- National nonprofit organization that employs the boycott/divest/sanction (BDS) strategy against Israel
Founded in 1996, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a national nonprofit organization focused on supporting the Palestinians in the Mideast conflict through targeted sanctions against Israel – sanctions designed to punish the Jewish state for its alleged human-rights violations. According to CanaryMission.org, JVP is “the largest and most influential of the Jewish anti-Zionist groups in the United States.” As a Jewish organization, JVP regards itself as the “Jewish wing of the [Palestinian Solidarity]” movement. According to its mission statement, JVP aims to “work with diverse communities across the U.S. to achieve a lasting peace for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis based on equality, human rights, and freedom.” Those ideals cannot possibly be realized, says JVP, unless “the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem” is brought to an end. While claiming to support “security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians” alike, JVP aims the vast majority of its criticism at Israel. Impugning also the United States for the “critical role” it has played in perpetuating the Arab-Israeli conflict over the years, JVP calls on America to “stop supporting repressive policies in Israel and elsewhere.”
JVP was initially formed in the San Francisco Bay Area by University of California students Julia Caplan, Julie Iny, Raichel Eisner, and Mitchell Plitnick, in response to Israel's opening of an archaeological tunnel under the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Another one of the organization's more noteworthy founding members was Professor Joel Beinin.
JVP describes the Arab-Israeli conflict as “a conflict over territory between a nation-state, Israel, with one of the world’s most powerful and well-funded militaries, and an indigenous population of Palestinians that has been occupied, displaced, and exiled for decades.” The organization commonly uses the term “Nakba” – Arabic for “Catastrophe” – to refer to the creation of Israel in 1948, which JVP characterizes as a “traumatic” event that “resulted in the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians.”
In November 2003, JVP announced that as a form of protest against “the Israeli government’s illegal and immoral occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem,” it was calling for “the boycott of Israeli products manufactured in the occupied territories, or distributed by Israeli companies based there.” JVP also said that while it did “not now endorse a boycott of all Israeli products,” it rejected “claims made by some members of the Jewish community that such a boycott would necessarily be anti-Semitic.”
In 2003 as well, JVP sold olive oil to raise money for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM).
In August 2004, JVP exhorted the United States government “to suspend military aid to Israel until it ends its 37-year occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.” Added JVP: “U.S. military aid to Israel has a dramatic effect on Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. It has increasingly been used not to pay for defense but to finance the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. It keeps Israel from facing the difficult but necessary challenges of building a more democratic society, and encourages solving deep-rooted problems by military rather than peaceful and more effective means.... Israel cannot build a society based on the principles of democracy, human rights, and compliance with international law while brutally occupying another people and their land. The United States is currently paying for that occupation with its annual aid.”
In 2005, JVP joined the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church in an initiative designed to pressure Caterpillar, Inc. to stop selling its bulldozers to Israel, because they were being used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to demolish the homes of innocent civilians. In reality, the IDF targeted only the houses and weapon-storehouses of Palestinian terrorists.
In 2008, JVP helped the Carter Center gather signatures to support former President Jimmy Carter’s controversial meeting with Hamas leader Khaled Mash'al. Both JVP and Carter viewed Mash'al as a legitimate potential partner in the peace process with Israel, and urged Israeli officials to meet with him as well.
In 2009, JVP sparked controversy by co-sponsoring (with the American Friends Service Committee) a screening of the film Rachel at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. The movie paid homage to the late Rachel Corrie, an International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist who had been accidentally run over and killed while trying to block an Israeli army bulldozer that was demolishing tunnels used by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza.
In 2010, JVP targeted TIAA-CREF, a financial-services corporation that was invested in numerous companies whose business dealings with Israel were objectionable to JVP. Those companies included Caterpillar, Veolia, Northrop Grumman, Elbit, and Motorola. Through petitions, media attention, and consumer activism, JVP sought to pressure TIAA-CREF to end its relationship with those offenders.
