Above: Jewish Voice for Peace activists protest at a New Orleans City Council meeting on Jan. 25, 2018, when the city rescinded a resolution proponents said two weeks earlier was about universal human rights, but the groups, including JVP, then touted as being an anti-Israel BDS bill.
Jewish Voice for Peace placed a full-page ad in the Birmingham News on Feb. 15, saluting anti-Israel activist Angela Davis, who will be speaking in Birmingham after a major controversy involving a rescinded — then reinstated — award from the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (see coverage from Southern Jewish Life, here).
So, who is Jewish Voice for Peace? Here is background on the stridently anti-Israel organization, reprinted with permission from the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America:
by Ricki Hollander
(CAMERA) — The anti-Zionist group “Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP)” has been described in the mainstream media, at various times, as “an anti-discrimination group” (Boston Globe, Aug. 7, 2015); “an American Jewish group” that has been “critical of Israeli treatment of Palestinians” (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 8, 2018 and Sept. 9, 2015); a “U.S. organization…run by Jewish activists” (Washington Post, July 8, 2018); “an organization that opposes Israel’s policies toward Palestinians and the continued expansion of settlements in the region” (Chicago Tribune, May 5, 2014); and a “liberal group… critical of the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu…” (New York Times, Dec. 7, 2017).
Is it any wonder, then, that some news consumers think JVP is just a pro-peace organization representing Jewish interests while opposing certain policies of the current Israeli government?
Nothing can be further from the truth: JVP lobbies against Jewish interests, using its “Jewish” label to shield it from accusations of anti-Semitism while it tries to disguise its shameful purpose in the misleading language of peace and human rights. Far from being “inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice and human rights,” as its website sanctimoniously declares, its animus is not directed against any specific Israeli policy or leader as much as it targets support from any headquarters for a Jewish state.
CAMERA’s backgrounder follows with a more detailed look at JVP’s actions, with information on:
The group’s declared mission is to drive a wedge between the U.S. and the Jewish state and to promote radical boycott campaigns against Israel.
At a 2013 panel discussion sponsored by the anti-Israel Students for Justice in Palestine group (under its former name), Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson acknowledged JVP’s divisive role:
“I think part of our job as the Jewish wing of the [Palestinian solidarity] movement, is to facilitate conversations inside the Jewish community… I think it’s very important to think sort of how we plan a wedge… So, I think that the more and more we can sort of put that wedge in, saying the Jewish community’s not agreeing on these issues, the more we’ll make progress.” (Quoted by Yitzhak Santis from transcript of Vilkomerson’s speech, in “Driving a Wedge: JVP’s Strategy to Weaken U.S. Support for Israel by Dividing the Jewish Community,” NGO-Monitor Report, July 8, 2018)
JVP opposes the Jewish right to self-determination, espousing the anti-Semitic BDS campaign that seeks to eliminate the Jewish state.
BDS leaders have repeatedly made clear their goal is to wipe the Jewish state off the map. As BDS founder Omar Barghouti declared:
“A Jewish state in Palestine, in any shape or form, cannot but contravene the basic rights of the land’s indigenous Palestinian population…definitely, most definitely, we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian – rational Palestinian, not a sellout Palestinian—will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”
Cal State University political science professor/BDS proponent Asad Abu Khalil similarly explains:
“That [the real aim of BDS is to bring down the Jewish state] should be stated as an unambiguous goal. There should not be any equivocation on the subject. Justice and freedom for the Palestinians are incompatible with the existence of the state of Israel.”
And political commentator/ BDS activist Ahmed Moor makes clear that:
“BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state…Ending the occupation doesn’t mean anything if it doesn’t mean upending the Jewish state itself.”
Justifying its adoption of this destructive campaign against a Jewish state, JVP slanders the Jewish national movement as a “settler-colonial movement” and “an apartheid state where Jews have more rights than others.”
To clarify, the Jewish rights that JVP decries are embodied in Israel’s law of return: They are the rights that allow Jews to freely immigrate to the country and ensure that Jewish refugees from anywhere at anytime can find a safe haven in their ancestral homeland.
JVP’s condemnation of rights for Jews is accompanied by its adoption of the BDS call to “promote the rights” for millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to move to Israel and turn Jews into a minority in their ancestral home. It amounts to the annihilation of a Jewish state through demographic means.
But while BDS leaders are forthright about the meaning of the Palestinian so-called “right of return” – leader Omar Barghouti acknowledges that “you cannot reconcile the right of return for refugees with a two state solution…. a return for refugees would end Israel’s existence as a Jewish state” – JVP leaders couch it in false terms of peace, liberation and international legal rights.
