If you read my post from last week about the cancellation of a course on Palestine at the University of California at Berkeley, you’ll recall that one of its themes was the safety of advocates of Palestinian rights, both on and off campus. Whereas the anxieties of Jewish students are enough to shut down any discussion of Israeli violations of the Geneva Conventions or the bombing of UNRWA schools sheltering Gazan refugees, supporters of basic rights for Palestinians have long understood that university administrations won’t even back them up on free speech grounds, let alone take a stand on the issue itself.

With those thoughts still on my mind, I was interested to spot a piece on Mondoweiss’s Twitter feed yesterday about a pushback by academics against the Canary Mission, a pro Israel website that cowers behind anonymity in order to operate a blacklist of Palestine activists and academics on campuses, including social media account information, employment history, and more.

Besides maintaining this blacklist, the group contacts prospective employers and graduate schools to smear pro Palestine activists as ‘Jew haters’ and supporters of ‘terror’ thereby subjecting them to threats and intimidation on campus, and preventing them from getting jobs and being accepted into graduate programmes. A very ennobling ‘mission.’ As Mondoweiss report, more than 1000 faculty members, reflecting a range of views on Israel/Palestine, have signed a letter condemning the Canary Mission’s objectives and tactics.

While I’d urge you to read the piece in full, I was especially struck by the paragraph below, which notes the failure of university administrations to protect their students from these attacks. Indeed, The Electronic Intifada report that students on the Canary Mission’s list have been threatened with violence and sexual assault.

That the Canary Mission have operated until now with impunity is yet another confirmation that the Palestine Exception continues to flourish, undisturbed by charges of hypocrisy, racism or authoritarianism, and that if you step out of line on Israel-Palestine you are the opposite of safe.

Colleges and universities must defend the rights of students to the free exchange of ideas, including advocacy for Palestinian rights. When an off-campus organization publicizes the names, faces, social media, employment, and educational information of students online, universities have a direct responsibility to protect students from this inflammatory, organized harassment, which also threatens students’ physical safety. Sadly, for the most part, administrators have failed even to appropriately condemn the hateful slander, as when the David Horowitz Freedom Center used Canary Mission student profiles during the 2015-16 academic year to publicly post the names of mostly Muslim/Arab/Palestinian student activists on the walls of campuses, and denounce them as “terrorists.”

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