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Israel group secretly ran misleading Facebook ads targeting Palestinian poet

Image of Remi Kanazi, an American-Palestinian spoken word artist, performing one of his poems on 10 April 2017 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]
Remi Kanazi, an American-Palestinian spoken word artist, performing a poem of Mahmoud Darwish on 10 April 2017 [Jehan Alfarra/Middle East Monitor]

A US-based Israel advocacy group has been exposed as having secretly run misleading Facebook ads targeting Palestinian-American poet Remi Kanazi.

During a 2016 tour of college campuses, Kanazi was smeared by nearly identical Facebook pages with titles such as “John Jay Students Against Hate” and “SJSU [San Jose State] Students Against Hate”, with paid Facebook campaigns promoting both pages.

It has now been revealed that these Facebook campaigns “were run by professional Washington D.C. political operatives who work for a group called the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC)”, according to promotional materials obtained by ProPublica and the Forward.

In the materials, intended for ICC donors, the group describes each of the Facebook pages as an “anonymous digital campaign”, and acknowledges paying to promote the campaign.

Read: Israel jails Palestinian poet over ‘incitement’ on Facebook

ICC had a budget of $9 million in its fiscal year ending in June 2017, according to federal tax filings. “Its funders include the foundations of billionaire Republican donor Paul Singer and philanthropist Lynn Schusterman”, according to the report.

Asked about the Israel on Campus Coalition pages, a Facebook spokesperson said they “violate our policies against misrepresentation and they have been removed”.

The new report says that “anonymous digital campaigns appear to be a central part of the ICC’s efforts to combat pro-Palestinian activism on US campuses”.

“These insidious tactics are part of a larger campaign to smear students, professors, and anyone who dares speak up for Palestinian human rights at universities,” Kanazi said in an email.

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