JVP invokes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and claims that the “rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties” is “stipulated in UN Resolution 194” to wrongly suggest that these documents enshrine the right of Palestinians to settle freely in Israel.
It is a falsehood. The 1948 UN General Assembly Resolution suggested that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors… be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.” It was a recommendation, as opposed to a legal directive, that was predicated upon the refugees’ acceptance of Israel and willingness to live at peace with their Jewish neighbors. (That this resolution pertained equally to rights of Jewish refugees from Arab countries is completely ignored by JVP.) Arab leaders repeatedly rejected the resolution precisely because they refused to accept the Jewish state.
And the majority of international legal scholars consider Universal Declaration of Human Rights inapplicable to Palestinians who had never been citizens of Israel. In CAMERA’s backgrounder, “The Palestinian Claim to a Right of Return”, Dr. Alex Safian explains how the declaration actually argues against a Palestinian right of return to Israel.
Facts and reasoned debate are, however, anathema to the ideologues of JVP. They believe they can camouflage their anti-Jewish mission by simply slapping a “Jewish” name onto their anti-Semitic campaign and couching it in disingenuous language. To that end, they turn truth on its head by twisting the facts: They obscure that the purpose of the BDS campaign is to erase the Jewish state while falsely branding the Jewish national movement a “political ideology founded on erasure.”
This anti-Semitic campaign spearheaded by JVP capitalizes on domestic tensions to accuse a cabal of Jewish organizations of financing and directing what JVP calls “racist policing in the U.S.” Targeting what it describes as “exchange programs that bring together police, ICE, border patrol, and FBI from the US with soldiers, police, border agents, etc. from Israel,” JVP spreads the defamatory lie that
“In these programs, ‘worst practices’ are shared to promote and extend discriminatory and repressive policing in both countries. These include extrajudicial executions, shoot-to-kill policies, police murders, racial profiling, massive spying and surveillance, deportation and detention, and attacks on human rights defenders.”
JVP launched the campaign with an overtly anti-Semitic video, that concluded with the narrator declaring:
“Who is making this deadly exchange possible? The main groups are actually U.S.-based Jewish organizations.”
While that initial video has been removed and replaced with slightly less blatant anti-Semitic imagery and narration, JVP continues to single out Jewish organizations for villification and denunciation as it calls on followers to “hold accountable the Jewish institutions that run and fund the deadly exchange.”
Such allegations of Jewish power and money fomenting violence and racism are disturbingly familiar to those acquainted with age-old blood libels against Jews or the notorious forgery, Protocols of the Learned Elders of Ziyon. (See:“JVP’s Anti-Semitic Obssession With Jewish Power”)
Durham, North Carolina became the first U.S. city to accede to JVP’s anti-Semitic “Deadly Exchange” campaign, followed by Northampton, Massachusetts and the Vermont State Police. Other targeted municipalities, however, have stood their ground,
The New York branch of JVP, in 2015, joined other anti-Semitic groups, to disrupt and protest a vote on commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz. But the brazenly anti-Semitic optics of this protest (see Jewish councilman’s speech following the activists’ tantrum) threatened to remove the group’s “Jewish” mask, prompting JVP to hastily attempt damage control by claiming the timing of its actions was “unintentional.”
JVP collaborates with Jew haters of all religions and stripes, from Muslim terrorists to white supremacists.
JVP invited convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmeah Odeh to address its 2017 annual membership convention. Its press release showered her with praise:
“Jewish Voice for Peace is honored to feature deeply respected Palestinian organizer Rasmea Odeh at our upcoming National Membership Meeting….We are eager to hear from Odeh, a feminist leader in the Palestinian and Arab-American community in Chicago, precisely because she has survived decades of Israeli and US government persecution and oppression, and also because she lives and breathes the essential work of community organizing–having spent her life as both a lawyer and organizer for the empowerment of Arab women.”
Who is the person portrayed by JVP’s press release as the innocent victim of Israeli and U.S. law?
