By: Kate Anderson, Daily Caller News Foundation
The Mapping Project, which was originally thought to be a website targeting Jewish communities in Massachusetts, may be a front for a foreign power to map out “U.S. security institutions,” according to a new report released Wednesday.
The Mapping Project was initially started in Jun. 2022, after a website tied to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an organization dedicated to getting businesses to cut ties with Israel in protest of alleged human rights abuses towards Palestinians, was created with the exact locations of dozens of Jewish community centers, schools and synagogues, according to the American Jewish Committee. Zachor Legal Institute, a legal think tank and Jewish advocacy organization fighting the BDS movement, published a report Wednesday showing that the Mapping Project, which was originally deemed an antisemitic BDS ploy, may be a front for foreign powers such as Iran to create a strategy for taking out military and security targets, according to a press release.
The report explains that the Mapping Project currently shows 500 exact addresses of organizations that are accused of supporting Israel or U.S. funding for Israel. Out of the original 500, 298 are “American strategic security assets and institutions” as well as the locations of several dozen Jewish organizations in the state of Massachusetts.
“This includes institutions such as police stations, air force bases, naval installations, the U.S. Secret Service, FBI, Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals, and other government offices,” the report reads. “This raises concern that the true goal of the project is to map the American security apparatus and that the targeting of the American Jewish community – while real and troubling – may be a façade to obfuscate this plan.”
The report notes that there is “considerable evidence that Iranian elements” may be aiding or potentially even behind the Mapping Project. When the project launched, social media groups, including several with ties to Iran, such as the Iranian State-owned media outlet PressTV and Hezbollah affiliate Al Mayadeen, immediately promoted and endorsed the website.
“In addition to these organizations, U.S. terror-designated Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) itself published a ringing endorsement of the project on June 24, as did the Iranian regime-owned PressTV, which published a supportive column on Jun. 26 and a 30-minute video segment about it on Jul. 9 as part of its Palestine Declassified program,” the report said. “The program hosts lauded the Mapping Project, encouraged its replication, and explicitly accused the ADL of espionage on behalf of the Israeli Mossad.”
Marc Greendorfer, president of ZLI, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that if the “project is part of Iran’s agenda to bring bloodshed and conflict to U.S. soil, law enforcement and homeland security officials should take this as an imminent threat and respond accordingly.”
While the report found that the project had been supported by multiple groups with ties to terrorism in Palestine, China and North Korea, many of those groups have Iranian ties as well. Qiao Collective, an anti-American “diaspora Chinese media collective,” helped organize the “International people’s tribunal on U.S. imperialism” which held its first event in March 2022 led by Helyeh Doutaghi, a Canadian Iranian doctoral candidate and a member of “PFLP-affiliated and Israel terror-designated group Samidoun [and] Committee of Anti-Imperialists in Solidarity with Iran.”
Qiao Collective also follows the JISR Collective, an “Arab Diaspora Media” group that actively encourages terrorism in the Middle East, particularly against Israel, and regularly voices support for Iran, according to the report. JISR didn’t exist until late 2021 and its first follower on social media was Boston BDS, which has been cited as being involved and potentially creating the website, and when the project went live, JISR announced its support and posted the project on its website and social media.
Additionally, the report found striking similarities between the Mapping Project and the JISR Collective on an “institutional level.”
“Both The Mapping Project and JISR Collective define themselves as ‘multigenerational’ groups made of volunteers, and both stress that they refuse any form of financial donations,” the report pointed out. “Both the Mapping Project and JISR Collective are focused on exposing and countering ‘imperialism and Zionism,’ which they consider fundamental harms that affect the U.S. Both the Mapping Project and JISR Collective offer only one channel through which they can be contacted: an e-mail address provided by Proton Mail, an end-to-end encrypted e-mail service.”
Finally, ZLI’s report notes that no other group has defended the Mapping Project quite like the JISR, citing an instance in 2022 when the JISR wrote an 8,000-word response to the BDS National Committee, who demanded BDS Boston remove the “BDS” from their name for promoting the Mapping Project.
Greendorfer explained to the DCNF that he believed Iran had attempted to distract the U.S. from the Mapping Project by painting it as a “BDS form of antisemitism” while creating a map of potential targets for domestic terrorists.
“Whether it’s Iran’s lapdogs in Lebanon, Iranian-backed terror organizations in Gaza and Judea/Samaria or even Iranian agents in Argentina, Iran, there is a long history of Iran committing violence against Jews worldwide, ” Greendorfer said. “We believe that in this case, Iran is trying to help domestic terror groups in the U.S. by giving them a list of Jewish targets. Second, there’s also a strong possibility that Iran is trying to distract U.S. officials in the Biden administration, who have been exceedingly hostile to Jews and Israel, by making the project look like it’s yet another BDS-related form of antisemitism when, in reality, it’s Iran providing hostile actors in the U.S. with specific targets that relate to national security and law enforcement.”
The State Department referred the DCNF to the FBI when asked about ZLI’s report.
The FBI, Mapping Project and BDS Boston did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment. The JISR could not be reached for comment.