I’m A Puerto Rican Jew Being Targeted By Canary Mission. This Has To Stop.
I received a call a week ago from my dad, early in the morning. It took me a second to realize what he was saying, between the exhaustion and horrible connection that comes with any call from my home in Puerto Rico. But then the words “What is Canary Mission?” came out of his mouth.
My father, whose first and last name I share, had just received a message that directed him to a web page. There he found a photo of his daughter with the word “terrorist” emblazoned above it.
As a Jewish Voice for Peace leader at Vassar College, I have had a Canary Mission profile for nearly two years now. I have brought the site to my administration’s attention time and time again, attempting to get Vassar to take action to protect me and my communities. I have ripped posters off of our academic buildings calling myself and fellow student and faculty activists Hamas operatives, and ran with them to the Dean’s office, in the middle of the day. I have written for our school newspaper on Canary’s dangers (which, fittingly, is now linked on my profile as further “evidence” that I am an anti-Semite).
However, the impacts this horrific website on me personally are not something I talk about very often. Part of me just hopes if I don’t mention it, if I pretend it isn’t there, it will go away. But it won’t. And I am appalled that the Anti-Defamation League, despite their claims of being a civil rights organization, has declared its support for Canary Mission as a force to “counter anti-Semitism” — and this just days after they tweeted about Canary Mission’s ugly, Islamophobic and racist rhetoric.
My profile was put up before I even had developed my politics around Israel/Palestine, before I became a dues paying member of JVP, before I even attended a protest, wrote op-eds, or organized events on my campus showing my support for Palestinian rights. When my Canary Mission profile was first put up, literally all they had on me was that I had clicked “going” on Students for Justice in Palestine and JVP Vassar events, and had “liked” the pages on Facebook.
This was enough for them to put my photo on a website, include my LinkedIn profile, and label me a racist, terrorist, and anti-Semite, regardless of my identity as a Jewish woman of color.
In recent months, my profile has continued to be updated, a fact I am alerted to every time by new and vicious waves of racist, misogynistic, and deeply disturbing messages on my various social media platforms. Canary Mission not only stalked me initially, but continue to keep tabs on my activities with JVP and SJP.
This is an attempt to shame me, to make me afraid, and to make it harder for me to get a job. Canary Mission continues to update my profile with quote after quote of me standing up for the human rights of all people, asserting my proud Judaism, decrying the imprisonment of Palestinian children, and demanding the Palestinian right of return. All of these, they say, are “proof” of my links to terrorism.
The goal of Canary Mission is to keep us from building proud and strong communities rooted in support for Palestinian rights — and it seems like ADL is joining them, putting their seal of approval on Canary Mission and calling their ugly smears “fighting anti-Semitism.”
If we as activists are forced to remain quiet about our politics for fear of doxxing or smear campaigns, it will prevent others from seeing there is another way. Those with pro-Israel viewpoints get to maintain the single story within the international community, that all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism, while dissenters are singled out as individual bad actors.
I will not give in to fear.
The ADL is doing incredible harm to Jewish community and discourse by supporting this website, and to me and my family personally. But more importantly, they are upholding definitions of anti-Semitism that not only ignore its root reasons for growth in our current political climate, but criminalize valid and important criticism of Israel.
They are doing harm to Muslims, Palestinians, and people of color. The harm is compounded with people like me, who are brown and Jewish, alienated from Jewish institutions and more easily read as terrorist and criminal by the color of my skin.
In a way I have been lucky. I still have a job post-graduation, despite the website’s attempts to contact my employers. I have the continual support of my Jewish community in JVP, and my Palestinian and Muslim siblings, and my amazing mother and grandmother who support me and always taught me to stand up to bullies.
It is my imperative as a Jew to always stand up for the rights of all people, even in the face of repression and uncertainty. I trust that my allies will be there for me, because that is what solidarity means. I will be able to continue in this work, undoubtedly giving the cowards behind Canary Mission more material for my profile, and will happily stand by every single quote they gather or screenshot they steal.
I will put out my story, proudly, and show those who are unable to be public yet that there is a way to live in accordance with one’s values, even in the face of power.
We are on the right side of history. One day, I can show the screenshots of my profile to my grandkids (unflattering photo and all). I know they will be proud.
Ally Fernandez is from Puerto Rico and a senior at Vassar College, majoring in English and Latin American/Latinx Studies. She is moving to NYC after graduation to pursue a career in education and public service.