Home North America Pro-Israel Website Attacks Pro-Palestinian Student Protesters As Online War Over Gaza In...

Pro-Israel Website Attacks Pro-Palestinian Student Protesters As Online War Over Gaza In US Intensifies

A person uses a megaphone as people participate in a 'United for Israel March' at the University of Southern California (USC), during the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Los Angeles. REUTERS/David Swanson

A US-based pro-Israeli website named Canary Mission is looking to name and shame pro-Palestinian student protesters on campus in a bid to make those students targets for online hate.  Responding to an inquiry submitted via its website, Canary Mission said it has been “working around the clock” to combat a “wave of antisemitism” on college campuses since Oct. 7, including by exposing people who endorse Hamas.

The website has pictures of people who its claims have promoted hatred of Jews and Israel leading to online hate against them. Egyptian-American Layla Sayed, a student at the University of Pennsylvania, says that she was directed to the website by a friend, where she saw that the post included a picture of her at the pro-Palestinian protest on October 16, the two cities she lives in, details about her studies and links to her social media accounts.

Canary Mission later posted a photo of her on its X and Instagram accounts labeled “Hamas War Crimes Apologist.” Online hate poured in against her on her social media handles.

Penn officials did not respond to questions about Sayed’s case in particular. “Penn is focused on the well-being of all members of the community,” a university spokesperson, Steve Silverman, said, adding that staff reach out to offer support when aware of concerning situations.

According to a Reuters report, Canary Mission is just one of several digital advocacy groups who have intensified campaigns to expose whom they see are Israel’s critics, since the war broke out, often leading to harassment such as Sayed experienced. The people behind the site have kept their identities, location, and funding sources hidden.

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The site has accused over 250 U.S. students and academics of supporting terrorism or spreading antisemitism and hatred of Israel since the start of the latest Gaza conflict, according to a Reuters review of its posts. Some are leading members of Palestinian rights groups or were arrested for offenses such as blocking traffic and punching a Jewish student. Others, like Sayed, said they had just stepped into campus activism and were not charged with any crimes.

Experts say that such actions are also used on the Palestinian side. Several pro-Palestinian groups have used similar tactics to call out Israel’s defenders in recent months. They include an X account called StopZionistHate and Raven Mission, a website launched in December that emulates Canary Mission by spotlighting people it accuses of Islamophobia or helping perpetuate atrocities against Palestinians.

Raven Mission did not respond to requests for comment. StopZionistHate said it wanted to “ensure that the American public is aware of the threat posed by Zionist extremism.”

Apart from online harassment, students have also seen the move as a bid to derail careers. Canary Mission is often at the top of its targets’ Google search results, and its social media posts can draw hundreds of comments.

(Reuters and other agencies)