Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
News

Who is Behind Canary Mission Website Targeting Pro-BDS Activists?

A shadowy website that posts dossiers on pro-Palestinian student activists has grown rapidly in recent months, while continuing to zealously guard the identity of its own staff and backers.

Since a Forward report drew international attention to the Canary Mission this past May, the number of students and other pro-Palestinian activists on whom it has posted lengthy dossiers had jumped to 140 from slightly less than 50. The site includes photographs, and encourages employers to shun the students profiled on its pages.

The identity of the activists behind the site is still unknown. In recent days, however, the Forward has gathered some clues about their connections.

In late August, the Forward learned of links on the Canary Mission’s homepage that seemed meant to direct visitors to the Twitter profile maintained by the Canary Mission, but instead they led to the personal Twitter page of a South African-born resident of Israel named Warren Betzalel Lapidus. Lapidus identified himself on Facebook as the editorial director of an online Israel advocacy operation called Free Middle East. He also works as a freelancer for an online Israel advocacy training group called VideoActivism.

A YouTube video posted by VideoActivism in July features a voiceover by a narrator who sounds identical to the narrator who did a voiceover for a video posted by the Canary Mission in May. VideoActivism’s CEO, Jonathan Bash, said that VideoActivism has “no connection to the Canary Mission” and that VideoActivism found the narrator for the July video through the freelance website fiverr.com. He did not respond to an email asking for documentation of the fiverr.com arrangement.

Lapidus did not respond to emails from the Forward. Shortly after the Forward emailed Lapidus and Bash, the Canary Mission website went offline. The site was back online the next morning, but the link to Lapidus’s personal Twitter account had disappeared. The Canary Mission’s Facebook page also went offline the day after the Forward contacted Lapidus and Bash. As of this writing, it was still inaccessible.

The Canary Mission has waged an active social media campaign over the summer, including an aggressive Twitter presence. On September 1, the Twitter account tweeted a picture of a college junior serving as a student senator at the University of California, calling her a “#BDSthug.”

Lapidus’s group, Free Middle East, has little in the way of a public Web footprint. The group’s website does not appear to be active. Its Facebook page has not been updated since June. Free Middle East appears to have shared staff with VideoActivism, and a person who worked for VideoActivism last year told the Forward that Bash ran both groups. Bash told the Forward that he was “involved with [Free Middle East] a while back,” but he did not respond to an inquiry asking for further information on his relationship with the group. Bash was also a co-founder of HonestReporting.com, a hawkish pro-Israel media watchdog group, according to an online biography.

VideoActivism trains students in Israel advocacy and posts pro-Israel videos through a number of accounts. VideoActivism hosted American student interns in July and August through a Jewish Agency for Israel-funded program called Onward Israel. The program’s VideoActivism course was also funded in part by the Israeli-American Council.

In August, Lapidus posted a job listing on Facebook seeking “a social media manager to run our rapidly up-and-coming Jerusalem-based Israel Advocacy organization’s campaign.” The posting listed a VideoActivism email address as his contact information. Bash said that Lapidus was “a freelancer” for VideoActivism.

“I find it sad and unfortunate that the Forward would think about running a smear piece like this targeting Video Activism, which is based on no facts — and entirely on absurd conjecture,” Bash wrote in an email.

Contact Josh Nathan-Kazis at nathankazis @forward.com or on Twitter, @joshnathankazis

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Explore

Most Popular

In Case You Missed It

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.