Not Jewish, Not for Peace, but flush with cash.
In the saturated market of U.S. anti-Israel activism, the political organization Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) plays a starring role.
In many posts (see a partial list here), we’ve highlighted how JVP provides the façade of American Jewish support for pro-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) organizations arrayed against the Jewish state. By presenting itself as the Jewish justification for BDS, the group gives “cover” to political and economic war on Israel, insulating BDS from allegations of anti-Semitism and providing it with a veneer of legitimacy.
On its website, JVP boasts over 60 member-led chapters across the United States and more than 200,000 online supporters. These days it also has increased access to funding, which it uses to promote and publicize its “high profile” anti-Israel activism.
As we noted in a prior post, until very recently JVP reported an approximate average of $300,000 in annual contributions.
By 2013 that figure had jumped to over $1 million.
Based on financial information available through public IRS documents (990 tax forms), JVP reported a total budget of $1,407,148 in 2014.
It’s unclear where all the money is coming from as JVP isn’t transparent about its donor base. Its website offers no information on funding sources, nor does it specify how much money is earmarked to each of its various projects and activities.
Now, a new report released this week by NGO Monitor, a Jerusalem-based watchdog group, aims to shed light on JVP’s extensive funding network.
Below I provide an overview of the NGO Monitor report and describe how JVP has been using the funding provided by its willing, and sometimes unwitting, enablers.
A statement exclusive to LI from the head of NGO Monitor’s North America Desk is also included below.
JVP a Marginal Player in American Jewish Life, but a Major anti-Israel Player on Campuses
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), JVP is among the top ten organizations in the United States “fixated with delegitimizing Israel” and convincing the American public that the Jewish state is a pariah which deserves to be ostracized and isolated.
But as we noted in a prior post, the group is actually on the fringes of American Jewry.
Founded in the mid-1990s by a few left-wing San Francisco Bay Area Jews, for decades JVP worked in relative obscurity. Today, its snazzy website, frequent press releases, and slick promotional videos give the impression that it operates in the big leagues of American Jewish organizational life.
Looks can be deceiving.
JVP isn’t very transparent about its criteria for membership. It appears to not actually require that its members be Jewish—or even American.
So critics say that it’s bogus for JVP to brag about a Jewish national presence in the U.S.
Prof. Ilan Troen, former head of Brandeis University’s Schusterman Center for Israel Studies, has quipped that JVP is a group of “self-appointed saints with no mass following”.
Representing at most a mere 2% of Jewish Americans, JVP is definitely exaggerating its appeal.
But despite its almost non-existent role in American Jewish life, there can be no doubt that JVP has rocketed forward in recent years to become a central player in the anti-Israel boycott movement.
As we’ve noted in many posts, wherever you see BDS initiatives, JVP isn’t very far away. It’s often the instigator through its local chapters.
Now, based on the NGO Monitor’s new report, we have a better idea of how JVP is leveraging a wide range of funds for its agenda to “generate polarization over Israel” with the end goal of diluting support for the Jewish state in the American public at large.
NGO Monitor’s Major Findings
JVP receives funding from an array of both private and public foundations.
Piecing this together wasn’t easy.
The information isn’t concentrated into one centralized document. NGO Monitor’s researchers had to painstakingly pour through the tax forms of dozens of individual foundations in order to locate JVP’s grants.
The report identifies $626,793 in donations and grants awarded to JVP between 2014-2015.
It reveals that JVP receives funding from 22 private foundations and charitable trusts. Not surprisingly, these entities also contribute to other virulently anti-Israel organizations.
But the report also finds that among its many donors, contributors to JVP include 9 public charities which disburse monies via donor-advised funds and community foundations. In the case of these funders, grants to JVP seem to be inconsistent with their overall pattern of grantmaking.
So when it comes to these donors, they may lack a full understanding of JVP’s agenda.
The others though—the vast majority of which contributed only between $1,000 to $3,000 in 2014—probably know exactly what JVP is all about and what it hopes to accomplish.
Here’s a list of the largest donations provided to JVP in 2014-2015, according to NGO Monitor’s research:
JVP’s Funding Network
As the NGO Monitor report rightly notes, it’s important to distinguish the different types of charitable foundations operating in the United States. They don’t all exercise the same level of control over the funds that they distribute.
Boards of private foundations generally choose the organizations to which they donate. By contrast, public foundations act like conduits—they distribute funds via the advisement of the foundation’s donors.
