The long history of Palestinian repression
Created in 2014, Canary Mission is a blacklist that serves as a response to the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) Movement that started in 2005. Led by Palestinians, BDS is a movement that seeks to end the occupation, colonization and oppression of Palestinians and their land Israel with the support of the international community.
BDS has three demands: the return of Palestinian refugees who were displaced in 1948 as mentioned in UN resolution 194, the dismantling of the apartheid wall and full equality for Palestinians, who are subject to discrimination, expressed by Israel’s current president, Benjamin Netanyahu, who does not consider them full citizens.
Although BDS is a nonviolent movement that seeks to end the oppression of Palestinians, it has met backlash not only from Canary Mission, but from other pro-Israeli organizations as well, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. These organizations conflate the BDS movement and anti-Zionism rhetoric with anti-Semitism in order to justify targeting professors and students who speak out against Israel’s violence, colonialism, genocide and human rights violations.
Canary Mission is not the first organization to harass and derail Palestinian activism, however. Multiple organizations have stooped to dirty tactics in order to silence those who stand in solidarity with Palestinians. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) has attacked organizations that show solidarity with Palestinians.
One group that was targeted by JCRC is San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR), a nonprofit that works to support survivors and prevent sexual assault with a focus on women of color. In 2003, SFWAR had held a teach-in to educate its members on Islamophobia, in which Zionism’s role in white supremacy was discussed. The group also placed Zionism on its list of oppressions. In reaction to this, the JCRC attacked and harassed SFWAR. The JCRC successfully lobbied the city of San Francisco to freeze SFWAR’s funds, forcing it to waste time and resources on a legal battle to reverse it.
Censorship and surveillance among pro-Israeli groups is not surprising. The Israeli government has a long history of repression and McCarthyesque practices towards many vulnerable populations, particularly towards Palestinian people. Since its creation, Israel has employed surveillance methods such as “population registries, identification cards, land surveys, watchtowers, imprisonment, and torture” on Palestinians in Palestine, including the occupied territories of West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. More recently, Israel has adopted Orwellian surveillance practices using the technologies of CCTV, electronic monitoring and biometric data collection.
Surveillance and oppression even follow Palestinians who have left the area. Persecuted in their homeland, Palestinians are unable to escape repression and violence even in countries like the United States. Most recently, U.S. immigration denied the entry of Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement and human rights activist, despite having a valid visa.
Organizations like Canary Mission and JCRC are only one part of the much larger systemic discrimination Palestinians face across the globe. Those who support anti-Zionism are accused of anti-Semitism, even though there is a marked difference between “Jewish people everywhere” and the state of Israel. By doing so, these organizations discredit organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine, accusing them of spreading hate across campuses — despite the main mission of these organizations being to oppose all forms of oppression, including anti-Semitism. If we want to fight against all forms of oppression, including anti-Semitism, it is our moral obligation to address the repression that Palestinians continue to face as part of our collective struggle.
Written by: Justine Tsai
The writer is a third-year community and regional development major and member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UC Davis.