Government said to use Canary Mission blacklist to bar visitors

Government said to use Canary Mission blacklist to bar visitors

As court upholds deportation of student Lara Alqasem, official document confirms right-wing website that names and shames campus activists used to prove anti-Israel history

Illustrative image of travelers seen at the arrival hall of Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, on April 11, 2018. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)
Illustrative image of travelers seen at the arrival hall of Ben Gurion International Airport, near Tel Aviv, on April 11, 2018. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Reports by a secretive right-wing website that collects and publishes information about anti-Israel activity of university students and others are being used by Israeli authorities to question or ban people attempting to enter the country, according to a report Thursday.

Documents submitted by the Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Ministry on Thursday show that an American student was barred from entering Israel because of “suspicion of boycott activity” based on four Facebook posts and information on the Canary Mission website, the Haaretz daily reported.

Canary Mission is an anonymous website that aims to name and shame anti-Israel activists on campus.

The site “documents individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses,” according to its “About us” page.

Critics have accused it of seeking to intimidate pro-Palestinian college students and stifle their activism with the threat of a blacklist.

In August, the Forward newspaper reported that a number of activists believed their Canary Mission profiles were being used by border authorities when they were questioned while trying to enter Israel.

According to Haaretz, authorities confirmed that Canary Mission information was being used to bar Lara Alqasem, 22. On Thursday, a Tel Aviv court upheld authorities’ decision to not allow Alqasem in the country based on her pro-BDS activity.

Alqasem, a Florida university student who has Palestinian grandparents, was prevented from entering the country after arriving at Ben Gurion Airport Tuesday night, despite having received a student visa from the Israeli consulate in Miami to study in a masters program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Haaretz daily reported.

Nonviolence International former intern Lara Alqasem is currently detained by Israeli authorities and about to be…

Posted by Nonviolence International on Tuesday, 2 October 2018

The Population Immigration and Border Authority said the decision was due to Alqasem’s “boycott activity,” according to the report, which also quoted Strategic Affairs Ministry officials as saying she was a member of the National Students for Justice in Palestine, a campus group that calls for boycotting Israel over its policies toward the Palestinians.

A recent law allows Israel to ban visitors who support boycotts of Israel.

According to a Forward report in August, a border agent told Pro-Palestinian activist Andrew Kadi that his Canary Mission profile had been used to interrogate him when he tried to enter Israel to visit his mother, who lives there.

Columbia University Law School professor Katherine Franke also told the Forward she was “80 percent sure” a border agent had showed her a Canary Mission page when citing a reason she was being deported.

Responding to the Haaretz report, the dovish J Street lobby called the government’s reliance on Canary Mission “outrageous.”

“This is just the latest evidence that the Israeli government is partnering with extreme right-wing groups, funded by American Jewish donors, to silence criticism, dissent and non-violent political activism,” the group said in a statement,

Canary Mission does not reveal who funds it or manages its activity, but an expose in the Forward Wednesday uncovered that a foundation managed by the San Francisco Jewish Federation once funded the organization.

San Francisco’s Jewish Community Federation said the funding was a one-time grant of $100,000 made in 2016. The funding came from the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a private foundation managed by the federation, and was sent via the Central Fund of Israel, an organization that funds right-wing pro-Israel initiatives, according to the Forward.

The Jewish Community Federation has since determined that the Central Fund of Israel does not comply with its funding guidelines and said it will not be directing grants to Canary Mission in the future.

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