Philanthropist Michael Leven donated to Canary Mission Blacklist

Michael Leven at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas in 2012. (credit: Isaac Brekken / AP Photo)
The revelation makes him the third major American Jewish funder associated with the project.

By Abby Seitz and Alex Kane | Jewish Currents | October 14, 2021

Launched in 2015, Canary Mission has compiled thousands of profiles of Palestinian rights supporters, most of them students and professors who have participated in Palestinian solidarity activism on American campuses.

IN 2018, philanthropist Michael Leven, a hospitality executive who has served on the boards of major Jewish organizations, made his customary series of donations to American Jewish organizations: $125,000 to Birthright Israel, $75,000 to Hillel chapters in Georgia and Pennsylvania, $70,000 to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and tens of thousands more to other groups. But alongside those gifts to some of the most respected organizations in the American Jewish community, Jewish Currents found in a review of Leven’s foundation’s tax records, was a donation of a different nature: a $50,000 grant to Canary Mission, the controversial website that targets supporters of Palestinian rights, and which many Palestinian rights advocates describe as a shadowy blacklist that chills free speech and encourages social media harassment. Leven confirmed in an interview with Jewish Currents that he sent money to Canary Mission, saying he hoped the grant would help “identify significant antisemites” and “bring the knowledge of their antisemitism to the surface.”

Canary Mission is a deliberately opaque organization. It is anonymously run, with no staff or funding information listed on its website. Because it is not a registered nonprofit in the US, most of its funders retain their anonymity, shielding them from accountability for backing a student blacklist. But in recent years, reporting in The Forward has exposed some of the group’s funders by uncovering links between Canary Mission and an equally opaque Israeli nonprofit called Megamot Shalom. Adding an additional layer of obfuscation, the known donations to Canary Mission through Megamot Shalom, including Leven’s, were first sent to the Central Fund of Israel, a New York-based nonprofit that serves as a pass-through for donations to organizations serving Israeli settlements in the West Bank and other right-wing Israel advocacy organizations.

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