Following Forward Report, Federation Says It Will No Longer Fund Canary Mission

The Jewish federation that the Forward exposed Wednesday as bankrolling the online blacklist Canary Mission now says it will no longer support the site.

In a statement, the Jewish Community Federation of San Fransisco acknowledged that the Helen Diller Family Foundation, which it controls, made a $100,000 grant in 2016 to support the blacklist site, which targets students who criticize Israel.

Canary Mission has posted more than a thousand political dossiers on undergraduates. The dossiers are intended to hurt students’ job prospects, and have been used in interrogations by Israeli border officials.

“Both the Helen Diller Family Foundation and the Federation will not support the Canary Mission in the future,” the federation said.

Yet the revelation that the federation had supported Canary Mission has already drawn anger, and raised questions about the involvement of major Jewish institutions in the wave of covert attacks against students who criticize Israel on U.S. campuses.

“Respected Jewish communal funders should not be supporting an organization whose entire purpose is to intimidate and harass pro-Palestinian students,” said Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of the rabbinic human rights group T’ruah. “As Hillel leaders have pointed out, Canary Mission’s tactics do not help Israel or Jewish students, but only backfire and reinforce the belief that Israel and pro-Israel students cannot tolerate dissent. 

The San Francisco federation is one of the largest Jewish charities in the U.S., with an annual budget of over $100 million. The Diller Foundation, known mostly as a provider of Jewish teen programming, was set up to support the federation, and operates under the federation’s control. Two federation staffers — including the federation’s chief philanthropic officer — were members of the Diller Foundation’s board during its 2016 fiscal year, when it made the grant to Canary Mission.

The San Francisco federation said in its statement that in 2017, it had “strengthened the implementation” of its grant review process, and at that time it stopped all grants to a charity called the Central Fund of Israel, which the Diller Foundation had used the year before to pass the funds to Canary Mission.

The Central Fund is a well-known conduit for American donors seeking to make tax-exempt donations to right-wing and extremist groups in Israel. Though the federation had first adopted the grant review process in 2010, the Diller Foundation gave a total of $225,000 to the Central Fund in its 2016 fiscal year, including the $100,000 earmarked for Canary Mission.

The other $125,000 was earmarked for Regavim, an Israeli non-governmental organization that files lawsuits to stop Palestinian construction in the West Bank; and Reservists on Duty, an advocacy group that sends Israeli soldiers to U.S. campuses to oppose the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The grant that the Diller Foundation sent to Canary Mission appears to have constituted a significant portion of Canary Mission’s budget. In its statement, the federation said that the Diller Foundation made its $100,000 grant in 2016. The grant went to the Central Fund, which in turn was directed to send it on to Megamot Shalom, an Israeli public benefit corporation.

As the Forward first reported Wednesday morning, Megamot Shalom appears to operate or have operated Canary Mission. Megamot Shalom has filed a single financial statement with Israel’s charity registry, covering the last six months of 2016. During that period, the organization received roughly $165,000, the majority of which would have been Diller Foundation funds.

In the hours since the Forward first reported on the grant supporting Canary Mission, left-wing Jewish groups have criticized the San Francisco federation and the Diller Foundation.

IfNotNow, the left-wing advocacy group that is sharply critical of the Jewish establishment, said in a statement that the San Francisco federation is “is going against a core value of the Jewish tradition: asking questions and open debate. This is just one more piece of evidence in the ever-growing list of ways that the American Jewish establishment is actively supporting the Occupation.”

IfNotNow called on local Hillel directors and federation executives to condemn Canary Mission.

Spokespeople for the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the American Jewish Committee did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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

Author

Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis

Josh Nathan-Kazis is a staff writer for the Forward. He covers charities and politics, and writes investigations and longform.

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Following Forward Report, Federation Says It Will No Longer Fund Canary Mission

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