Over the summer, Zahra Haider, a member of Students for Justice in Palestine at Northwestern, retweeted a photo of someone drinking “Israeli Tears.”
Months later, an organization called SJP Uncovered sponsored a Facebook post with a screenshot of the retweet, condemning SJP as an organization that “promotes hate and discrimination, not peace.”
Posts like these are typical for SJP Uncovered, which documents the activities of SJP members at universities across the U.S. It claims that SJP is anti-Israel, opposes peace and lacks transparency. It also has petitions viewers can sign, such as one that “demand[s] MIT cancel event with supporter of 9-11 attacks.” These actions, according to SJP Uncovered’s Facebook page, advance the site’s mission of “Uncovering the truth about Students for Justice in Palestine.” The page sometimes sponsors posts on Facebook in order to spread awareness, and posts, including the one featuring Haider, appear unsolicited in Facebook feeds of people who have not liked the page.
SJP Uncovered could not be reached for comment, primarily because their Facebook page has a link to their website but no other information, including who founded the site. Additionally, the SJP Uncovered website was registered under a service called Domains by Proxy which protects customers’ identities by allowing them to put up websites from its domain name. This way, if the domain name is searched, nobody knows who runs the website.
Haider, the Medill junior whose retweet was posted to SJP Uncovered, said that this was done without context or consent. She said that her retweet followed a Snapchat live story about the West Bank that featured Palestinians. According to Haider, the story received negative attention from Israelis online.
She defended the phrase “Israeli Tears,” citing the fact that feminists often use the phrase “male tears” and social justice activists use “white tears” to further express that they “don’t care what the mainstream media or the prevailing narrative or what the person of privilege says about an issue.”
“It’s not about celebrating someone’s sadness or laughing at someone’s pain,” she said. “It’s simply a social media trend that reflects on people who are salty toward someone who is celebrating a heritage that’s been taken from them.”
Haider said since SJP Uncovered posted her tweet, she has been subject to many negative messages on social media. Some people have even told her to kill herself. Haider said she knew, however, that her activism would have some blowback.
That said, Haider said she was not pleased with the way SJP Uncovered presented her tweet.
“It’s kind of like McCarthian times where they’re threatening the livelihood of anyone who’s daring to speak against injustice,” she said. “It’s a way of dehumanizing people and demonizing activists.”
SESP senior Jacqueline Soria, co-chair of the Northwestern chapter of J Street U, an organization whose tagline is “pro-Israel, pro-Palestine, pro-peace,” agrees with Haider about SJP Uncovered.
“I think [SJP Uncovered’s post] caused further animosity,” Soria said. “If I had an issue with what an individual said, I think the most appropriate thing is to confront him or her individually.”
NU student group Wildcats for Israel co-president and Medill sophomore Ross Krasner said he disagrees.
“People should be held accountable for what they say,” he said, adding that if someone in Wildcats for Israel posted a tweet drinking Palestinian tears, regardless of context, he would ask them to step down, and Wildcats for Israel would issue an apology.
He said that there is a “consistent pattern” of hateful messaging that comes from SJP chapters across the country. He also said that he was not surprised to see a post from Northwestern featured. That said, Krasner said he does not support the hateful messages Haider received as a result of the SJP Uncovered post.
SJP Uncovered is not the only site of its kind. A similar website called Canary Mission, according to its website, “was created in order to document people and groups that are promoting hatred of the USA, Israel and the Jewish people, particularly on college campuses in North America.”
The website contains a list of 258 students from across the country who are involved in organizations like SJP and Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movements. It documents student actions and quotes from their involvement in these groups, and also links to their personal social media accounts. Haider is featured on the website, alongside several other current and former Northwestern students.
According to its website, “Canary Mission is run by students and concerned citizens motivated by a desire to combat the rise in anti-Semitism on college campuses.” Little is known beyond this and Canary Mission’s website was also put up through Domains by Proxy.
After Canary Mission also posted about Haider, she deleted her Twitter due to messages she received that she said were “racist, violent and threatening.”
A representative from SJP says the organization echoes all of Haider’s statements but declined to comment further.