Rasmeah Odeh, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist group, was convicted by an Israeli military court for her role in terror attacks, including the 1969 attempted bombing of the British Consulate and the bombing of a Jerusalem supermarket that killed two Hebrew University students, Edward Joffe and Leon Kanner. After devastating evidence was brought against her in a full trial deemed fair by an International Red Cross observer, Odeh was sentenced to life imprisonment. She was released in a prisoner exchange 10 years later and moved to Jordan before immigrating to the U.S. where she concealed her past conviction. The PFLP terrorist lost her U.S. citizenship in 2014 after she was found guilty of immigration fraud by a U.S. court, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. But she appealed, alleging that her original signed confession of guilt in a terrorist act was false, extracted through sexual abuse and torture by Israeli investigators, and that she had been suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when she lied on her U.S. immigration papers. Although she was granted a new hearing, she chose to forego the trial that required her to produce evidence supporting her claims. Instead, she accepted a plea deal whereby she would be spared imprisonment in exchange for deportation. In September 2017, she was deported back to Jordan.
Cornell Law Professor William Jacobson has studied Odeh’s case and written extensively about it, setting the record straight by demonstrating the overwhelming evidence of her guilt that belie her claims of false admission under torture and PTSD.
The San Diego branch of JVP similarly endorsed a campaign to free Ahmad Saadat, a leader of the PFLP, imprisoned for his leadership of a terror organization and his role in the 2001 murder of Israeli cabinet minister Rechavam Zeevi.
JVP also posted a video interview between Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson and Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti’s son to heroize the elder Barghouti and advocate his self-characterization – and those of other Palestinians imprisoned for terrorist activity – as “not terrorists, but freedom fighters [who are] going to continue.”
Contrary to his contention, Barghouti is not a political prisoner who was jailed for his beliefs. As a leader of Fatah’s militia, Barghouti was convicted for his role in several terror attacks that killed five people, including an attack in Maale Adumim that killed a Greek monk, a car bomb attack and an attack in a Tel Aviv restaurant that killed others.
Indeed, JVP justifies and encourages Palestinian guns and stabbing as legitimate “resistance” against Zionist Jews.
The following cartoon, tweeted by JVP, depicts the partnership between a gun-toting woman wearing a kaffiyeh and a JVP activist, with the caption “Being Jewish is *not* the same as being zionist!”
And at the beginning of the 2015 so-called knife intifada, when Israeli children and civilans were stabbed and assaulted in the streets on an almost a daily basis, JVP posted on Facebook an expression of its solidarity with the terrorists:
“A new generation of Palestinians is marching on the footsteps of previous generations, rising up en masse against Israel’s brutal, decades-old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid…It is high time to isolate Israel’s regime of militarization, securitization and racism as a danger not just to Palestinians and the Arab region, but to humanity at large.”
Women’s March founder Teresa Shook distanced herself from the co-chairs of the movement, Carmen Perez, Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory, because of their anti-Semitism. Shook requested that they step down because they’ve “steered the Movement away from its true course” and
“allowed anti-Semitism, anti-LBGTQIA sentiment and hateful, racist rhetoric to become a part of the platform.”
Their embrace of the crudely anti-Semitic Louis Farrakhan and their refusal to condemn his anti-Semitic rhetoric became too controversial. In addition, other examples of the leaders’ anti-Semitism surfaced.
But while leading proponents left the Women’s March over its leaders’ exposed anti-Semitism, JVP was not deterred from partnering with them. In fact, JVP doubled down, lashing out instead at those who criticized the women for their anti-Semitism:
“…accusations of antisemitism in the Women’s March are being utilized in an attempt to undermine a powerful resistance movement that is taking on Trump and white supremacy.”
Nor has JVP itself directly denounced Farrakhan. In contrast to its fulsome condemnation of Israel and Israelis, JVP released a deliberately ambiguous statement, declaring:
“…We at JVP are taking the opportunity of this moment to listen, learn and reflect. We understand that these discussions [about denouncing Farrakhan] have to be rooted in ongoing conversations and relationships based on mutual commitment and shared visions of justice for all people, not just public statements and demands. We are working to build JVP as an organization that can have this conversation in an authentic way, rooted in lived experiences, and we know we aren’t there yet.”
The reluctance to directly condemn or distance themselves from anti-Semites or their racist actions is demonstrated even more strikingly by the statement put out by JVP following the hostage-taking and murders of French Jews at Hypercacher, a kosher supermarket in Paris by an Islamic terrorist. JVP’s press release never condemned the targeting of Jews in France, but rather the alleged Islamophobic backlash against French Muslims:
“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…Already, in the United States, France, and Israel, the murders are being used cynically to advance the idea that there is a ‘war of civilizations’ between the West and Islam.. that, in the United States and elsewhere, is used to justify and buttress ongoing state surveillance of, and violence against, the Muslim community and other violations of human and civil rights.”