JVP has also directed a number of divestment campaigns against colleges and universities. Indeed, the organization supported successful divestment resolutions at both Hampshire College (2008) and Evergreen State College (2010). A UC Berkeley divestment campaign, which JVP actively backed as well, was narrowly defeated in March 2010 when the president of the Associated Students of the University of California vetoed a resolution that was slated to target General Electric and United Technologies. JVP-backed divestment efforts at UC San Diego likewise failed in 2010.
In 2010, JVP spoke out in support of the United Nations's Goldstone Report, describing it as a “well-researched [and] fair-minded” document that “accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, while rightfully placing greater emphasis on Israeli violations of international law, especially regarding the killing of civilians.”
That same year, JVP condemned Israel's interception at sea of a Free Gaza Movement flotilla of supply-laden ships that sought to dock -- without submitting their cargoes to inspection -- in Gaza, whose seaport was subject to an Israeli blockade aimed at keeping arms shipments (from Iran and elsewhere) out of the region. JVP subsequently joined numerous other organizations in a project called “U.S. to Gaza,” whose objective was to dispatch yet another ship to try and “break” the Gaza blockade.
In 2010 as well, JVP collaborated with three other organizations -- Jews For Racial And Economic Justice, American Jews For A Just Peace, and Jews Say No! -- to form the Jews Against Islamophobia Coalition whose purpose was to “challeng[e] anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Arab racism.”
JVP endorses the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a Hamas-inspired initiative that aims to use various forms of public protest, economic pressure, and court rulings to advance the Hamas agenda of permanently destroying Israel as a Jewish nation-state. Citing its own “work for freedom, justice and equality for all people,” JVP asserts that “the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real.”
JVP members often attempt to disrupt or shut down pro-Israel events by shouting, storming the podium, and creating as much chaos as possible. For example:
- JVP activists disrupted a 2010 talk where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was addressing the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. The protesters shouted things like “The loyalty oaths delegitimize Israel” and “The occupation delegitimizes Israel.”
- JVP likewise disrupted a November 2011 event that was held in New York by Taglit Birthright, a group that provides free, ten-day trips to Israel for Jews aged 18-26. The demonstrators chanted: “We're calling all Jews nationwide to join in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street and with the Palestinians who live under occupation every day.... We will not be fooled by CEOs telling us we are the Chosen People and reinforcing Jewish stereotypes. We won't be bribed with free trips to Israel that whitewash the occupation of Palestine. We demand a redistribution of power in the Jewish community. …Throughout history Jews have been persecuted as scapegoats for powerful bankers. These memories give us responsibility to speak out against corporate exploitation and human rights violations.”
- JVP disrupted a 2012 AIPAC conference, shouting: “AIPAC and Hillel stifle dialog about freedom for Palestinians”; “Opposing settlements is not anti-Semitic”; and “Supporting BDS is not anti-Semitic.” One protester held up a banner that said “Settlements betray Jewish values.”
JVP supported the Free Gaza Movement (FGM) until October 2012, at which time the organization disassociated itself from FGM because the latter's founder, Greta Berlin, tweeted a message that read: “Zionists operated the concentration camps and helped murder millions of innocent Jews.” The same Twitter message linked to a video showing the writer Eustace Mullins saying that Adolf Hitler had “allied with the Zionist Party”; that “the mission of the Nazis was to force the anti-Zionist Jews to accept Zionism”; and that “the concentration camps were run by the Zionist Jews in order to punish and get rid of the anti-Zionist Jews, which they did.”
In 2012, JVP joined the Muslim American Society, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and a number of other likeminded groups in pressuring the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles into canceling a speaking engagement with Pamela Geller, the American Freedom Defense Initiative president who seeks to warn the West about the dangers of Sharia Law and Islamic jihad. This measure was consistent with the objectives of JVP's Standing Against Islamophobia campaign, which condemns “an insidious new wave of demonization of Arabs and Muslims in this country,” and expresses particular concern about “right-wing Christian and Jewish groups dedicated to denying the fundamental rights of Palestinians, who are deliberately fueling fear of Muslims and Arabs to push their unfair agenda in the Middle East.”
