The ADL describes JVP as “reject[ing] the view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a tragic dispute over land which has been perpetuated by a cycle of violence, fear, and distrust on both sides, in favor of the belief that Israeli policies and actions are motivated by deeply rooted Jewish racial chauvinism and religious supremacism,” a form of anti-Semitism.
Is an organization “inspired by Jewish values and traditions” and working towards peace and justice for all people antisemitic?
Founding Jewish Voice for Peace
In 1996, Israel’s Netanyahu government opened an archaeological tunnel under Jerusalem’s Temple Mount/Al-Haram al-Sharif in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The Washington Post published an op-ed by American lawyer and biblical archaeologist Hershel Shanks who called the move “an extremely dumb idea… and Netanyahu knew it. That’s why the opening was made in the middle of the night under armed guard. It can only be seen as part of a plan to humiliate the Palestinians and teach them who’s boss.”
The opening provoked a “tunnel intifada” in which 70 Palestinians and 15 Israeli soldiers were killed. In the United States, long-time activists in the San Francisco Bay Area demonstrated against Israel’s actions outside San Francisco’s Federal Building and sparked the formation of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).
JVP’s original message, directed at the Clinton Administration, was clear: “American Jewry is not a monolithic movement which categorically supports all of the politics of the government of Israel, and thousands of American Jews, in partnership with the interfaith community, demand justice and equality for Israelis and Palestinians.”
Who Supports Jewish Voice for Peace?
What started in 1996 as an all-volunteer Israel and Palestine peace group led by three UC Berkeley undergraduate students eventually grew into a larger grassroots organization that sought to change US policies toward the region. JVP is a national organization with more than 60 chapters across the United States. Their e-mail list has more than 200,000 supporters, their Facebook has nearly 700,000 likes, and their Instagram page has nearly 400,000 followers. 93% of their funding comes from individual donors, which in Fiscal Year 2022 was an average gift of $60.
The JVP Advisory Board features Jewish celebrities and renown activists and academics, including the following: actress and singer, Ronnie Gilbert; attorney and former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner ז״ל; UC Berkeley Professor of Talmudic Studies, Daniel Boyarin; actor and playwright, Wallace Shawn; scholar and founding director of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz ז״ל; philosophy and UC Berkeley Professor, Judith Butler; journalist and activist, Naomi Klein; Academy Award winning documentary filmmaker and activist, Debra Chasnoff ז״ל; Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright and recipient of the National Medal of Arts from President Obama, Tony Kushner; philosopher, linguist, and lecturer, Noam Chomsky; and author and historian Howard Zinn ז״ל.
JVP’s Guiding Principles
Jewish Voice for Peace lists six guiding principles:
- Grassroots organizing, leadership development, and relationships
JVP seeks to build grassroots power that challenges systems that uphold injustice in the world. It does so by building relationships and moving people to take action.
- The capacity for people to change
JVP acknowledges that people, organizations, and communities change and transform. The organization encourages continual learning and skill development that promote justice for all people.
- Solidarity and accountability
JVP works in partnership with diverse allies in the United States, Israel/Palestine, and elsewhere. It seeks to remain accountable, particularly to those directly affected by Israel’s policies.
- Respect for the humanity of all people
By holding the equal humanity of all people in high regard, JVP strives to achieve its vision of peace and justice in the world.
- Jewish communities centered around justice
JVP believes that Jewish traditions which work towards justice also achieve self-liberation. By working to liberate others, Jewish people liberate themselves. JVP also emphasizes that being Jewish is not synonymous with supporting the state of Israel. The organization writes, “Israel claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people, so we are compelled to make sure the world knows that many Jews are opposed to their actions. There are often attempts to silence critics of Israel by conflating legitimate criticism with anti-Semitism. Israel is a state, not a person. Everyone has the right to criticize the unjust actions of a state.”
- Flexibility and tenacity for the long haul
JVP acknowledges that their work will require time and perseverance. They employ several approaches, including campus organizing, supporting the interfaith Network Against Islamophobia, advocating for legislative change, empowering the JVP Artists and Cultural Workers Council, forming justice-centered Jewish communities through the Rabbinical Council and the Open Synagogue Network, and answering the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) made by Palestinian civil society.
JVP’s Action Arm
JVP Action is the 501(c)(4) sister organization and action arm of Jewish Voice for Peace. The action arm works to organize American Jews and allies to win progressive legislation that includes Palestinian rights and elect progressive candidates who support peace in Israel/Palestine.
The JVP Action platform calls on the United States military to stop funding Israel until the following four goals have been achieved:
- Palestinians living under Israel’s government have full and equal human rights;
- Israel ends its military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights;
- Israel ends its illegal military blockade of Gaza;
- And Israel recognizes Palestinian refugees’ right of return stipulated by United Nations resolution 194.
Like Rabbi Miriam Grossman said in a speech at the 2021 JVP rally in New York, JVP and its action arm feel strongly that “I love my people, fiercely, all day, relentlessly. But as long as Palestinian lives are treated as disposable, as long as Palestinian families in East Jerusalem face ongoing ethnic cleansing, as long as Palestinian children fear for their lives, and as long as Gaza remains an open-air prison, our house as a people is not in order.”
Support Jewish Voice for Peace
There are many ways to uplift the work of Jewish Voice for Peace. Supporting local organizing efforts can be accomplished by reaching out to a local JVP chapter, listed here. Join the JVP Action mailing list to stay up to date about major policy decisions and elections.
Make a contribution to JVP by offering a one-time or monthly donation here. A monthly gift of any amount or a one-time gift of just $18 or more counts as member dues to support JVP’s work for the year ahead. Becoming a JVP member not only supports the JVP, but also provides access to member-only webinars, trainings, news, analysis, and policy briefings. It also offers access to both guidance and ritual materials from the JVP Rabbinic Council.
Supporting the JVP sends a clear message: human rights violations in Israel/Palestine must not be supported by the United States.