US website using hatred to silence criticism of Israel

US website using hatred to silence criticism of Israel

Imagine the outrage that would be expressed if there was a website that maintained a public list of Jews, publishing their photos and personal information simply because they were active supporters of Israel. Well, you would have to imagine it because it doesn’t exist. But you don’t have to imagine a website that shows the photos and personal information of Arab Americans who support Palestinian rights and is filled with vicious accusations of them being “anti-Semitic” and even “anti-American.”

Some might call this a form of online bullying, driven by a vicious hatred intended to intimidate and publicly shame individuals who criticize the illegal and racist policies of the government of Israel.

The website is called Canary Mission and it is hosted by one of America’s most influential online platforms, GoDaddy, which has a growing reputation for being anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. Who manages Canary Mission is a mystery because GoDaddy allows the operators of the site to hide their identities. At one time, GoDaddy took down hate sites, such as the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer, but that was back in 2017. It has defined its boundaries of what is acceptable by saying it would not challenge “free speech” but would prevent sites that use its system from encouraging violence.

Canary Mission defines itself as a site that “documents people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses. Canary Mission investigates hatred across the entire political spectrum, including the far right, far left and anti-Israel activists.” Notice how it falsely conflates criticism of Israel with “hatred of the USA.” It is amazing how people who criticize the Israeli government’s policies can be so easily dismissed as “anti-Semitic” and then as “anti-American” at a time when criticizing US government policy has become such a popular sport in America itself.

The anonymous writers at Canary Mission reason: “Canary Mission is motivated by a desire to combat the rise in anti-Semitism on college campuses. We pursue our mission by presenting the words and deeds of individuals and organizations that engage in anti-Semitism, racism and bigotry on the far right, far left and among the array of organizations that comprise the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Canary Mission gathers content from publicly available sources. We aggregate this information into a concise and easily searchable format, providing free access to the general public. Before publication, all content is verified, meeting our high standards of accuracy and authenticity.”

The very premise of the Canary Mission website is to turn the issue of free speech on its head

Ray Hanania

It is funny how GoDaddy defends this kind of vicious personal assault as a form of “free speech,” and yet the very premise of the Canary Mission website is to turn the issue of free speech on its head in order to use it to disparage individuals who are expressing their right to free speech to call out the racist and apartheid policies of a foreign government, Israel.

For example, next month, the national organization of the activist civil rights group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) will host its ninth annual conference at the University of Minnesota. Canary Mission’s personal attacks are being used as “evidence” to bully the university into blocking the conference, or at least distancing itself from and condemning the event.

Last year’s National SJP conference was held at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and pro-Israel activists, using Canary Mission’s mudslinging, succeeded in stoking anti-Palestinian hatred among mainstream groups. The Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution urging UCLA to cancel the event, while the organizers received a cease-and-desist letter from UCLA claiming the group had wrongly used its logo to promote the conference. Pro-Israel extremist groups gathered to protest the conference, which was attended by more than 500 students from around the country who merely advocated freedom and justice for Palestine.

Minnesota is especially important because it is the home state of two of the most fearless critics of Israel’s racist policies, Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar and Betty McCollum. Although they are only two of a dozen voices in the 535-member Congress to call out Israeli government atrocities, their voices have kept the issue at the forefront of US political debate.

I debated long and hard about whether I should write about Canary Mission and its profiling of Americans who defend human rights and denounce racism. Why raise its profile publicly? But I am following the lead of Arab News, which has courageously launched a section on its website called “Preachers of Hate,” which has helped show the world the vicious hatred that hides in the shadows.

There are extremists in every movement. I don’t agree with all the policies of the BDS movement or the rhetoric of some members of the SJP, but both of these movements are legitimate and moral and have a role in exposing the corruption of a foreign government.

We should remind ourselves that most members of these organizations are not personally attacking Jews, Israelis or individual activists because they are Jewish or Israeli. They are attacking the policies that these individuals embrace — policies implemented by a government. As far as I am concerned, there is no moral boundary on the right of individuals to challenge the hate-driven policies of a government, especially one like Israel’s, which embraces apartheid and has adopted more than 65 laws that tear apart the civil rights of some of its citizens simply because they are not Jewish.

  • Ray Hanania is an award-winning former Chicago City Hall political reporter and columnist. He can be reached on his personal website at www.Hanania.com. Twitter: @RayHanania
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view