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We, four student organizers of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Occidental College were doxxed by a right-wing extremist organization, Canary Mission, three weeks ago. This blacklisting website posted our personal information alongside hateful lies to intimidate us and threaten our futures and safety. Likely with assistance from an Occidental community member, we were targeted solely because of our advocacy for Palestinian liberation. Canary Mission’s goal is to silence us by encouraging harassment and denigrating our character.
Canary Mission, a secretive site with a documented pattern of racism and Islamophobia, uses McCarthyist tactics under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism and terrorism to punish any student advocating for Palestine. The site aims to prevent future employment for these students, proclaiming that one of its goals is to “ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees.” Canary Mission has even utilized its rightwing online base to campaign around particular students, seeking to have them fired from their current jobs or expelled. Profiles are continuously updated to coerce students into abandoning their organizing work.
The racist and Islamophobic practices of Canary Mission, targeting Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and/or students of color, are salient in the profiles of our organizers Layal and Jo-Anne. Canary Mission’s profile for Layal, a Palestinian woman, implied that because she is a member of Oxy’s Muslim Student Association, she is linked to terrorist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Along with these inflammatory claims, they purposefully threaten her physical safety by linking to a page with her address and phone number available. These details were not included incidentally; they were provided specifically to enable viewers to act on malicious intent. Additionally, Jo-Anne’s profile vilified her, a Black woman, for giving a presentation about Black and Palestinian solidarity. They also included a long list of quotations from a recorded SJP event simply because Jo-Anne introduced the speaker. While two other students were targeted, only Layal and Jo-Anne’s profiles included information about their extracurricular activities.
Canary Mission lists one of its goals as “exposing … antisemitism.” In three of our profiles, they purposefully misconstrue our advocacy for Palestinians with, “hatred for Israel,” a claim that holds no truth. Let us be clear: SJP at Occidental has never, and will never, accept any instance of anti-Semitism. To characterize our work for Palestinian liberation as such is racist and flat-out wrong. Canary Mission uses this tactic as part of a larger effort to wrongly conflate advocacy for Palestinians with anti-Semitism in order to silence any criticism of the state of Israel, as well as delegitimize and criminalize organizing for Palestine. This has had very real consequences, including a proposed definition of anti-Semitism that would criminalize any criticism of Israel and engagement in nonviolent boycotts.
Blacklists that push forth this rhetoric about Palestinian organizers have had grave ramifications for those targeted. Students on Canary Mission have been visited by the FBI. Palestinian students have been barred entry to their homeland by Israeli authorities a consequence Layal now both expects and fears. Students have been forced to postpone grad school and job applications. Almost all students are subject to years of relentless online harassment, and we have already felt the mental and physical toll this aggressive targeting has taken on us and many others.
Especially considering the current online setting, Occidental has a responsibility to take the protection of its students’ personal information seriously. Canary Mission’s access to some information suggests that an Occidental community member participated in doxxing us. Regardless of where one stands on Palestine, releasing student information for the purpose of generating harassment is reprehensible; it is unacceptable that someone on campus would be involved with this blacklist. The College’s club policies also played a part in the identification of members of SJP. Two of us, Layal and Ricky, were targeted as Organizing Committee members because of Occidental’s requirement that point people be identified publicly for the Involvement Fair online. Ricky had been a point person last semester, but the college kept his contact information up for months after the Involvement Fair was over until we recently requested the college to remove it. While Occidental did not have ill intent, the repercussions of this oversight left us and our information vulnerable.
These attacks are not just against us, but against Occidental and against civil liberties across the country. Occidental must explicitly condemn Canary Mission’s harassment of student organizers in order to keep all its community members safe while participating in student life. If the College does not respond effectively, student organizers, especially students of color, are given the message that their safety is not a priority at Occidental. This understanding would seriously inhibit our institution’s intellectually rich and vibrant culture. Blacklists like these attempt to curb academic freedom and the work that students can partake in, which is antithetical to Occidental’s driving principles of civic engagement and an open learning environment.
Despite Canary Mission’s attempts to harass and silence us, we refuse to abandon this just cause. The College must seize this opportunity to delegitimize Canary Mission and their racist attacks against Occidental students.
We have called on the College to meet the following demands:
- A public denouncement of Canary Mission, acknowledging their racism and Islamophobia.
- A public statement from Admissions declaring they will not use Canary Mission or any blacklist result in their admissions process, especially for transfer students.
- A malleable online safety guide created as a collaboration between Information Technology Services (ITS) and students to keep all students safe.
We are in contact with Dean Flot about condemning Canary Mission, President Elam regarding admissions and ITS on working toward a safety guide with students. We look forward to continuing to work with Occidental on meeting these demands, for our safety as well as the community’s.
Layal Bata, Ricky Henderson, Jo-Anne Naarendorp and Hannah Zeltzer in collaboration with the Organizing Committee of Students for Justice in Palestine at Occidental College