The Guardian sympathetically portrays extremist group ‘Students for Justice in Palestine’

Amanda Holpuch‘s article in the Guardian (Website targets pro-Palestinian students in effort to harm job prospects, May 27) focuses on a new pro-Israel group called Canary Mission, which it darkly refers to as “a shadowy body” accused of ‘McCarthyist tactics’ and ‘open racism’.

sjp guardian

Canary Mission’s sin?

The Guardian: 

Canary Mission went live in mid-May and includes profiles of 54 people, primarily university students and professors, with photos and links to their social media profiles.

“It is your duty to ensure that today’s radicals are not tomorrow’s employees,” a video explanation of the project warns.

Canary Mission said it created the website out of concern for “the rise of antisemitic hate crimes on college campuses, and the dangerous Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement”.

But some members of the movement say that posting names on the website is harassment and “driven by deep hatred and prejudice”.

Predictably, the Guardian didn’t include a rebuttal from a representative of Canary Mission. So, we decided to contact the group and ask about the specific allegations of ‘McCarthy-like’ tactics.

Joanna from Canary Mission explained that all the information on their site is based on open source material:

We do create profiles about leaders of anti-Israel and anti-American campus groups….The truth is that Canary Mission is basically just an aggregator. Aside from our blog, we have no original content. Every picture, web link, quote and video is easily accessible to anyone with access to Google. We have just put it all in one place, to either use as a resource or not.

The Guardian article continues by contextualizing the story with some ‘background’ on the BDS movement:

The decade-old BDS movement encourages organizations and institutions to boycott and divest from Israel until “the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel” have been recognized.

However, the claim that the BDS movement ‘merely’ promotes boycotts until “the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel” have been recognized is extremely misleading. BDS leaders have been quite open in their opposition to the continued existence of a Jewish state within any borders.

Finally, the Guardian then pivots to the group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP):

Student groups have been pushing BDS initiatives at US universities in recent years, often led by groups like Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).

The movement has been especially strong in California, where student governments at UC Irvine and UC San Diego passed resolutions urging schools to divest – though the UC system has said that it will not do so.

Most of the people profiled on Canary Mission are students or recent graduates with affiliations to SJP and Muslim Student Associations (MSA). While the site’s profiles list people’s affiliations and occupations, the majority of the text is about the history of student groups that they are tied to.

Film-maker Rebecca Pierce first learned that she had been profiled on the site, when it highlighted her as “Radical of the Day”.

As a student at the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), Pierce was part of a campaign to have the school condemn remarks made by professor Tammi Rossman‐Benjamin that some believe to be Islamophobic.

Yet, a clip of the presentation by Ms. Rossman-Benjamin (available at an SJP site), purporting to show evidence of her “Islamophobia”, reveals nothing even remotely racist towards Muslims.

The Guardian article continues:

“The [Canary] website is filled with racist stereotypes about our activism, and intentionally tries to tie a diverse non-violent student movement to antisemitism and terror,” Pierce said in an email to the Guardian. “I do worry about future employers potentially seeing this and getting the wrong idea, but I stand behind my activism and won’t allow racist extremists to intimidate me.”

If the Guardian had checked the links at Canary Mission’s site, or engaged in even a minimal amount of original research, they would have easily established that the group’s claims regarding the extremist nature of SJP are completely accurate.

  •  SJP was founded in 2001 by Hatem Bazian, an extremist who endorsed an intifada in Palestine and the U.S., and expressed support for Islamist attacks on American soldiers in Iraq. 
  •  SJP chapters hosted antisemitic speakers.
  • SJP members have been condemned for using social media site to post antisemitic graphics.  In 2014, SJP’s Tumblr account actually published a Nazi propaganda poster, captioned “Liberators”, seen here:


Finally, note the photo (seen at the beginning of this post) the Guardian used – a still shot taken from an SJP rally at Northeastern University in Boston in 2014 – designed to portray SJP activists in a sympathetic light. 

As you can see in the following clip of the very protest in question (uploaded by the blog Legal Insurrection), members of the group can be heard chanting their support for another violent intifada.


The Guardian has not only unfairly demonized a pro-Israel organization, but once again decided to take at face value the farcical claims of an extremist pro-Palestinian group that they’re merely advocating for peace and justice.

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