Toxic canary?

Toxic canary?

The University of Michigan student union	  (Photo by smontgom65/
The University of Michigan student union (Photo by smontgom65/

The headline in the Forward, “Canary Mission Blacklist Is Secretly Bankrolled By Major Jewish Federation,” was misleading. But revelations last week about the opaque right-wing Canary Mission show what can happen when support for Israel goes unchecked.

The Forward detailed how the San Francisco-based Diller Family Foundation, which is managed by the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation, provided a one-time $100,000 grant — sent via the Central Fund of Israel — to Canary Mission, a secretive blacklist of purportedly anti-Israel students, professors and organizations. Those organizations include Hamas and the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. The professors and individuals named include those who have written articles accusing Israel of apartheid, promoted commercial and academic boycotts of Israel and argued publicly that Israel’s founding in 1948 was illegitimate.

Canary Mission says that it “documents individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.” Critics accuse it of seeking to intimidate pro-Palestinian college students and stifle their activism with the threat of a blacklist. Supporters argue that exposing Israel haters and BDS supporters is a worthwhile activity, and that those critical of Israel should be made to answer for their actions. Canary Mission does not reveal who funds it or manages its activity.

Many in the Jewish community are troubled by Canary Mission’s activities and intimidation tactics, arguing that Jews should not be spying and Jewish organizations should not be in the business of compiling enemy lists. While we don’t minimize the very real threat that Students for Justice in Palestine and other pro-Palestinian organizations targeted by Canary Mission pose to Israel and the Jewish community, we support taking them on directly, on college campuses and elsewhere, as well as encouraging journalists to impartially investigate those whose writings and social media presence and actions appear to threaten Israel and the Jewish people.

In the name of fighting what Canary Mission has decided are Israel’s enemies, a respected Jewish family foundation and the Jewish federation that manages it have been tarnished by their association. That’s unfair and unfortunate.

There are additional consequences that could prove to be regrettable. According to the Forward, the Hillel director at the University of Michigan said that Canary Mission’s work has backfired, leading to “greater support for the targeted students and their beliefs, and had spread mistrust of pro-Israel students, who were suspected of spying for Canary Mission.”

This revelation, if true, is indeed disturbing. PJC

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