Hardline anti-BDS tactics are targeting students, And no one knows who’s behind It

(photo: Nikki Casey / Forward)
The precise identities of the people and groups behind the new, hard-edged anti-BDS tactics remain hazy, though chinks have begun to appear in the armor.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis | Forward | Aug 2, 2018

The people behind these new tactics are going to great lengths to hide their identities, though they seem to be working in concert with each other. They are conducting surveillance on BDS activists. They are creating anonymous pop-up websites that attack activists and student government representatives. They are hiring top-level political strategists and opposition researchers. And in Canary Mission, they are running a long-term campaign to blacklist student activists.

Strange things started happening at George Washington University this April, as their student government prepared to vote on a resolution supported by pro-Palestinian campus activists.

Anonymous fliers, websites and social media campaigns appeared out of nowhere to attack the student activists. And, on the day of the vote, two adult men, dressed as canaries, showed up to do a weird dance in the lobby of the college building where the student government was set to vote.

It was the canaries that really freaked out Abby Brook, a Jewish GW student active in pro-Palestinian campus groups. “I honestly didn’t believe it at first,” said Brook, who arrived at the building where the canaries were dancing a few minutes after they left. Friends showed her pictures of the two men. One had worn a full-body Tweety Bird costume, his face painted yellow; the other a yellow plague doctor mask with a long, curved beak.

The men’s presence seemed to be a threat from an anonymous website called Canary Mission, a blacklist of US-based students who criticize Israel, some of them harshly. Student senators who voted for the resolution would be punished, the dancing canaries seemed to be saying,

“Pretty unbelievably terrifying,” Brook said of the masked men. “These two fully grown, muscular men in these bird costumes, strutting.” She said she watched her back as she walked home that night.

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