Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a national Jewish organization that works to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and opposes Israeli military operations in the occupied territories. It describes itself as a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights and to support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.
JVP was formed in September, 1996 by Julia Caplan, Julie Iny, and Rachel Eisner. Rebecca Vilkomerson is currently the executive director and Cecilie Surasky is the deputy director; there are six other staff members. It claims more than 100,000 people on its mailing list. Members of the advisory board include playwright Tony Kushner, civil liberties lawyer Michael Ratner, political philosopher Judith Butler, linguist Noam Chomsky, author Naomi Klein, and actor Wallace Shawn. There are over 30 rabbis and rabbinic students on the Rabbinical Council.
Jewish Voice for Peace members are inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals.
JVP opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression. JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.
Jewish Voice for Peace is a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights. We support the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.
• A U.S. foreign policy based on promoting peace, democracy, human rights, and respect for international law
• An end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem
• A resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem consistent with international law and equity
• An end to all violence against civilians
• Peace among the peoples of the Middle East
We are among the many American Jews who say to the U.S. and Israeli governments: “Not in our names!”
JVP supports peace activists in Palestine and Israel, and works in broad coalition with other Jewish, Arab-American, faith-based, peace and social justice organizations.
For a Change in U.S. Policy
Jewish Voice for Peace calls for a U.S. foreign policy that promotes democracy and human rights. The United States must stop supporting repressive policies in Israel and elsewhere. U.S. military aid to countries in the Middle East must be based on rigorous enforcement of the Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts, which mandate that military aid may be used for only defensive purposes within the recipient country’s borders, and that aid may not be delivered to countries that abuse human rights.
Under these guidelines, U.S. military aid to Israel must be suspended until the occupation ends, since the occupation itself is in violation of these guidelines. Military aid allows Israel to avoid making serious efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as conflicts with its other neighbors. It enables the occupation, contributes to the devastation of Palestinian society and fosters the increasing militarization of Israeli society.
JVP also calls for suspension of military aid to other human rights abusers and occupiers in the Middle East. This aid helps prop up autocratic and repressive regimes, promotes violations of human rights and international law, obstructs democratic movements, prolongs the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and fosters militarism and violence at home and abroad.
For Palestinian-Israeli Peace
• Israelis and Palestinians have the right to security, sovereignty, and self-determination within political entities of their own choosing.
• Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, completely withdraw from these Occupied Territories and relinquish all its settlements, military outposts and by-pass roads.
• Jerusalem has to be shared in a manner that reflects its spiritual, economic, and political importance to both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as to all Jews, Muslims and Christians.
• The plight of Palestinian refugees needs to be resolved equitably and in a manner that promotes peace and is consistent with international law. Within the framework of an equitable agreement, the refugees should have a role in determining their future, whether pursuing return, resettlement, or financial compensation. Israel should recognize its share of responsibility for the ongoing refugee crisis and for its resolution.
• The parties must equitably distribute water and other natural resources.
• Diplomatic negotiations between the two parties must be held unconditionally. Countries other than the U.S. should be involved in peace negotiations. An international peacekeeping force should be established to protect all civilians.
For Human Rights
• All people of the Middle East deserve the right to democratic participation and equality within their societies, regardless of religion, ethnicity, culture, national origin, language, race, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or other status.
• Israel must cease its use of military force against Palestinian civilians, including attacks involving American-supplied F-16s and Apache helicopters. Moreover, Israel must stop land seizures; destruction of homes, infrastructure, orchards and farms; arbitrary arrests and imprisonment; torture; assassinations; expulsions; curfews; travel restrictions; abuse at checkpoints; raids; collective punishment; and other violations of human rights.
• Palestinians must stop suicide bombings and other attacks on Israeli civilians.
• The international community must support Palestinian efforts to promote democracy and human rights, while understanding that this aim cannot be fully achieved under occupation.
• Racism and bigotry cannot be tolerated, whether in the U.S. or abroad, whether against Arabs or against Jews.
Among JVP’s major programs:
In 2004, Jewish Voice for Peace published a collection of essays entitled Reframing Anti-Semitism: Alternative Jewish Perspectives. Among the topics discussed in Reframing Anti-Semitism are antisemitism and stereotypes of Jews in modern America. It argues that the Jewish left and critics of Israeli policy have ceded the fight against antisemitism to the Jewish right, and that critics of Israel or Israeli policies should not be accused of antisemitism. As of March 2007, Reframing Anti-Semitism was in its sixth printing.
In early 2007, Jewish Voice for Peace launched MuzzleWatch, a blog dedicated to tracking and exposing allegations of what it considers intimidation and suppression of voices that are critical of certain Israeli policies. MuzzleWatch was nominated for 2007 Jewish and Israel Blog Awards in three categories: Best New Blog, Best Left-Wing Political Blog, and Best Jewish Anti-Establishment Blog. After the first round of voting, MuzzleWatch was a finalist in all three categories, but it did not win any awards in the final vote. The Jewish and Israel Blog Awards describe themselves as “an informal annual award contest” whose purpose is to “direct new readers towards Jewish, Israeli, and pro-Israel blogs.”
Young, Jewish and Proud
The Young Jewish Declaration is a project created by young leaders within Jewish Voice for Peace. YJP was debuted at the 2010 Jewish General Assembly where five Young Jewish and Proud members disrupted Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech. This event prompted worldwide media coverage including that of the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Tikkun. The Young Jewish Declaration reads:
We will not carry the legacy of terror. We refuse to allow our identities to be cut, cleaned, packaged nicely, and sold back to us. We won’t be won over by free vacations and scholarship money. We won’t buy the logic that slaughter means safety. We will not quietly witness the violation of human rights in Palestine.
In February 2010, JVP launched The Only Democracy?, a blog that, by its own description, “questions the very notion of Israel as ‘the only democracy’ in the Middle East, and puts a spotlight on the intensifying struggle for human rights largely ignored by the mainstream media. It chronicles the struggles waged by people on the ground, everyday, as they seek to maintain and expand full civil and human rights for all people in the region, even as their lives are shaped, curtailed and directed by the unending Israeli-Palestinian conflict and especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories.”
Support for Israeli refuseniks
JVP supports the Israeli refuseniks—soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories—and has hosted events in which Israeli refuseniks spoke before American audiences. December 18th, the JVP website, is a vehicle for those to protest imprisoned refuseniks, specifically Shministim (12th graders).
The organization is extremely controversial within traditional mainstream Jewish community circles. Opponents criticize JVP for its advocacy of limited boycott and divestment from firms that “profit from the Israeli occupation,” and its refusal to condemn the broader BDS movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel in general. (JVP’s 2012 statement on BDS can be found here.)
JVP is also frequently accused of seeking to create divisions within the Jewish community over Israel. JVP leaders counter that these divisions already exist. They see themselves as offering a voice to Jews who are troubled by Israeli policies.
The Anti-Defamation League has called JVP “the leading Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States,” and in 2013 it produced an 11-page investigative report on the organization. Another investigative report on JVP was published in 2013 by the right-wing Israeli group NGO Monitor.