Over the summer, Brandeis was one of many Boston-based institutions accused of perpetrating the colonization of Palestine. This accusation, among others, came from a new initiative titled the Mapping Project. 

The Mapping Project is the product of an anonymous collective of Boston-based “activists and organizers,” according to their website, who compiled a list of dozens of institutions around the Boston area whom they believe are perpetuating a large, complex, intersecting network of harm across the United States and in Israel and Palestine. According to the homepage, the Mapping Project believes that “through a web of partnerships and collaborations,” there are specific organizations, institutions, and people responsible for “the colonization of Palestine… sustaining policing, supporting ICE deportations, profiting from US wars, and driving evictions and displacement.”

The project has sparked fierce debate, with both support and pushback. The Mapping Project began to gain widespread media attention in mid-June, from outlets such as the Boston Globe and NBC, and prompted 37 United States Representatives to write a letter to the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice urging for an investigation and for security precautions to be taken. The representatives wrote that they “fear that this map may be used as a roadmap for violent attacks... against the people and entities listed therein,” explaining that the online map provides exact addresses of not just institutions but individual people. “We ask that you investigate the use of the Mapping Project by extremist organizations, provide any necessary enhanced security for targets listed in the Project, and work with social media companies and internet service providers to prevent its further distribution.”

On June 14, University President Ronald Leibowitz sent an email to the Brandeis community about the University being amongst those listed as perpetrators of harm. The email explained that the Mapping Project “alleges evil connections between Jewish and pro-Israel groups across Massachusetts with politicians, the police, and the media, and targets, by name, individual Jewish citizens.” Leibowitz went on to say that the project “uses well-worn antisemitic tropes to link these groups — including respected charitable and educational institutions — to a range of conspiracies and sinister activities. Brandeis is among those listed.” The project links the American Jewish community to a variety of global injustices, atrocities, and human rights violations, thus alleging that the Jewish community is extraordinarily powerful and has the capability to control swaths of society, a long-time antisemitic sentiment. 

In total, almost 500 Boston-based organizations are named. There are 40 universities listed, including Brandeis, ten separate Harvard colleges, all four branches of the University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tufts University, Boston College, and Boston University, just to draw a few from the dozens listed. Gann Academy, a Jewish Day School, is also included in the list of universities. In the government section of the webpage, the State of Massachusetts and the individual cities of Boston and Cambridge are listed. All Newton public schools are included, as well as Governor Charlie Baker and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. Major media outlets, such as the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, are included in the list, as are a variety of Boston’s prominent cultural institutions, like the Boston Museum of Science and the Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at Harvard. Large national banks like JPMorgan and Liberty Mutual are on the list, as are over a dozen of Boston-based construction and engineering firms, and medical companies such as Pfizer and Moderna. There are 38 non-profit organizations listed, over 30 of which are explicitly Jewish NGOs, and the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, an umbrella organization for synagogues across the state, was also listed. It is noteworthy that no Christian Zionist organizations were listed, although there are many Christian institutions across the country that strongly support Israel and the Zionist project, financially or otherwise, causing some to assert that the Project wrongfully places the blame solely on Jewish institutions.

The website includes an interactive map pinpointing the physical location of each institution. There are also lists of each institution, subdivided into types of organizations as well as what kind of “harms” are being perpetrated. The map shows a complex web that locates the exact location of a variety of institutions and communal organizations and connects them to any government official, educational institution, or other organization with whom they may have interacted. Included on their list of harms are topics such as Zionism, US imperialism, the prison-industrial complex, militarization, and colonialism, to name a few. The project states that their goal in pursuing this project is to “reveal the local entities and networks that enact devastation, so we can dismantle them.” 

The site has included an explanation, including many specific details, as to what prompted them to add each institution, organization, and person to the list. The Mapping Project accuses Brandeis of being “complicit in propaganda, normalization, and Zionism,” and states that Brandeis “offers its students multiple programs and initiatives which celebrate Israel and whitewash over the realities of Israel's ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.” The site goes on to list specific programs and centers that they believe to be harmful, including the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, and the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program. The site spotlights Brandeis’ Israel Initiative, which enables students to study abroad or find internships at Israeli institutions, and allows students from the Ben-Gurion University’s Business School to qualify for financial support and possible credit when they enroll at Brandeis’ International Business School.

The Mapping Project states that the reason they include universities on their list of perpetrators of harm is that the issues of privatization and medical apartheid are “often facilitated by universities and their corporate partners,” that universities engage in “multiple forms of oppression and produce much of the ruling class,” and that, since universities are often major landholders, they are a “central nexus that ties together many of the harms traced on the map.”

There has been misinformation online calling the project a Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions project, but the individuals who have created the project have not explicitly aligned themselves with BDS on their website. BDS Boston endorsed the project via Twitter, calling the project “important work,” which subsequently led to the official Twitter account of the larger BDS movement to tweet: “The BDS Movement has no connection to and does not endorse the Mapping Project in Boston, Massachusetts. Simultaneously, we reject and condemn the cynical use of this project as a pretext for repressive attacks on the Palestine solidarity movement.”

Liebowitz noted in the aforementioned email that “the normalization of antisemitic stereotypes has fueled hateful attacks on the Jewish community for more than a millennium, and we must be unequivocal in our denunciation of all who perpetuate them.”