The NGO Monitor lists 22 private foundations which donated money to JVP in 2014-2015. Many have website, with links provided in the report and below. A number, however, have no online presence:
- Rockefeller Brothers Fund
- Firedoll Foundation
- Bonus Fund
- The Kaphan Foundation
- Violet Jabara Charitable Trust
- Left Tilt Fund
- The Pomegranate Foundation
- Bijan Amin and Soraya Amin Foundation
- Vivian & Paul Olum Charitable Foundation
- The Sparkplug Foundation
- Shams Foundation
- LouVin Foundation
- The Nasiri Foundation
- Porter Family Charitable Foundation
- Do Right Foundation
- The James & Mary Jane Barrett Foundation
- Shimkin Foundation
- Ben & Jerry’s Foundation
- Iqbal G. Mamdani and Shelby M. Mamdani
- AJ Muste Memorial Institute, Inc.
- Hope and Justice Educational Foundation
- De La Cour Family Foundation
To be honest, I’ve never heard of many of these foundations.
Based on their available mission statements, they appear to have a commitment to liberal progressive causes that promote social change and justice.
But only a couple explicitly note interest in the Middle East, such as the “peace process” or “improving the lives of the people in developing countries of the Middle East”.
From among these private foundation funders, seven gave a mere $1,000 to $3,000 to JVP in 2014. Another nine contributed between $4,000 to $10,000.
The major funders are Rockefeller Brothers Fund ($140,000 grant in 2015); Firedoll Foundation ($25,000 grant in 2014); Bonus Fund ($20,000 grant in 2014); The Kaphan Foundation ($20,000 grant in 2014); Violet Jabara Charitable Trust ($15,000 grant in 2015) and Left Tilt Fund ($15,000 grants in 2015 and 2014).
One of the most interesting findings is that all of these major donors also distributed in 2014-2015 comparable amounts of funding (and often significantly more money) to other vehemently anti-Israel groups.
These include contributions of hefty sums to American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Zochrot, Electronic Intifada, Center for Constitutional Rights, and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation (USCEIO).
Many of those private foundations making grants below $25,000 also contributed similar amounts, and sometimes more, to the above groups too—and smaller grants to a host of other anti-Israel organizations.
2. Funders that Contribute Small Sums
It’s worth taking a close look at the donors that contributed less than $25,000.
This gift-giving sustains an array of pro-BDS organizations. Given the small budgets of many of these groups, the grants are significant and—like in the case of JVP—a lot of small ones can add up.
Particularly interesting is the sizeable number of Arab-American and Iranian-American family foundations that are on the list.
Space limitations prevent a close look at each one, but further scrutiny of the Hope and Justice Educational Foundation provides a good example of the disturbing situation that NGO Monitor has uncovered.
The California-based charity reportedly gave $1,100 to JVP in 2014. It also contributed $4,000 that same year to If Americans Knew (IAK).
As we noted in several prior posts (see here and here), IAK is run by Alison Weir, a notorious anti-Jewish conspiracy theorist whose criticism of Israel over the last 15 years so consistently crosses the line into the kinds of crackpot bigotry typically found in the literature of anti-Semites that the Anti-Defamation League has issued a ten page comprehensive report on her work.
JVP activists can’t seem to stay away from her.
Neither can the Hope and Justice Educational Foundation. The Foundation is run by Hassan Fouda, who also serves on the Board of the Council for the National Interest, where Weir is President.
Fouda apparently also supports Sheikh Raed Salah, the convicted firebrand leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, which was recently outlawed for its ties to Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.
Convicted last March for inciting to racism and violence, Salah begins a nine-month prison sentence today at Ohalei Kedar Prison near Beersheva.
Here’s a video of the charming Sheikh delivering a sermon a few weeks ago:
And here’s a photo of Fouda with Salah and another of him pretending to be a Jew at a JVP sponsored rally:
So, there’s some weird and troubling connections between JVP and notorious anti-Semites and anti-Zionists on the far-right and the far-left, something which we’ve highlighted in prior posts.
But Fouda and his charitable organization are small potatoes, in terms of the amount he donates. What’s really disquieting is how much money the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF) gives to JVP and other organizations that participate in the BDS movement.
3. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund
The RBF was founded in 1940 by John D. Rockefeller’s sons to advance peace and positive social change.
It reportedly has an endowment of more than $800 million and annual gift-giving of over $30 million. Many of the recipients of these funds are reputable and worthwhile organizations that do amazing work making our country and our world a better place.
But the RBF’s “persistent penchant” for funding groups that actively support BDS raises serious concerns.
In addition to JVP, in 2014-2015 the RBF generously supported Zochrot, giving it $20,000 last year.
