Pro-Palestine mapping website raises alarm in Jewish groups
Massachusetts’ Jewish community is on edge after the launch this month of a mysterious pro-Palestine website listing the names and addresses of scores of local institutions — a number of them Jewish — and making calls to “dismantle” and disrupt them.
Creators of the Mapping Project say its interactive map of nearly 500 local colleges, police departments, companies and nonprofits illustrates "some ways in which institutional support for the colonization of Palestine is structurally tied to policing and systemic white supremacy here where we live, and to US imperialist projects in other countries,” according to a statement on the site.
The Anti-Defamation League, which opposes Jewish discrimination and bigotry and is among those named, is organizing an online forum Wednesday to talk about why the project is harmful and what the Jewish community can do, according to an event invitation. U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, of Massachusetts, is among those expected to speak.
Event organizers also want to warn the wider Jewish community about the potential for copycat efforts in other cities and states, as the website’s creators have encouraged, said Robert Trestan, head of the ADL’s New England office.
The ADL has been among those calling for authorities to shut down the site for promoting hate and encouraging violence. The league and others argue Jewish groups represent a disproportionate share of the entities named.
Police departments and other law enforcement agencies comprise more than half the list, and some of the state’s most globally recognized institutions, such as Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Raytheon, General Electric, Moderna and Fidelity Investments, take up another large share.
But dozens of Jewish organizations are also named, from Gann Academy, a Jewish high school in suburban Boston, and New England Yachad, the regional branch of a national organization for Jewish people with disabilities.
“The danger is that there are people in our midst who want to commit violence, even if the mappers didn’t intend that,” Trestan said ahead of Wednesday’s event.
Meanwhile, members of Congress are calling on federal law enforcement officials to get involved.
A bipartisan group of 37 lawmakers from across the country sent a letter last week to the FBI and other federal authorities to investigate and provide “enhanced security” for the organizations listed on the website and to work with social media companies and internet service providers to prevent further distribution of the site.
“We must not turn a blind eye to this incitement,” wrote U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer and other lawmakers.
Spokespersons for the federal agencies didn’t respond to emails seeking comment Tuesday. Messages sent to the email listed on the Mapping Project site in recent days also weren’t answered.
Internet company GoDaddy, where the website’s domain name is registered, reviewed the website and concluded it didn’t violate its domain name registration agreement, spokesperson Nick Fuller said in a statement.
The 1984 Hosting Co., from Reykjavik, Iceland, which is hosting the site, said in an email it facilitates freedom of speech but doesn’t “host those who advocate violence, terror, suppression or hatred.”
The company declined to comment when asked specifically about the concerns from the Jewish community in follow-up messages.
“We have endured severe cyber attacks, legal attacks and physical threats from hate groups of different persuasions who try to get us to take down websites,” the company said in its statement. “We do not give in, no matter the cost.”
Local Jewish community leaders say the website’s launch comes as antisemitism is on the rise in New England.
More than 100 antisemitic incidents such as vandalism, harassment and assault were recorded in Massachusetts last year, up 48% from the prior year, according to the ADL’s annual report. The incidents are up more than 40% overall in New England, excluding Connecticut, according to the report.
Among last year's incidents in Massachusetts was the stabbing of a rabbi near a Jewish day school in Boston and the Duxbury High School football team’s use of antisemitic terms in its play calling.
Jeremy Yamin, a vice president at Combined Jewish Philanthropies, a Boston nonprofit named on the Mapping Project, said local Jewish groups have been reaching out in recent days to see how they should respond.
He has been encouraging them not to overreact, but also make sure their security plans, equipment and staff training are up-to-date.
“We’re really focused on long-term preparation,” Yamin said. “This is serious, antisemitic speech, but it’s also part of a spectrum of issues we’ve been dealing with for some time.”
Rabbi Ron Fish, who has a son entering Gann Academy, said he is confident the Waltham private school is taking the necessary precautions and won't hesitate to send them to class when they resume in the fall.
“The targeting of children is horrific,” said Fish, who is also ADL’s director of antisemitism advocacy. “The Mapping Project was guilty of engaging in such an outrageous and dangerous act. But hiding is no answer.”