Pro-Palestine mapping website raises alarm in Jewish groups

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BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts’ Jewish community is on edge after a mysterious pro-Palestine website launched earlier this month listing the names and addresses of scores of local institutions — a number of them Jewish — and calling 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 invite. U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Rachael Rollins 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.

Local police departments and other law enforcement agencies comprise more than half the list, and some the state’s most globally recognized institutions, such as Harvard, MIT, 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 U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security and FBI to investigate the use of the website to intentionally target Jewish groups.

The letter also calls on the agencies to 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. “The United States faces a serious and growing threat from anti-Semitic foreign terrorist organizations, homegrown violent extremists, and domestic violent extremists.”

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. But the 1984 Hosting Company, from Reykjavík, Iceland, which is hosting the site, didn’t respond to emails seeking comment in recent days.

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.

As head of his organization’s Communal Security Initiative, which provides security advice and other resources to local Jewish groups, he’s been encouraging others not to overreact, but also make sure their security plans, equipment and staff training are up-to-date and in working order.

“We’re really focused on long-term preparation and not the latest threat,” 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.”