Safety concerns have escalated after two weeks of increasing student activity around the Israel-Hamas war, with heightened occurrences of antisemitism and Islamophobia during recent demonstrations on campus.
For the Palestinian community and supporting organizations, however, these fears of online harassment and doxxing are not new; multiple campus student organizations, and students themselves, have faced the threat of personal information leaks and safety concerns.
Last year, following months of controversy around a Berkeley Law Students for Justice in Palestine bylaw banning Zionist speakers at their events, the names of campus law students associated with groups that adopted the bylaw were seen broadcasted on a billboard truck. The screen included the graduating years of the students and the organizations they belonged to.
While the trucks did not reappear after the incident, Berkeley Law students and other pro-Palestine student protestors have appeared on surveillance sites such as Canary Mission. According to its website, Canary Mission “documents individuals and organizations that promote hatred of the U.S.A, Israel and Jews,” including members of anti-Israel and pro-Palestine groups, on college campuses.
With the most recent escalation of conflict in Israel and Gaza, fears of being doxxed on such websites have permeated throughout communities supporting Palestine.
A member of the campus Middle Eastern and North African Recruitment and Retention Center, or MENARRC, who requested anonymity due to safety concerns, called doxxing an unfortunate normality for the community, but recent escalations have led to the center taking down identifying information on websites and social media, as well as removing information on rosters such as CalLink to protect members.
They added that MENARRC and other community organizations have also implemented protocols for protests, with club members encouraged to wear masks, attend demonstrations in groups of two to three and remain “vigilant” of cameras during events.
The Muslim community is not alone in its concerns for safety. Antisemitic incidents have also increased both on campus and in the city in the recent past.
An Aug. 26 incident at a campus Jewish fraternity involving shellfish being thrown through their windows is currently being investigated as a hate crime by UCPD. Off campus, a Sept. 26 Berkeley City Council meeting was interrupted several times during a public comment section by Zoom-bombers touting antisemitic conspiracy theories and racist language.
Videos have further circulated on X showing antisemitic and Islamophobic encounters during multiple on-campus demonstrations. In one, a Jewish student holding an Israeli flag was assaulted during a Palestinian rally held on campus last week and, in others, Muslim students were called Islamophobic slurs during an Oct. 10 Israeli demonstration.
Campus organization Bears For Palestine, or BFP, expressed similar concerns of violence and safety for its vigil Oct. 13 in an Instagram statement, noting they had to privatize and change the location of the vigil “multiple times” after receiving threats of doxxing.
According to the statement, BFP enlisted security personnel as a result — a now-frequent sight at vigils and demonstrations for both Palestine and Israel.
Campus messages have also addressed protest safety concerns following altercations at the demonstration Oct. 10 and heightened tensions on campus, recommending online vigilance in response to doxxing concerns of student organizations.
Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff added in an email that campus has been working with student groups to address safety concerns including doxxing. He noted measures taken included meetings with UCPD.
While student groups and campus have been increasing safety measures, the MENARRC member said vigilance has been ultimately ingrained into the reality of many Muslim-identifying students.
“I’m from a very predominantly white area, being one of few Middle Eastern people as a whole and one of very few Muslims,” they said. “I’ve just been taught to be vigilant and to be aware, and that’s just something I’ve grown accustomed to … and a lot of Muslim-identifying students can relate to it because it’s something we’re taught growing up, especially in the United States.”