Mysterious Website Blacklists Students

Santa Monica College student Hesham Jarmakani hugging Associate Students President Isabel Rodriguez at the Board of Trustees Meeting at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California on Tuesday April 2, 2019. Photographer (Tanya Barcessat / The Corsair)

Santa Monica College student Hesham Jarmakani hugging Associate Students President Isabel Rodriguez at the Board of Trustees Meeting at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California on Tuesday April 2, 2019. Photographer (Tanya Barcessat / The Corsair)

On Thursday, February 28, Hesham Jarmakani, vice-president of Santa Monica College’s Associated Students (AS), was working on his Columbia University application essays at his desk in the AS office when he received a message from a friend on Facebook: “You’re on Canary Mission.”

According to their website, “Canary Mission documents individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses.” The website includes thousands of dossiers on students, professors and groups associated with being pro-Palestine, including Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a club Jarmakani founded in the fall of 2018.

“If you’re a racist, the world should know,” read Canary Mission's slogan until they changed it in early 2019 to “because the world should know.”

Like the other personal pages of individuals the site targets, Jarmakani’s page includes photographs and social media screenshots, along with a list of pro-Palestinian groups Canary Mission claims he is associated with.

“I was very quiet for a long time, I just didn’t know how to react,” said Jarmakani.

Santa Monica College student Hesham Jarmakani at the Board of Trustees Meeting at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California on Tuesday April 2, 2019. Photographer (Tanya Barcessat / The Corsair)

Santa Monica College student Hesham Jarmakani at the Board of Trustees Meeting at Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, California on Tuesday April 2, 2019. Photographer (Tanya Barcessat / The Corsair)

This had not been the first time SJP members reported facing harassment on campus. “So, we also have members in SJP recently reporting that people have been taking pictures [of them] without their consent… there are individuals on campus that are afraid of joining the club because they’re afraid that if they do end up getting blacklisted, they might face persecution back in their home country,” said Jarmakani.

The Corsair has identified three other former or current SMC students that are on Canary Mission.

Canary Mission’s blacklist of pro-Palestine individuals has led to the FBI questioning two college students on their unproven ties to militant groups in the Middle East, according to The Intercept, where US government agents directly referenced Canary Mission.

Palestine Legal, a civil rights organization, responded to 308 incidents of US-Palestine advocacy suppression in 2017, according to a report addressed to Michigan State University’s Chair of the Board of Trustees. The document encourages the board of trustees to publicly condemn Canary Mission.

“Canary Mission defames students and faculty members as terrorist supporters and antisemites, and exposes them to harassment and violent threats by Israel supporters in online forums like Twitter and Facebook,” the document states. “Canary Mission contacts employers, schools, and law enforcement with false and unsupported claims that Palestine rights activists support terrorism.”

Although Canary Mission protects all of its members’ anonymity, an undercover investigation by Al Jazeera reported that one of Canary Mission’s funders is a right-wing millionaire by the name of Adam Milstein. Milstein is also the president of the Adam and Gila Milstein Family Foundation, a large funder of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) chapters across the US and Canada.

SMC’s SSI club released a statement on their Facebook page addressing Canary Mission on March 12. “Over the past several days, our club has been hearing that an SMC student was placed on a blacklist website of sorts called Canary Mission and that there are students at SMC claiming that SSI is responsible for this,” read the post. “We want to be clear when we say that our club was not responsible and was not involved in this student being placed on the Canary Mission’s website.”

Eleven days later, Jarmakani publicly spoke about his blacklisting for the first time during an Inter-Club Council meeting. Addressing the council, Jarmakani said, “Intimidating students to keep them silent is not a step towards achieving peace, it is a weapon of tyranny and it is disgusting, repulsive and should have no place on our campus. With the ICC’s chairs blessing, I hope to work on a resolution that seeks to condemn this website known as Canary Mission.”