In January 2013, JVP helped organize a “No Blank Check for Israel” rally in Washington, DC, which called for the suspension of U.S. aid to Israel until there was an “end to the Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.”
In July 2014, JVP organized demonstrations in 15 U.S. cities condemning Operation Protective Edge, an Israeli military response to a dramatic escalation in rocket fire by terrorists in Gaza. The protesters demanded that Israel's “collective punishment of Palestinians” be brought to a halt, and it called for the imposition of BDS measures designed to cripple the Israeli economy.
In August 2014, JVP and the American Friends Service Committee together administered a “BDS Summer Institute,” which was a five-day indoctrination course that trained college students in the tactics and strategies for promoting BDS on their respective campuses.
In response to a pair of Islamic terrorist attacks that killed 16 innocent people in Paris in early January 2015, JVP published a blog post titled “The Paris Murders & the Islamophobic Backlash,” which stated, in part:
“JVP's Network Against Islamophobia mourns the lives of those killed in the murderous attacks in Paris this week … We also stand in strong opposition to increasing Islamophobia and racism in response to these murders – the vilifying of Muslims and attributing to all Muslims the acts of a few who claim to speak in the name of Islam. French Muslims especially are bearing the brunt of the current backlash.
“Muslims are at greatly heightened risk from the forces of bigotry. This latest backlash occurs in the context of pervasive, systemic, and long-standing anti-Islam bigotry in many countries around the world.... With Western leaders arriving at the Paris march to demonstrate their opposition to terrorism, it is important to remember that some of these world leaders have been, and continue to be, responsible for state terrorism and countless civilian deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Gaza, among many other places.... [W]e pledge continued solidarity with Muslim communities and find it more urgent than ever to commit ourselves to challenging Islamophobia and all forms of racism in its many forms and manifestations.”
JVP is a proudly socialist organization, as evidenced by the fact that its members responded with thunderous applause when the longtime Communist revolutionary Angela Davis said in a March 15, 2015 speech to the organization: “I am extremely happy that Jewish Voice for Peace is emerging as one of the most important progressive organizations in the country. An organization that is reclaiming the legacy of Jewish leadership of, and participation in, struggles for peace, racial justice, and, oh yes, socialism.”
In 2015 as well, JVP was a National Campaign Partner for “No Way to Treat a Child” (NWTC) – a joint project of the American Friends Service Committee and Defense for Children International-Palestine (an organization affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). NWTC's purpose was “to challenge and end Israel's prolonged military occupation of Palestinians by exposing widespread and systematic ill-treatment of Palestinian children in the Israeli military detention system.”
Beginning in September 2015, JVP co-sponsored a speaking tour in the United States for Bassem Tamimi, a Palestinian activist who in 2012 had been convicted of encouraging Palestinian youths to throw stones at Israeli soldiers. Moreover, Tamimi has expressed support for claims that Israelis commonly capture Palestinian children for the purpose of forcibly harvesting their organs.
In October 2015, JVP issued a statement in support of Rasmea Odeh, mastermind of a February 1969 supermarket bombing in Jerusalem in which members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine had murdered two young Jewish men. Specifically, JVP was angry that the U.S. was now seeking to deport Odeh because she had failed to disclose, on her naturalization forms twenty years earlier, her participation in the 1969 Jerusalem bombing. Citing Odeh's claim that Israeli authorities had coerced her original confession by means of torture and repeated rape, JVP said:
“Jewish Voice for Peace stands with Rasmea Odeh and her supporters as she challenges her conviction arising from her immigration to the United States in 1995.... Rasmea is a respected Chicago-area Palestinian-American community organizer and long-time activist for justice.... Rasmea’s lawyers and supporters believe that the investigation into her naturalization paperwork nearly 20 years later was prompted by the Islamophobia and racism of a justice system that has targeted Rasmea for her activism in support of Palestinian rights.... Jewish Voice for Peace calls on the Sixth Circuit to overturn Rasmea’s unjust conviction and allow her to return to her family and her work for justice and human rights.”
