(June 15, 2022 / JNS)
Boston-based Jewish organizations and community leaders are condemning a newly launched anti-Israel initiative, the “Mapping Project,” that targets Jewish schools, synagogues, nonprofits, media and other entities.
According to its website, the purported aim of the project is the development of “a deeper understanding of local institutional support for the colonization of Palestine and harms that we see as linked, such as policing, U.S. imperialism and displacement/ethnic cleansing.”
The Mapping Project’s website hosts an interactive map that links various organizations and industries in the Boston area while accusing them of “being complicit” in supposed “harms,” including Zionism, U.S. imperialism, policing, militarization, ethnic cleansing/displacement, ecological harm, colonialism, ableism and others.
Each entity listed has a unique webpage describing the accusations and information about the entities, sometimes including addresses and names of board members.
The project’s website adds that its goal is to “reveal the local entities and networks that enact devastation, so we can dismantle them,” adding “[e]very entity has an address, every network can be disrupted.”
‘There’s been an outpouring of outrage and concern’
Several named organizations have expressed deep concern about the project, labeling it dangerous.
“If anyone doubted the virulent anti-Semitism of the BDS movement, the Nazi-like targeting of Jews by the authors of this ‘mapping’ project makes the point clear,” Gilead Ini, a Boston-based senior research analyst at the Committee for Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), told JNS. “It’s to be hoped that all decent people will deplore and distance themselves from BDS and its threats to American Jewish citizens.”
Ini’s colleague, Alex Safian, the associate director and research director of CAMERA, warns that the project could deter pro-Israel Jews from expressing their views.
“I do think some Jews will be scared by this and will hesitate to speak out, and this is exactly the intention of the people behind the site. In fact, I’m quite sure this has already happened with some pro-Israel donors in response to earlier threats,” he told JNS.
Safian added that CAMERA contacted GoDaddy, the website’s domain registrar, and its hosting company, A2, about “the site’s violations of terms of service agreements.”
Jeremy Burton, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, acknowledged the project’s impact on the community since its launch in an interview with JNS.
“There’s been an outpouring of outrage and concern from the community in response to this mapping. Across the spectrum of our community, people see and understand the underlying anti-Semitism of the so-called mapping project,” he said. “They, and we, are calling it out. They are calling our elected officials to explain how this is a clarifying moment here in Boston and communicating the ways in which this is a threat to all of us.”
The Mapping Project designated the Jewish Journal of Greater Boston as complicit in propaganda/nationalism and Zionism. As “examples,” the project pointed to two articles titled “Chabad of Peabody gets creative in teaching students to love Judaism, Israel” and “Epstein Hillel students receive guidance on dealing with online anti-Semitism.” These choices caught the attention of Steven Rosenberg, the publisher and editor of the Jewish Journal.
“This is just another example of old-fashioned Jew-hatred using a modern platform,” Rosenberg told JNS in a statement. “The two articles they cite that were published in our paper are about teaching students to love Judaism and Israel, and how students can deal with online anti-Semitism.”
“I suppose in their world, Jews don’t have the right to be passionate about their religion and Israel, and should be silent and accept the anti-Semitism that fills social media. Well, fortunately, this is America, and we have a free press and we will continue to print stories about proud young Jews who seek to connect with their religion and Israel,” added Rosenberg.
‘We will use reminders like these to fuel education’
The Zionist Organization of America, which has a Boston chapter, is described on the project’s website as an organization that “peddles overt racism, Islamophobia and homophobia.” In response, ZOA national president Mort Klein called the project a “frightening effort by Nazi-like Jew-hating Israelphobes which promotes violent attacks against Jews.”
“ZOA condemning the Palestinian Authority for paying Arabs to murder Jews and naming schools and streets after Jew-killers is not Islamophobia,” Klein said to JNS. “This is so dangerous that we have been in touch with the FBI and the [U.S.] Justice Department urging them to take action against this horrific campaign.”
One of the more alarming listings that invoked concern from the community was the inclusion of Gann Academy, a Jewish high school in Waltham, Mass., which the project accused of being complicit in “propaganda/nationalism” and Zionism.
Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools accused the project of aiming to “undermine and terrorize Jewish communal organizations and their networks.”
“It is painfully clear that as the United States grapples with issues of school safety and preventing school violence, Jewish schools face a significant additional challenge of battling hatred for Jews and for Israel both proactively and reactively,” Prizmah wrote in a statement. “We will NEVER FORGET the atrocities of the Holocaust and the price we have paid to establish and secure our Jewish homeland, and we will use reminders like these to fuel education, advocacy and engagement to solidify a strong Jewish future.”
Despite the project’s intentions to disrupt, Prizmah claimed that the “Boston Jewish community will continue to flourish, as their deep investment in Jewish day schools and other Jewish institutions has set a strong foundation of connection to Judaism and a model for proud Zionism.”
AIPAC New England also came under attack by the project, which claims it is complicit in colonialism, policing, propaganda/nationalism, U.S. Imperialism and Zionism. In a statement to JNS, AIPAC spokesperson Marshall Wittmann called the characterization “completely false” and lacking “any semblance of credibility.”
“We are proud of our efforts to build bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel alliance, which is consistent with American values and interests,” he added.
Charles Jacobs, co-founder of the David Project—which is included in the Mapping Project—says the Greater Boston Jewish community must go on the offensive. “Jewish leaders must declare a state of emergency,” he told JNS. “They need to go from defense to offense: hire lawyers to sue the hosting site. Hire detectives to find out who put a target on the backs of Boston Jews. The fire alarm is ringing. They have to act!”
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