Student-run website exposes Canary Mission’s hateful purpose

Against Canary Mission went live on Tuesday, with the publication of a petition signed by more than one thousand university faculty members denouncing Canary Mission, calling it “an effort to intimidate and blacklist students and faculty who stand for justice for Palestinians.”

Canary Mission has existed since February 2015. The website compiles detailed information about Palestinian solidarity activists and pro-Palestinian academics, in order to create individual profiles accusing them of being sympathetic to terrorism and anti-semitism.

Blacklisted students have experienced personal harassment from anonymous people affiliated with Canary Mission, including calls to their homes, workplaces, and graduate admissions committees. Profiles link to social media pages, email addresses, and even phone numbers, encouraging further harassment.

The blacklist recently added more than 100 new profiles in just over one month, bringing the total number to 539. Organizers consider it just one part of a larger trend of organized repression and personal targeting of pro-Palestine students on U.S. college campuses.

It was after the most recent expansion of the site that a group of students from across the United States decided to start actively organizing against Canary Mission. Having met through social media as fellow blacklisted activists, they have worked for the past several months to create and circulate the petition now posted on Other organizers from Jewish Voice for Peace, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and Palestine Legal helped with the project, although it was not affiliated with any specific organization.

The widely-circulated petition specifically addresses graduate admissions faculty, highlighting a major concern for students listed on the website. The organizers hope that with enough signatures and circulation of the letter unequivocally denouncing Canary Mission, graduate admissions committees will be less likely to reject qualified students based on slanderous information published about them online.

The professors have a variety of viewpoints on the Israel-Palestine issue itself, but all condemn the McCarthyite tactic of blacklisting students and accusing them of hateful or illegal activity.

Sumaya Awad, one of the student organizers of the effort and a recent graduate of Williams College, describes reacting with pride, then fear, after being added to the blacklist.

“As a non-citizen and a recent graduate, I knew my future was threatened by this ominous and libelous website labeling me a ‘terrorist threat,’” Awad said.

Despite initial apprehension toward the idea of publicly fighting Canary Mission because of the possibility of giving it publicity, Awad, like the others in her group, decided that activism was the only way forward.

“Only through activism and continuous, collective struggle against this site, and other blacklists, whether they target Muslims or BlackLivesMatter activists, can these tactics of intimidation and harassment be stopped,” she said.

Cara Piraino

Cara Piraino is a student at the University of Chicago studying Arabic and the modern Middle East. She is an active member of UChicago Students for Justice in Palestine.

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