In March 2017, Odeh was a featured speaker at JVP's National Member Meeting, along with such notables as Judith Butler, Linda Sarsour, Phyllis Bennis, and Hatem Abudayyeh.
In 2015, JVP strongly supported the deal that the Obama Administration was pursuing with regard to limiting Iran's ability to develop a nuclear weapons program. The final agreement allowed the Islamist regime in Tehran to enrich uranium, build advanced centrifuges, purchase ballistic missiles, fund terrorism, and have a near-zero breakout time to a nuclear bomb approximately a decade down the road. None of these facts, however, dampened JVP's enthusiasm for the deal. Two years later, when President Donald Trump was indicating that he might consider decertifying the deal or perhaps even scrapping it altogether, JVP said:
- “The Iran Deal has dramatically reduced Iran’s capacity to build a nuclear weapon and placed it under the most comprehensive nuclear inspection regime ever negotiated in history.”
- “Any sanctions legislation that would either re-impose sanctions suspended under the Iran deal or impose any additional sanctions would further escalate tensions with Iran.”
- “There is no better deal. If the U.S. walks out, or forces Iran to withdraw from the deal, we risk a cycle of increasing confrontations and yet another catastrophic U.S. war in the Middle East.”
- “President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu share a desire to escalate conflict with Iran, leading us closer to the dangerous possibility of war.”
In 2016, JVP and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation together took out a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times, calling on Academy Award nominees to reject a free, ten-day luxury trip (worth $55,000) to Israel that was being offered to them. Sponsored by the Israeli government, the trip was being offered to Oscar host Chris Rock as well as all nominees in the “best actor/actress,” “best supporting actor/actress,” and “best director” categories. JVP had previously attempted, without success, to place a similar ad in Variety magazine.
In August 2016, the Jews Of Color Caucus (JOCC) was established as a partner organization of JVP. JOCC divides the world into neatly defined categories of oppressors and victims. The oppressors are white Americans and Israeli Jews; the victims are black Americans and Palestinian Arabs. Both the U.S. and Israel, says JOCC, are awash in “state-sponsored racism” against blacks and Palestinians, respectively. Having “witnessed our cultures destroyed and appropriated in service to the white supremacism and settler militarism that are at the basis of zionism,” JOCC emphasizes that it has no tolerance for “centrist” Jews who fail to embrace the organization's uncompromising anti-American, anti-Israel message.
In August 2016, JVP stated that it “endorses the Movement for Black Lives platform in its entirety, without reservation.” For details of this platform, which is closely tied to the Black Lives Matter movement, click here.
JVP and the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are closely aligned ideologically. In December 2016, CAIR even presented one of its inaugural “Defender of Liberty” awards to JVP.
In January 2017, JVP San Diego endorsed a campaign demanding the release of Ahmad Sa’adat, the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), who was serving a 30-year prison sentence for heading an “illegal terrorist organization” and for his involvement in planning such attacks as the 2001 assassination of Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi. Said the statement that JVP endorsed:
“Ahmad Sa’adat is a leader of the Palestinian prisoners’ movement and a leader of the Palestinian national liberation movement, held behind bars with 7,000 fellow leaders of the Palestinian people. There are thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, on the front line of the struggle for freedom. In the past year, over 6,000 Palestinians were arrested by Israeli occupation forces. These Palestinian political prisoners are the leaders of resistance to occupation, targeted for their role in refusing racism, colonialism, apartheid and occupation.”
In February 2017, JVP joined a number of likeminded groups and individuals in signing a letter that called upon National Football League players to boycott a planned trip to Israel, on grounds that the Jewish state was guilty of “war crimes,” “whitewash[ing] its ongoing denial of Palestinian rights,” and constructing an “apartheid wall.” The letter also lauded the Black Lives Matter movement, and it compared Palestinians in Israel with blacks who had once lived in apartheid South Africa, and also with “brown and black communities” in the U.S. prior to the civil rights movement. The letter read, in part:
“Palestinians have for decades been fighting policies similar to the ones people are protesting in cities across the United States. This May, Palestinians will mark 69 years since they were forcibly displaced off their lands during the establishment of the state of Israel. Since then Israel has continued to expel, deny, and ban Palestinians, tearing apart families and keeping millions of refugees from returning home. Israel’s brutal military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem has now lasted 50 years and has included the building of illegal Jewish-only settlements on stolen Palestinian land, the construction of an apartheid wall to further keep Palestinians out, and the destruction of more than 25,000 Palestinian homes.... Your trip to Israel comes at a time of growing cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli governments, as evidenced by the close relationship between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who both are eager to work together to continue implementing their right-wing, racist agendas.”
