Jewish Voice for Peace? Not really
Sword and Shield of the anti-Israel Boycott Movement
In the saturated market of pro-Palestinian activism, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has emerged as a major player.
On its website, JVP now boasts over 60 member-led chapters across the country and more than 200,000 online Facebook and Twitter supporters.
These days it’s also flush with new funding sources.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which describes JVP as the “largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States”, until very recently the organization reported an approximate average of $300,000 in annual contributions.
By 2013 that figure had jumped to over $1 million.
NGO Monitor notes that according to JVP’s 990 tax forms, from 2005-2011 the organization more than tripled its total revenues.
It’s unclear where all the money is coming from. As NGO Monitor observes, JVP isn’t very transparent about its donor base.
But the group has received some modest funding from the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust, an Arab-American foundation that also financially supports the virulently anti-Zionist Electronic Intifada; The Wallace Global Fund, which also supports the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank that’s long been a clearinghouse for anti-Israel positions; and The Firedoll Foundation, which also funds other pro-BDS groups.
Over the past several years, JVP has leveraged these newfound resources to “promote political warfare against Israel”, and “weaken U.S. support for Israel by dividing the Jewish community”.
It’s also rocketed forward to become a central player in the BDS movement.
JVP as a Leading Voice of BDS
As noted in a recent LI post, “wherever you see BDS divestment initiatives on campuses, JVP is not far away and is often the instigator through its campus branches”.
JVP is active off campus too, where it’s playing an instrumental role in spearheading BDS campaigns within America’s church groups.
Last June, JVP lobbied hard to get the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) to pass a divestment resolution. In the run-up to the PCUSA General Assembly meeting in Michigan, JVP leaders issued multiple statements in support of the resolution. Then, it sent a delegation to Detroit to testify, and applauded the Church for its decision.
Now, as reported in an article published this week in the Israel-hating website Mondoweiss, JVP is once again lending “moral support” to non-Jews who are contemplating BDS initiatives.
It’s reportedly trying to convince three more U.S. Churches—the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA)—to boycott products “produced in Israeli settlements”, and to pull their financial backing from corporations allegedly complicit in bolstering the “infrastructure of Israel’s occupation”.
According to the Mondoweiss article, JVP—“the only major Jewish organization actively supporting these efforts”—is “sending staff to both the UCC and Episcopal gatherings”.
JVP’s Image Problem
It’s been a pretty busy couple of years for an organization that’s operated in relative obscurity for much of the last twenty.
You’ve got to hand it to JVP’s new leadership team and their savvy marketing skills.
They’ve managed to carefully craft and disseminate a brand that draws on the appealing language of rights along with Jewish culture and values to justify vilifying the planet’s only Jewish state, expressing an utter hostility to the notion of Jewish peoplehood and self-determination, and lending support to Israel’s enemies.
But now that JVP has a real shot at playing in the big leagues of American organizational life, it also has a strong incentive to clean up its act.
Cavorting with obvious Jew-haters and being attacked for whitewashing anti-Semitism is counterproductive.
All it does is tarnish the brand.
So now JVP is quietly trying to scrub its online presence of past partnerships with sketchy anti-Semites.
And it’s slowly but surely disentangling the organization from any further dealings with such hateful types.
The effort has flown under the radar, and as others also note, “tracking down direct sources on this is surprisingly difficult to find”.
But make no mistake: the war is on, and the bodies are beginning to pile up.
Because JVP’s Jew-hating erstwhile allies aren’t taking this excommunication lightly.
They’re fighting back.
JVP vs. Alison Weir
It appears that several weeks ago JVP decided to break ties with Alison Weir, founder of the organization If Americans Knew (IAK) and current president of the Council for the National Interest (CNI).
According to the ADL, Weir’s criticism of Israel and Zionism over the last 15 years so consistently “crosses the line into distortions customarily found in the literature of anti-Semites” that it’s issued a ten page comprehensive report on her work.
The highlights include a series of articles that Weir published back in 2009 (and has yet to retract), where she draws on bogus sources—including the work of an anti-Zionist chemist who she describes as a “renowned scholar of Judaism”—to assert that Israeli organ traffickers coerce non-Jews into selling body parts against their will. As Weir explains, it’s a means for Jews to exact revenge and restitution for the Holocaust.
It’s also a modern version of the blood libel.
But despite this “obvious anti-Semitic crackpottery”, JVP’s San Diego chapter sponsored a program featuring Weir on October 23, 2014.