JVP’s executive director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, has also partnered with The American Free Press, an anti-Semitic media outlet founded by white supremacist, Holocaust denier Willis Carto. Vilkomerson was featured in 2010 and again in 2012 in podcasts that demonized the Jewish state, pushed for BDS and promoted JVP. (For more, see here.)
Beyond the refusal of JVP’s own members to confront anti-Jewish racism, they attack and discredit those who are willing to take a stand against it and other racism. At the same time, JVP desperately attempts to redefine anti-Semitism to exclude its own actions and campaigns.
The 106-year-old Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a Jewish-founded civil rights organization that combats anti-Semitism and other forms of racism was slated to participate in a nationwide racial bias education day for Starbucks employees following the arrest of two black men who had entered a Starbucks café to use the washroom.
But, as part of its war against those who fight anti-Semitism, JVP joined forces with other Jew haters to campaign against the ADL. Although in this case, ADL was countering general racism, JVP nonetheless seized the moment to smear the well-established and respected civil rights organization with baseless slurs, false allegations of Islamophobia and demands that it be excluded from the anti-racism teaching initiative.
Starbucks succumbed and removed ADL from the program.
The 2016 Anti-Semitism Awareness Act was introduced in Congress at the end of President Barack Obama’s presidency to consider “a definition of anti-Semitism for the enforcement of Federal anti-discrimination laws concerning education programs or activities.” After passing the vote in Senate, it moved on to the House. The bill proposed using Europe’s widely-accepted “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism of the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia (EMCR)/International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)” to define anti-Semitism.
But JVP opposes the clear-cut, widely adopted definition that exposes JVP’s very underpinnings and actions as anti-Semitic. The European definition, for example, includes as a manifestation of anti-Semitism the following:
* Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”
*Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
*Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
*Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
*Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
*Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
*Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
Given that JVP is guilty of many of the above, the group campaigned against the proposed legislation, attempting to mislead the public with falsehoods that misrepresented the bill as “intended to codify criticism of Israel as antisemitic” and to “make dissent about Israel illegal.”
In fact, neither the definition of anti-Semitism nor the bill that proposes its use would outlaw criticism or dissent about Israel. On the contrary: The definition includes language specifying that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”
The truth, however, did not stop JVP from circulating a petition among students urging President Obama and the House of Representatives to reject the bill, or executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson from crowing in an interview that “the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act did not go forward in the House (so far, at least) thanks to good organizing that JVP was a part of.”
In July 2018, the UK’s Labour Party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn rejected the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism that had been previously adopted by the party, escalating concerns in Britain’s Jewish community about the increasing anti-Semitic tenor of the party and its leader. The party subsequently changed course and agreed to re-adopt the IHRA definition in its entirety, rebuffing Corbyn’s efforts to remove from the definition ‘denial of the Jewish right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor’ or the use of double standards in dealing with the Jewish state.
JVP’s executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson lost no time in lobbying against the adoption of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. Writing in London’s Independent, Vilkomerson used the “as a Jew” platform from which to attack those seeking to defend Jews from charges of racism. Siding with Jeremy Corbyn, Vilkomerson contended that it was all just “an attempt to stifle criticism of Israel.” She complained that the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism was a weapon used “to target organisations campaigning for Palestinian rights” and claimed that it would shut down legitimate criticism of Israel’s “racist” policies of “segregated road systems” and “dual justice systems” – employing yet more false charges: There are no racially segregated roads in Israel. Nor does the Israeli justice system differ for those of different races or religions. These are part of the litany of falsehoods that JVP uses to promote an anti-Jewish state agenda.
When the U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment of civil rights lawyer and expert Kenneth Marcus as the Department of Education’s Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, JVP released a statement slurring him as “eminently unqualified” and “likely to use his power to violate [civil rights].”
In fact, Marcus has an extensive background in civil rights law. His qualifications for the position include his service as the Chair in ‘Equality and Justice in America’ at Baruch College, four years as staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a 7-year tenure as president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and a previous appointment as assistant secretary for civil rights under President George Bush. In addition, he is the author of several books and articles about anti-Semitism.
JVP, however, is evidently panicking about Marcus’ opposition to the BDS campaign and his exposure of it as anti-Semitic. According to the group, if the ‘Anti-Semitic Awareness Act’ were to become law, it would “give Marcus the power to falsely and maliciously label advocacy for Palestinian rights as anti-Semitic.”