Additional signatories to this letter included, among others: Harry Belafonte, Angela Davis, Danny Glover, Alicia Garza, Marc Lamont Hill, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, the Dream Defenders, and the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
In June 2017, JVP initiated a campaign called “Deadly Exchange” (DE), which aims to “end police exchange programs between the U.S. and Israel.” Says DE: “One of the most dangerous places where the regimes of Trump and Netanyahu converge are in exchange programs that bring together police, ICE, border patrol, and FBI from the U.S. with soldiers, police, border agents, etc. from Israel. In these programs, 'worst practices' are shared to promote and extend discriminatory and repressive policing in both countries including extrajudicial executions, shoot-to-kill policies, police murders, racial profiling, massive spying and surveillance, deportation and detention, and attacks on human rights defenders.”
Since 2015, JVP has called for the U.S. to take in large numbers of refugees from Syria, a nation ravaged by civil war and teeming with terrorism. Noting that “just under 2,200 Syrian refugees were allowed into the United States in 2015,” plus “a mere 10,000 in 2016,” JVP in 2017 said that these numbers were inadequate, particularly in light of the fact that the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) terrorism in that country was largely a result of previous American interventions: “The United States bears no small responsibility. The Syrian war — and particularly the rise of ISIS — has everything to do with U.S. actions dating back to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, which gave rise to ISIS in the first place.”
Asserting that “President [Donald] Trump was propelled into office by a wave of racist, sexist, hateful, anti-Muslim, anti-Jewish, anti-immigrant sentiment,” JVP in 2017 vowed to “link arms and build power to face this challenge here in the U.S.”
JVP says that it “endorses neither a one-state solution, nor a two-state solution” to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But it fully supports the Palestinian “right of return,” a policy that would incorporate some five million Arabs into Israel virtually overnight, thereby rendering the Jews a permanent minority in their own country. In short, the result would be a one-state solution that would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish entity.
JVP's Network Against Islamophobia is a project that “provides support and resources for those interested in organizing against Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.”
On the premise that “creative protest, cultural production, and art have a unique role to play in building justice,” JVP has created an Artists and Cultural Workers Council consisting of several dozen “acclaimed poets, rock singers, cartoonists, painters, actors, playwrights, novelists, filmmakers, computer programmers, musicians, dancers, performance artists, and other cultural workers” who are willing to lend their talents to promote JVP's values and agendas.
To promote anti-Israel organizing on college campuses across the United States, JVP has formed an Academic Advisory Council consisting of “tenured professors, contingent faculty, independent scholars and graduate students” who are “invested [in] justice for Palestine.” Similarly, the JVP Student Network is a national coalition of undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, and campus activists “united in support for Palestinian equal rights and liberation.”
In addition to its main website, which promotes divestment from Israel and encourages IDF soldiers to desert the military, JVP hosts a blog called “The Only Democracy?” The purpose of this blog is to “questio[n] the very notion of Israel as ‘the only democracy’ in the Middle East.” From 2006-15, JVP also ran another blog, MuzzleWatch, which monitored attempts to “stifle open debate about U.S.-Israeli foreign policy.”
Over the course of its history, JVP has received funding from numerous charitable foundations. Among these are the Wallace Global Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Tides Foundation, the Ploughshares Fund, and the Ben & Jerry's Foundation. For a more comprehensive discussion of JVP's funding sources, click here.
JVP currently has more than 50 chapters across the United States.
For additional information on JVP, click here.