Photos of the event were apparently posted online, but have now been removed.
JVP partnered with Weir again this past March on anti-AIPAC events.
But now JVP wants nothing more to do with her.
Back on May 28 Gilad Atzmon, himself regarded untouchable by the anti-Israel boycott movement because of his anti-Semitism, reprinted a letter on his blog that he claims was written by JVP’s Executive Director, Rebecca Vilkomerson, and addressed to Weir.
In it, Vilkomerson says that because Weir insists on associating with notorious neo-Nazis and White supremacists, any further contact with her would be bad for JVP’s image as an organization committed to “love, justice, and equality for all people”.
Here’s the letter verbatim from Atzmon’s blog post:
May 5, 2015
Dear Ms. Weir,
Jewish Voice for Peace has chosen not to work with you because our central tenet is opposition to racism in all its forms, and you have chosen repeatedly to associate yourself with people who advocate for racism.
You have been a repeat guest of white supremacist Clay Douglas on his hate radio show, the Free American. Clay Douglas is concerned primarily with the survival of the White race and sees malign Jewish influence everywhere. His racist, anti-Jewish, and anti-gay rhetoric can be found across the front pages of his multiple websites.
In the course of your appearance with Clay Douglas on August 25, 2010, for example, you were silent when Douglas invoked the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and engaged in a racist diatribe against Jews. Your repeated appearance on this show (April 23 and August 25, 2010; February 9 and May 18, 2011) show that you knew his extremist views and chose to continue the association.
Your troubling associations and choices further include giving interviews to a range of far-right outlets including The American Free Press, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has identified as a hate group, and the anti-gay, anti-Jewish pastor Mark Dankof. One of your articles appeared in an anthology that was promoted by the infamous Holocaust-denial organization, the Institute for Historical Review. We see no evidence that you have disavowed any of these outlets or institutions.
Our movement must be built on a foundation of love, justice and equality for all people. It should not and cannot win by fueling or endorsing any form of hate, whether against People of Color, gays, Jews, Muslims or anyone else.
At Jewish Voice for Peace, we are particularly sensitive to the long history of anti-Jewish oppression as well as the ways that Palestinian liberation work is frequently tarred with false charges of anti-Semitism. Just as we call out the hateful associations of those who seek to perpetuate injustice against Palestinians, as a movement we must also hold the line against those who promote the false notion that Palestinian liberation can be won at the expense of others.”
Atzmon Disavows JVP for Disavowing Weir
Apparently the JVP letter wasn’t ever meant to go public.
Atzmon writes that he received it from three different JVP Chapter Leaders. He also has it on good authority that the letter got sent to all JVP chapter heads.
The whole thing has him thoroughly ticked off.
He’s already furious at JVP for what he sees as its concerted effort (what he terms a “disgraceful tribal campaign”) to silence his own views and those of other “leading human rights activists” (“people such as Greta Berlin, George Galloway, Ken O’Keefe, yours truly and many others”).
In his post, he’s livid that JVP has put Weir, a non-Jewish “leading American patriot”, into a “Jewish Herem” (excommunication) and rants about JVP’s “racist morbidity” and “fear of Whiteness”:
It is astonishing that the ‘anti’ Zionists who lead JVP practice segregation and exceptionalism on a daily basis. Sometimes I wonder what it is about Israel and Zionism that they oppose…For years I have argued that the continuum between Zionism and the so-called Jewish ‘anti’ is undeniable. In its actions, JVP has foolishly confirmed again and again that my observation is correct. The original Protocol of the Elder of Zion is considered to be a Tzarist forgery, but the call for herem was composed by Vilkomerson in the name of her ‘Jews only party’ and is an authentic protocol…I will use this opportunity to once again remind the ‘good’ Jews that we can proceed without their moral supervision, no one asked for their tribal thought policing. What we need is for our so-called Jewish ‘allies’ to cleanse themselves of their tribal biases and instead adopt a universal mindset. When this happens, they may drift away from the JVP klan. Truth may set them free.”
Vilkomerson’s letter appears to be legit.
JVP didn’t respond to my multiple requests for confirmation of its authenticity. But Alison Weir herself replied to it on her Facebook page in a long and bitter rebuttal of its charges.
Now that Atzmon and Weir have spilled the beans, Israel’s online supporters are savoring this deliciously ironic spectacle (see here, here, and here). After all, it’s not often that a bunch of ADL-flagged Israel-haters are at each other’s throats.