At the same time that JVP activists falsely accuse those who oppose anti-Semitism of trying to curb free speech, they themselves attempt to muzzle the free speech of anyone who supports the Jewish state.
JVP’s campaign against Birthright, a 25-year-old educational NGO that funds trips for young Jews to Israel, seeks to to attenuate the youths’ Jewish identity and ties to the Jewish state by undermining the organization’s efforts to connect young Jews with their heritage in the Holy Land.
Under the hashtag #ReturntheBirthright, the campaign urges young Jews to reject the opportunity for their own experiential learning in the land of their ancestors and to accept in its place the smears against the Jewish state that are fabricated by JVP. By attempting to keep young Jews ignorant about the facts on the ground and divorced from firsthand observation, JVP aims to indoctrinate them with its own radical, anti-Israel rhetoric.
Similarly, JVP targeted a year-long educational seminar that includes a 10-day trip to Israel, sponsored by the Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at New York University. According to the Bronfman Center’s promotional literature, the goal of the program is to promote “intersectionality and inclusiveness” by
bring[ing] NYU student leaders together for on-campus seminars and a 10-day trip to Israel to interact meaningfully with Israeli society and history, exploring the many nuances and complexities of maintaining a Jewish and democratic state. The trip seeks to formally delve into the narratives of the people who live in Israel and Palestinian territories….
…The trip will take student leaders across Israel and Palestinian territories, exploring old and new communities, and engaging with prominent authors, activists, professors, and artists. Students will learn about the unique social, political, economic, and religious aspects of life in different regions, and engage with one another in thoughtful conversation about their experiences and viewpoints. The trip seeks to grapple more meaningfully with the tensions on the ground and deliberately engage across fundamental difference.
Were the goals of JVP to work in concert with other groups to promote “peace, social justice and human rights” as it maintains, it would applaud and support such a program. It does exactly the opposite.
Using the same modus operandi, JVP campaigns to thwart the educational initiative and prevent students from learning directly from people on both sides of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Instead, it dictates to students what and how to think about Israel by circulating an open letter that falsely accuses the program of being “Islamophobic.” Its concern is that participation in such a trip would counteract the boycott against Israel and create a “conflict of interest” for BDS student activists who put forth tired and uninformed canards about Israeli “illegal” occupation and “ethnic cleansing.”
(As George P. Fletcher, the Cardozo Professor of Jurisprudence at Columbia University School of Law, noted, “it is not illegal for victorious powers to occupy hostile territory seized in the course of war until they are able to negotiate a successful peace treaty with their former enemies.” And it is ludicrous to talk about “ethnic cleansing” when Arabs and Druze serve in parliament and the highest courts in Israel.)
According to an NYU student who described JVP’s actions on campus, the group targets university students, attempting to “shame fellow Jews who do not share its opinions” and to “stymie meaningful dialogue and target those who do not share its view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
Recently, JVP has begun to target a younger, more naive crowd still unfamiliar with the history of the Jewish state and the Arab-Israeli conflict with an insidious propaganda campaign targeting U.S. elementary schools. The purpose is to indoctrinate new adherents into JVP’s vicious creed. To that end, JVP has prepared its own deceitful curriculum about the Arab-Israeli conflict in materials it distributes under its “Facing the Nakba” campaign.
The following JVP propaganda made its way into a Charleston, SC sixth grade. It presents JVP’s alternate version of history in simplistic, cartoon-form that ends in a rallying cry to join the BDS campaign. The cartoon targets young children with the following messages through narration and animated stick figures:
Palestinian violence is presented and justified as follows:
10. “Palestinians have fought back. For decades, they tried to achieve national liberation through armed struggle.”
And peace negotiations are characterized thus:
11. “Over two decades of U.S.-backed peace talks have actually made things worse by helping Israel to continue the occupation….Peace talks are good when they’re real but not when they’re theater to cover up [Israel’s] land grab…The U.S. has been a terrible friend, enabling Israel’s destructive and self-destructive expansion on Palestinian land…”
Employing the propaganda technique of “bandwagoning,” the cartoon ends with an appeal to young children “to make a difference” by joining “a movement with hundreds of thousands of people just like you across the world” – the BDS campaign against the Jewish state.
The above is just a sampling of the crude and dangerous tactics of an anti-Semitic hate group that masquerades as a Jewish peace organization. When journalists are derelict by not exposing the group’s malicious agenda, or worse yet, by cloaking them in deceptive language, the mountain of incriminating evidence must speak for itself.