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Iran is Likely Behind the Mapping Project

It has been well over a month since the antisemitic Mapping Project was first publicized. And we still do not really know is truly behind it. True, many different groups, such as BDS Boston, have promoted it, but have claimed they did not create it. The question remains: who did?

Last week, I posted about a group called JISR Collective, a “Diaspora Arab Media Collective challenging imperialism and capitalism” who went after the BDS Movement for, among other things, not supporting the Mapping Project.

I believe they are the ones behind the project.

JISR Collective are the only ones to attack BDS Movement over Mapping Project stance

The JISR Collective’s social media attack included 10 graphics attacking the BDS National Committee (BNC), the BDS movement’s coordinating body. They also posted an 8000+ word blog post on its website, which included inside information on the BDS network, and mentioned the BNC more than 195 times.

This kind of offensive against the Ramallah-based group for their opposition to The Mapping Project was not carried out by any other anti-Israel/delegitimization group. Other anti-Israel groups, such as PYM, Samidoun, and Within Our Lifetime, continued their support for The Mapping Project following the BDS Movement’s denouncement of the project, but did not attack them.

Same Connection to BDS Boston

The JISR Collective Twitter account was launched in September 2021 and currently has more than 980 followers. The first account to follow them was BDS Boston, the first to share the Mapping Project.

Same Terminology

The JISR Collective website and that of the Mapping Project employ very similar language.

  1. The term “collective,” which is part of the name ‘JISR Collective’, is a recurring theme on The Mapping Project website and in anonymous interviews it gave to Mondoweiss and Samidoun. Also, BDS Boston claimed “The Mapping Project is its own collective.”
  2. Both The Mapping Project and JISR Collective define themselves as a “multigenerational” groups made of volunteers:
  1. Both stress that they refuse any form of financial donations and do not have/report to any donors:
  1. Both The Mapping Project and JISR Collective focus on exposing and countering “imperialism and Zionism,” which they both consider to be fundamental “harms” that control US policy.

For these reasons, I believe this shady JISR Collective is behind the Mapping Project. The next question is: who are they really?

This is where it gets really interesting. You see, I believe it is actually the Iranians behind the JISR Collective and its antisemitic mapping of Jewish institutions.

JISR Collective regularly amplifies Iranian and Iranian ally affiliated Twitter accounts

The JISR Collective regularly retweets posts from accounts affiliated with the Islamic Republic of Iran or Iranians allies like Hezbollah and the Assad regime in Syria. These accounts include:

  • Julia MK (Julia Qasem) – Writer and journalist for Iran’s Press TV and Hezbollah-affiliated Al Mayadeen
  • Ali – A Lebanese Shi’a social media activist with almost 10k followers
  • Iraq Now – a Shi’a-affiliated magazine in English and Dutch
  • Runi Al-Dinmarki – Writer for Hezbollah-affiliated outlet Al-Mayadeen and supporter of the pro-Iranian Houthi government in Yemen
  • Ibn Riad – Lebanese Shi’a blogger

JISR Collective regularly amplifies content sympathetic to Iran and its allies

For example:

  • Retweeting a tweet sympathizing with Iranian Revolutionary Guards former leader Qassem Soleimani, Hezbollah leaders Hassan Nasrallah and Imad Mughniyeh, and Houthi leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi:
  • Highlighting Gazans’ support for the pro-Iranian Houthi government in Yemen:

JISR Collective still has not been able to register as a non-profit

The JISR Collective’s website domain was established in 2021 and is registered in Los Angeles, California.

On October 7, 2021, lawyer Masood R. Khan from California submitted a 501(c)3 application on behalf of JISR Collective to register as a nonprofit organization. As of June 28, 2022, more than eight months after the application, JISR Collective had yet to be recognized as a non-profit organization.

This is typically longer than it usually takes to achieve non-profit status.

While this is not a “smoking gun” that the JISR Collective operates outside the US, it could be a further hint as to it.

Mapping Project site likely required a lot of funding

The Mapping Project website involved a lot of painstaking work, not just from a technological standpoint but also from the amount of research involved. This is likely not something mere volunteers could handle. Given the JISR Collective is not a non-profit and does not receive donations, I believe it is funded by a government entity.

Just like with the antisemitic Project Nemesis, I see Iranian-footprints all over this.

Arabic Language Mistakes

Despite its claim to represent the “Arab diaspora community,” JISR Collective’s publications contain glaring mistakes in Arabic, indicating that its writers do not possess mother-tongue-level Arabic (I confirmed this with an Arabic expert).

For example, the following mistakes appear in its first blog post:

  • The word “Collective” in Arabic in JISR Collective’s logo has a mistake; Instead of Jama’iyah (جمعية), they write Jimaa’iyah (جماعية).
  • Instead of writing “Call your congressman and congresswoman,” they write “Call your congressman and your congressman.
  • Instead of writing “we all saw [ كلنا رأينا ],” it reads, “we all he saw.” [كلنا رأى]
  • They write: “The military assistance who (they) give her green light to kill Palestinians.”

I have confirmed these are mistakes that could only likely be made by non-native speakers of Arabic.

The official language of modern day Iran is Farsi, not Arabic.

Again, this is not a “smoking gun” but certainly could support my theory.

JISR site’s domain information

A look at the domain information for their website Jisrcollective[dot]com shows registry by the US-based company Namecheap Inc, through its subsidiary Withheld for Privacy ehf (an online privacy service), with an address in Iceland:

According to Jennifer Dyer, a retired US Naval intelligence officer, for a group like this, that’s a classic tell that someone did a comprehensive set-up to operate them as a front.

In 2021, the US cyber watchdog CISA (agency of US Dept of Homeland Security) put out a warning on malware sources with domains registered to the same Iceland address/company. Texas also has a case against a pair of bad actors registered by Namecheap’s Iceland company.

Those things mean it’s common for bad actors to register anonymously with this privacy service.

Interestingly, Namecheap also accepts payment via Bitcoin:

This could mean that in theory, its clients can remain anonymous even to Namecheap.

Update: Further indications I am on to something (hat tip: Teresa):

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