Editor's Picks, Race, Policy, Inequality

Inside Canary Mission, the shadow organization silencing pro-Palestinian Jews and activists

How one shadowy organization began, attacked thousands of human rights activists, and raked in the rewards.

Imagine if every single time you spoke out against the American government for violating human rights you risked being doxxed and having a mysterious organization try to brand you as a racist.

This is a reality for people involved in pro-Palestinian solidarity and critical of Israel, many who have been doxxed on the website Canary Mission.

Canary Mission first reared its tail feathers in 2015 and has doxxed over a 1,000 people, including professors, students, and activists since its inception. A significant amount of Jews, who are critical of the Israeli government’s tactics, have been doxxed as well.

Doxxing, also spelled “doxing,” refers to the practice of using the Internet to source out and collect someone’s personal and private information and then publicly releasing that information online. Derived from the word “documents,” the term is an abbreviated version of “dropping dox,” a method of revenge that dates back to the hacker culture of the early 1990s.

The Canary Mission, in brief, is an organization that lists the names of pro-Palestinian activists and their allies, their personal social media information, and groups that they are involved in. The website, Against the Canary Mission, describes the Canary Mission as “nothing short of a modern-day blacklist.”

Pro-Palestinian anti-fascist activist Anne*, who is Jewish and was doxxed on Canary Mission, describes the organization as “blatantly racist and Islamophobic doxxing website funded by Zionists that disproportionately targets Arabs and people of color.”

The identity or identities of who founded the organization remains unconfirmed in its three years of existence, despite the website’s mission to expose people. However, Israel nonprofit Megamot Shalom has been recently accused of running Canary Mission.

Another issue with Canary Mission is its claims that its goal is to expose people as racists, which is problematic for many reasons. The first issue is that criticizing the Israeli government does not make a person racist. The second issue is that those doxxed on the Canary Mission, which includes Palestinians, Jews of Color, and people from other Arab countries, experience racism themselves.

Genevieve,* a Palestinian solidarity activist who is Jewish, believes that Canary Mission does not protect Israel and instead puts people in danger who criticize Israel. She also was doxxed on Canary Mission.

“The sole purpose of this website is to intimidate activists into silence. It has real implications for student activists, many of whom who have gotten death and rape threats as a result of their work,” Genevieve said. “Much of this harassment is intensely gendered and racialized. It’s all and all just a disgusting organization.”

The experience of Jews who are doxxed can be complex. Often, their Judaism inspired their activism and their complex familial relationships with relatives who identify Zionist. Although both non-Zionists and Zionists have been doxxed.

Anne’s first reaction after they were doxxed was concern about how their Zionist mother would react. Being doxxed has not diminished Anne’s solidarity with Palestinians, which is in part driven by their Jewishness.

“I choose to define my Jewishness as justice, as solidarity with the oppressed and the marginalized, and as revolutionary,” Anne said. “I’ve looked at the history of the Jewish people and I’ve seen a lot of pain and a lot of suffering. And to see the same pain and suffering being inflicted on Palestinians fills me with rage and responsibility.”

Chen*, a Jewish student in Montreal, was initially filled with terror after she was doxxed. She was concerned that her being doxxed on Canary Mission’s website would affect her ability to work in Jewish spaces. Chen’s family found her profile, and some family members reached out to her.

“The Israeli side of my family found my profile. My father was shocked to learn the extent of my political activities,” Chen said. “My grandfather and step-grandmother reached out to me to remind me to be safe, for they feared that those that found my profile may want to enact violence on me.”

Genevieve’s current and past employers’ are listed on her Canary Mission profile. Fortunately, this has not had an impact on her work and activism. In reflection, Genevieve finds her profile to be extremely invasive and the extent to which this organization goes to doxx people to be odd.

“It’s really invasive, my profile is over 10 pages of information that someone clearly spent hours stalking me online for,” Genevieve said.  “It’s super random too, they have my Pinterest from seven years ago, so now all these war crime apologists will see what cactuses and houseplants I’m buying. It’s pretty pathetic really.”

While Canary Mission continues to be a mysterious organization, there have been recent breakthroughs in finding one source of funding. Josh Nathan-Kazis, a staff writer for The Forward, a Jewish publication, found that the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco made a one-time donation of $100,000.

Thanks to the investigative work of Josh, he found that the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles funded Megamot Shalom, which could be running the Canary Mission.

While the work that Josh has been doing has been amazing, it’s disheartening to read the comments on his Twitter. You don’t have to look hard to find many users accusing him of being a self-hating Jew or hating Israel. In a sense, for holding Canary Mission accountable, he is facing the same backlash as some of the Jewish activists who have been doxxed.

Canary Mission should have never existed, as it shames, doxxes, and makes life difficult for people who support Palestinian human rights. Jews, Palestinians, and all allies should be thanked for trying to hold the Israeli government accountable, not be in fear.

*Names were changed to protect the identities of people who were doxxed.

Editor’s note: An article by The Tempest and a Tempest editor have been used without The Tempest’s permission as evidence against a doxxed activist on Canary Mission.