Canary Mission: Covert tactics and shadowy financiers unveiled

Canary Mission
(Photo: Twitter/X)
WASHINGTON – In 2014, an online doxing and blacklisting campaign called Canary Mission emerged in North America. The operation initially set out to spy and criticize pro-Palestinian students and professors in North American universities, however as time went by, it quickly festered into something more devious.اضافة اعلان

What is Canary Mission?Canary Mission is a website directed from Israel that targets people critical of Israel and its policies and then launches slanderous charges against them, charges designed to embarrass, humiliate them, and damage their future employability, as per the American magazine, the Nation.

The website stalks the individual’s online presence and picks out pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel content, publishing it on their website under a profile they have meticulously crafted for the individual. They intend to deface one’s image, marking them as an anti-Semite for the whole world to see.

Additionally, Canary Mission displays an individual’s entire biography, exposing their background, schools, workplace, addresses, social media, and other personal information. As a result, many pro-Palestinian activists have faced various forms of harassment.

The website does not discriminate against individuals. Canary Mission has received criticism for regularly profiling Jewish supporters of Palestinian causes, such as Jewish Voice for Peace.

In an interview with Democracy Now! Investigative journalist, James Bamford, described Canary Mission as a website that “is designed to intimidate these people to get them to stop joining pro-Palestinian groups or to stop being activists and to comply with whatever the people behind Canary Mission want, and that is basically to silence them,” he added “many people suddenly wake up and people are calling them and saying that their names are on [the Canary Mission] blacklist”

Bamford continued that once your name is on the blacklist, you risk your livelihood and safety. “If you go look for a job when you graduate, or if you are trying to rise in the professional ranks or professorship, it is going to be blocked because your name is on this list, and it is almost impossible to get off the list”

Canary Mission’s harms to academic freedom and privacy
Following the events of October 7, members of Harvard’s Palestine Solidarity Committee (HPSC) published a letter addressing the conflict. “Today’s events did not occur in a vacuum,” it said. “For the last two decades, millions of Palestinians in Gaza have been forced to live in an open-air prison. Israeli officials promise to ‘open the gates of hell,’ and the massacres in Gaza have already commenced.” The letter was cosigned by 33 other student organizations and published in the Harvard Crimson, the campus newspaper.

Almost immediately, Canary Mission created online profiles for members of the Crimson’s editorial board, along with profiles of the leaders of the HPSC and other campus clubs that cosigned the letter. The goal of the blacklist was to dox those named, encourage their harassment, and limit their future employment prospects.

“The Mission did not stop at creating profiles for student leaders,” mentioned Owen Ray in the Massachusetts Daily Collegian. They doxed anybody even remotely involved in the publication of the letter. One listed student was a member of the Pakistani Students Association, a club that had co-signed the PSC statement. They were indirectly involved, but their membership with a cultural club was enough for the website to brand them as anti-Semites.

And once on the blacklist, it is nearly impossible to get off. “They are publishing personal information and holding it over people’s heads,” adds Ray. “It is political extortion, it is dystopian and it discourages political discourse.”

Canary Mission’s harassment is not limited to the internet; anonymous website agents have also been involved in physical intimidation.

At George Washington University in 2018, the day before an election of a student-government resolution calling on the university to divest from companies profiting from Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, two men in yellow canary outfits suddenly turned up in the lobby of the building in which the vote was to take place. They then engaged in a strange and frightening dance. Their purpose was to dramatically reinforce Canary Mission flyers that had been posted around campus advising students to vote against the resolution and attacking the student activists. “There are no secrets. We will know your vote and will act accordingly,” yelled one threateningly.

Abby Brook, a Jewish student at the school who was active in pro-Palestinian groups on campus, found the event “pretty unbelievably terrifying… These two fully grown, muscular men in these bird costumes, strutting.” She said she was careful to watch her back on the walk home that night.

Israel’s shadow surveillance
Not only does Canary Mission intend to silence anti-Israel dissent, but its list of names is also used to prevent individuals from entering Israel, including both Jews and Palestinians. 
Canary Mission acts as a key intelligence asset for the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, a highly secretive intelligence organization that is largely focused on the United States, and the Shin Bet security service.

Lara Al-Qasem, a 22-year-old Palestinian-American student who was planning to study in a master’s program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was a victim of Canary Mission’s unethical surveillance. Although she had a valid visa, she was dragged in for interrogation shortly after landing at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport.

During the process, the Ministry of Strategic Affairs sent over a document marked “Sensitive.” It contained Al-Qasem’s profile from Canary Mission that listed her alleged crime. She had served as a local chapter president of Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Florida. She was placed on Canary Mission after her chapter had called for a boycott of an Israeli hummus brand. Afterward, she was placed in Israeli detention for weeks pending deportation procedures. But following a protest letter signed by over 300 professors and other academics from the US and around the world “who reject all forms of racial profiling,” an Israeli court granted her appeal to enter the country.

Another victim was Columbia University Law School professor Katherine Franke, who at one time sat on the academic advisory council steering committee for Jewish Voice for Peace. Upon landing in Tel Aviv, an official at the airport showed her what appeared to be her Canary Mission profile. After being kept in detention for 14 hours, she was deported and informed that she would be permanently banned from the country.

Who funds Canary Mission?
Like all of Israel’s espionage and covert operations in the United States, Canary Mission’s American financiers are well hidden. However, as a result of a slipup on a tax form a few years ago, those links began to be revealed.

Exposed was one of the wealthiest families in California, the family of billionaire Sanford Diller, a major Trump backer who had donated $6 million to a pro-Trump political committee. Diller was also a pro-Israel extremist, supporting a long list of right-wing Islamophobic organizations. Including the American Freedom Law Center, founded by a man who has a “record of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black bigotry.” Diller also supported Stop Islamization of America, which “has sought to rouse public fears about a vast Islamic conspiracy to destroy American values,” according to the ADL.

In 2016, the Diller Foundation donated $100,000 to an obscure Israeli nonprofit called Megamot Shalom. Untraceable, off the grid, and unheard of, Megamot Shalom was the front for Canary Mission.

Megamot Shalom is what is known in Israel as a “public benefit corporation,” and documents seem to clearly describe its work as “ensuring the national image and strength of the state of Israel via the use of information disseminated by technological means.”

Other donors around the country poured cash into Megamot Shalom via similar charities, among them the Jewish Community Foundation (JCF) of Los Angeles. There, a contributor, whose name remains legally hidden by the foundation’s rules, donated another quarter of a million dollars to Canary Mission’s front. The JCF of Los Angeles manages assets of more than $1.3 billion and, like San Francisco’s Jewish Federation, has distributed millions to right-wing pro-occupation groups.

The secrecy of such donations was because Americans who were financially supporting Canary Mission were potentially committing a serious crime, acting as agents of a foreign power. They were financing an underground foreign organization with ties to Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which was using Canary Mission to identify, detain, and deport people entering the country, like Lara Al-Qasem and Professor Katherine Franke.

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