And it’s great that the Israel-bashing JVP has finally decided to cut its ties with bigots like Atzmon and Weir.
But as David Schraub observes in a thoughtful blog post, JVP’s statement of disapproval to Weir is distressing because “they don’t actually object to anything Weir has said”—not even her loopy stuff about the blood libel which, as Schraub notes, is “a gimme!”.
JVP’s objection is solely associational.
The issue for JVP isn’t that the Weirs and Atzmons of the world are “serious anti-Semites” who think that “conspiratorial groups of super-empowered Jews run the world in secret”, but that they’ve become such attractive partners to the reactionary far-right.
Weir, Atzmon, and other anti-Semites are being banished because they’ve become liabilities.
For JVP, they’re just bad for business.
As Schraub puts it:
Shorn of any indicator that JVP finds anything objectionable in Weir’s own statements, it seems that their main problem is that Weir makes it embarrassingly clear that their shared ideology—the essentially indistinguishable perspective of Alison Weir and Jewish Voice for Peace—has significant resonance with and appeal for neo-Nazis. That far-left/far-right synergy has always been soft pedaled by groups like JVP, and their problem is that Weir won’t play ball.”
Bottom line: Jewish Voice for Peace, a self-identified “Jewish organization” which has partnered in the not so distant past with anti-Semites, has now decided to disassociate itself from such horrible people. But this is just another one of its marketing ploys. JVP’s leadership has yet to speak out against the Jew-hating rhetoric that radiates from its ex-comrades. It still views itself at the “Jewish sword and shield” of the anti-Israel movement—safeguarding BDS from allegations of anti-Semitism, and providing it with a veneer of legitimacy.
Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University
Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.
I see full circle now.
Closely related. I’m an aspiring protection & scent dog trainer and came across this video and I thought how AWESOME it was. In response to Palestinians coming into kill families- this org is training protection dogs Jewish settlers.
Of course the comments are littered with Muslim and pro Palestine bigots. In doing some research on the org- it was splashed all around the internet that these guys had been designated as terrorists.
browser posted before I was done.
I have no clue if the Jewish Legion or IBF are real terrorists- or if this designation was the work of a machine that intends to wipe out Israel one Jew at a time. From the looks of the video, they are doing something very necessary. I could not find any info on what specific action caused them to be designated as terrorists (as opposed to the Muslim brotherhood, New Black Panthers or CAIR).
A very similar machine seems to be at work in the United States with the left where if you dissent- you will be staring down the barrel of a thousand lies marking you as a dangerous person.
No, they’re not terrorists, any more than their mentor, Rabbi Meir Kahane HYD, was one. He was labelled a terrorist because the polls showed he was about to get 10% of the vote in the next Israeli election, so the existing parties (including those on the right) conspired to get him banned from politics.
“Allahu Akbar” should be an attack command!
It looks like JVP is following the Al Sharpton playbook to perceived semi-respectability.
Al, now that he has his own TV show, is probably not telling Jews to pin on their yarmulkes and come over to his place for a fight, nor personally fomenting deadly riots.
But he’s the same Al. It’s just that he knows he can reach a larger audience if he acts somewhat respectably (somewhat, in the sense of having others below him do the dirty work).
Every day we should be outraged that this racist, anti-Semitic demagogue has his own TV show. But there is just so much progressive insanity going on these days, it’s hard to stay focused.
Some or all of what is said about JVP might be true, but some arguments seem a little strange for a purported law professor. Especially this one:
“…to justify vilifying the planet’s only Jewish state, expressing an utter hostility to the notion of Jewish peoplehood and self-determination …”
For example Poland is the planet’s only Polish state. At some point at its history it certainly had antisemitism more or less spread out among Poles. Does this argument mean that we should not fight it because it is a question of self-determination of Polish people?
Or take Hungary – the planet’s only Hungarian state. On a relatively recent parliamentary election not one, but two right-wing parties took a significant number of votes. An anti-Semitic language was reported heard on the floor of the Hungarian Parliament. The elections were fully democratic. Should we let it all go unnoticed because this is the notion of Hungarian peoplehood?
Your analogies do not work.
An analogy would be a group of organized ethnic Poles misleadingly calling themselves “Poles for Peace” while acting to support those “expressing an utter hostility to the notion of [Polish] peoplehood and self-determination.”
