm not inclined to spend the time checking, but I did recognized many of the names as the most aggressive academic BDS advocates. These people include (in the order of signatures):
Prof. Hank Reichman, who has been active in issues related to academic freedom, writes of Canary Mission:
Let me be clear. I am not an advocate of BDS and, like the AAUP, I oppose academic boycotts in general and the academic boycott of Israel in particular. With respect to this issue more broadly, however, my sole focus has been on protecting the rights to be heard of both critics and defenders of either the boycott or Israeli policy. As the chair of AAUP's Committee A I have also tried to keep my personal views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict private, lest there be some chance that they could be misattributed to the AAUP, which has and should have no position on this conflict at all.
That said, it must be acknowledged that Canary Mission is nothing but a blacklist, pure and simple. It echoes the long-discredited and horrific blacklists of the McCarthy era. It is shockingly reminiscent of the 1950s anti-Communist newsletter Counterattack, which published the original blacklist of the entertainment industry, Red Channels. Those identified in Red Channels were denied employment across much or all of the movie and broadcast industries unless and until they cleared their names, the customary requirement being that they testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and name names, which the vast majority refused to do. The blacklists in those days spread as well to academia, as Ellen Schrecker and Marjorie Heins, among others, have so vividly documented. (See also the AAUP's sadly belated 1956 report, "Academic Freedom and Tenure in the Quest for National Security.")
I sent a Twitter Direct Message to Canary Mission asking for a response to these accusations. It responded:
We post links to the public social media accounts, blogs and websites belonging to the individuals. The notion that we post personal contact information can be easily debunked by visiting http://canarymission.org
We have never initiated private contact with any employers or university administrators. This accusation is part of the rumor-mill of unsubstantiated claptrap generated by individuals seeking to smear us without regard for truth or facts. Better these individuals correct their own racist bigotry than waste everybody's time with baseless accusations that seem designed to divert attention from their own hateful words and activities.
So where does this leave us?
There is the deep irony of the worst blacklisters and boycotters, people who single out others based on national origin and religion, complaining that they are being blacklisted and boycotted.
Perhaps they shouldn't have started the war on campus, a war people like me have urged them not to undertake. Perhaps also they should have the courage of their convictions, and take responsibility for what they actually say and do.
What it all comes down to is the point I've made before many times: What these BDS types really want is freedom from criticism. They use claims that their free speech and academic freedom rights are being violated as a passive-aggressive tactic to silence others and to clear the field so they can violate the free speech and academic freedom rights of others.
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