Documents reveal Zionist group spied on US student delegation to Palestine

A major investigative news piece by myself and my colleague, Asa Winstanley. Published January 29, 2014, on EI.

Documents reveal Zionist group spied on US student delegation to Palestine

Anti-Palestinian groups are escalating their repression tactics against student activists, including expanded surveillance. (Jennifer Moo / Flickr)

A right-wing Zionist group in California infiltrated a student trip to Palestine in 2012, a raft of secret documents obtained by The Electronic Intifada shows.

The documents confirm long-held activist suspicions that anti-Palestinian political groups are spying on student activists.

The files give a rare insight into the murky world of pro-Israel groups’ surveillance of students and other activists in campuses across the United States.

Pro-Israel student Prescott Watson spied on delegation members and organizers of the Olive Tree Initiative (OTI), a “conflict analysis” project of the University of California, and reported back to the Santa Cruz-based Amcha Initiative.

Amcha is a stridently anti-Palestinian group behind a number of initiatives to silence and intimidate students and teachers perceived to be critical of Israel.

OTI includes Palestinian Americans as members and “promotes a relatively unified, positive message about Palestinians,” Amcha’s 29-page report “from a student participant” warned.

Speaking to The Electronic Intifada from Jerusalem, where he now lives, Watson admitted that “I know the report very well.”

At first, Watson denied writing it, claiming it was the work of Amcha leader Tammi Rossman-Benjamin (who is a teacher, not a student) — adding that it was “more than just her” work. In a second interview later that day, after he said he had been in contact with Rossman-Benjamin, Watson stated instead that “I don’t wish to make a comment on whether or not I wrote the report.”

The report, which The Electronic Intifada is publishing today, detailed the nature of the delegation along with information on student members who were identified as sympathetic to Palestinian rights.

A lecturer in Hebrew employed by the University of California at Santa Cruz, Rossman-Benjamin is a notorious anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim activist with a history of harassment, intimidation and litigious threats against students and faculty.

The report indicates that Watson was tasked with building a case against the Olive Tree Initiative and individual students as part of the growing fight by Zionist groups against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and Palestine solidarity activism on campuses.

Though students involved with the Olive Tree Initiative expressed suspicions to the group’s leadership about Watson, they say their concerns weren’t taken seriously.

Read the rest of the article here.