If someone decided that there is no such thing as a Polish people, and that the Poles have no right to live in Poland and govern themselves there, and campaigned to delegitimize Poland, destroy it, and exile the Poles who live there, such a person would be objectively anti-Polish. And if the Jews were to subscribe to such a belief and mount such a campaign, Polish antisemitism would be 100% justified. But of course that isn’t the case. But that is an exact description of the so-called “Palestinian” cause, of which JVP is part. They are hostile to the very notion that there is a Jewish people — they insist that Jews are merely people of all nations who happen to subscribe to a set of beliefs — let alone to the idea that this people has the right to live in its native land, and to govern itself there. Therefore they are antisemites.
sergus: LukeHandCool offers a helpful corrective to your analogies.
Let me try to further assist in clarifying for you why, in “vilifying the planet’s only Jewish state” and expressing an exceptional degree of hostility to the notion of “Jewish peoplehood and self-determination”, BDS and JVP enhance anti-Semitic effects and harbor an anti-Semitic component.
First, by demonizing Israel, assigning the stereotypically negative characteristics of the Jew to the Jewish state, and insisting that Jews have no right to self-determination (or to the right of self-defense that only a homeland can provide a persecuted people) JVP and BDS further the isolation and “othering” of Jews.
Second, JVP and BDS attack the central tenets of the Jewish faith by falsely asserting that Judaism has nothing to do with Jewish peoplehood, with the Jewish nation. That is, that Judaism is merely a religious set of practices in which Zionism can be excised, and still render an intact Judaism. It is a false rendering of the Jewish faith. In the Bible Jews are referred to as Bnei Yisrael or Am Yisrael (the children of Israel, the nation of Israel), committed to a particular set of laws (Torah).
Individual Jews are free to reject this tenet of the Jewish faith, if they wish. But they cannot force the rest of world Jewry, or the Jewish citizens of Israel, to reject this notion of Jewish peoplehood, and the national component of Jewish identity.
The attachment of the Jewish people to Zion is set forth in the Bible and is the 4,000 yr. old basis of the Jewish faith. Demanding that Jews reject this core of their faith is by definition to place Judaism and Jews under attack.
I hope this is helpful.
Prof. Miriam Elman, Ph.D. (political scientist and practicing Jew, not a law prof)
It’s simpler than that. Jews are not a religion; we are a nation that has a religion. Being a Jew has nothing to do with what one believes, any more than American, French, or Chinese citizenship depends on belief. Anyone born to a Jewish mother is a Jew, even if he is an atheist or a Christian or an antisemite, just as someone born an American citizen is American even if he joins al Qaeda. Meanwhile someone not born American, and not naturalized, is not American no matter what he believes; even if he has memorized the Federalist Papers and passionately believes in what America stands for, he is an alien unless and until he is lawfully naturalized. The same thing applies to someone not born Jewish who believes implicitly in the truth of the written and oral Torah, obeys all the commandments, and loves the Jewish people; he is a good gentile, but still a gentile unless and until he is lawfully converted.
Becoming a Jew is much like becoming an American; it requires learning a certain body of knowledge, affirming certain beliefs, and taking certain oaths, and all this must be administered by someone authorized by law to do so. But it’s the process that makes the applicant a citizen of the nation, not the applicant’s beliefs.
Israel is the Jews’ home and native land; it’s where Jews are from. A Jew does not immigrate to Israel; he returns home. JVP and the “Palestinians” explicitly deny this. That makes them antisemites.
The last two comments are indeed helpful in a sense that they make it very clear – if this is the best that you guys could come up with, then it does not seem you have much chance against JVP. It might work when you preach to the choir, but not if you want to win the minds of unconvinced, especially at college campuses.
From my prospective there are several major flaws in both of your arguments – first being that you mix the religious arguments with secular ones – this, I think, is always looks disingenuous.
Either you are a truly religious person and believe that God will take His Care of His Chosen People (may be the way He did it in the past with the previous incarnations of the State of Israel – but this is His Will that you are supposed to accept unconditionally) – or you are a secular person, who sees the State of Israel as a modern state that needs to adhere to some modern state/church separation and human rights standards.
Even more problematic are your views on Jews as a single nation. Do you really want any Jew living in Diaspora be forced to claim double allegiance if she/he wants to get a security clearance or get to a sensitive government position? Or you think she/he needs to officially resign from being a Jew?! Get real, people. If you push this type of nonsense hard enough, you will get the job of every anti-Semite already done for them.