Zochrot is a pro-Palestinian Israel-based organization that views Zionism as racism, considers Israel’s creation a “catastrophe”, and thinks that Israeli policies today mimic the policies of Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
In April 2014, Zochrot activists helped to produce a highly disturbing film at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Israel in which the extermination of European Jewry is described as the “best thing” that ever happened to the Jewish people:
RBF saw fit to grant the BDS umbrella organization USCEIO $30,000 last year. We highlighted in a prior post how the USCEIO’s policy director, Josh Ruebner, has a nasty habit of hurling ugly slurs at Jewish Americans who care about Israel’s future:
RBF has also funded the Quaker AFSC to the tune of $50,000 in 2015.
Once hailed as a premier faith-based relief agency in the region, the AFSC has “betrayed its own founding principles” by aligning itself with violent movements, including those that use terrorism to advance their goals.
As noted in a comprehensive study for The Tower published several years ago, today the AFSC tacitly and sometimes even overtly supports violent Islamist movements, is hostile to Israel, and “treads dangerously close” to anti-Semitic supersessionism and a form of liberation theology—the idea that the Jews’ covenant is obsolete and that the Palestinians are the sacred, chosen people.
These days it also provides considerable assistance to numerous college-based BDS initiatives, even going so far as to write Israel divestment resolutions for student government leaders.
Since it’s classified by the IRS as a church, it’s not clear how much of its $34 million annual budget (in 2015) was devoted to BDS activities.
But undoubtedly the group used some of the funds that RBF gave it to hold a heavily-subsidized summer camp for young American college students from some of the country’s best-known elite campuses. The purpose of the five-day retreat: training them on how they can more effectively hate on Israel.
4. Public Charities
The NGO Monitor report lists nine public charities that have distributed both donor-advised funds and community foundation funds to JVP in 2014-2015 (a brief section in the report helpfully explains the differences between the two types of funds). All but one of these have websites with considerable information on their mission and the scope of their gift-giving:
- Schwab Charitable Foundation
- Tides Foundation
- Jewish Communal Fund
- Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program
- National Philanthropic Fund
- New York Community Trust
- Ploughshares Foundation
- The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven
- Horizons Foundation
Schwab Charitable Fund gave JVP a $158,000 grant in 2014. Between fiscal years 2012-2014, $448,700 in total was directed to JVP. The Tides Foundation gave a $49,477 grant in 2014. But all of the other grants to JVP in 2014 made by funders in this category were between $25,100 and $1,000.
By my count, five of the public charities also donated to the AFSC.
And two (Tides Foundation and Horizons Foundation) also made grants in 2014 to Code Pink, giving $40,084 and $1,000 respectively.
The Tides Foundation self-describes as a donor-advised fund that
seeks to build a world of shared prosperity and social justice, founded on equality and human rights, a sustainable environment, healthy individuals and communities, and quality education”.
The Horizons Foundation considers itself to be the “world’s first community foundation that is based in and serves the LGBT community”. According to its website, it envisions a world where
all people live free from prejudice and discrimination, and where LGBT people contribute to thrive in a vibrant, diverse, giving and compassionate community”.
These are commendable goals.
But it’s difficult to see how they can possibly be furthered by supporting a group like Code Pink.
In the past, its founders have been wined and dined at conferences in Teheran where an assorted array of anti-Semites and Holocaust deniers were also guests of honor.
These days its activists spend most of their time concocting hilarious and cockamamie ways to demonize and delegitimize the only country in the Middle East that actually affords all of its citizens, whether gay or not, the types of civil liberties and human rights that others in the region can only dream of.
— Ariel Gold אריאל ? ☮️?✡️ (@ArielElyseGold) May 5, 2016
5. Combined Federal Campaign (CFC)
In addition to private and public foundations, JVP also benefits from a federally organized fundraising mechanism known as the CFC. It’s a nearly 50-year-old program designed to facilitate charitable giving by federal employees.
Basically, the CFC enables federal employees to make charitable donations through payroll deductions. Participating organizations must be 501(c)(3) tax exempt, provide services in at least 15 states, account for funds by submitting an annual IRS tax return and provide an annual audit.
According to the CFC annual reports, during the years 2012-2104, JVP received approximately $10,000 in donations through this program.
How JVP Uses the Funds
As we documented in many posts, JVP organizes a variety of anti-Israel BDS campaigns on American college campuses and in academic associations and unions, progressive churches, and corporate stockholder meetings. In recent years it’s sponsored, and partnered with other anti-Zionist groups to co-sponsor, scores of anti-Israel marches, rallies, and ‘die ins’, many of which have taken an ugly anti-Semitic turn.
JVP has also sent activists to numerous city council meetings, national conventions, and campaign stops with the aim of disrupting them and ‘shutting them down’. Typically, at these events, JVP activists go out of their way to get themselves arrested for the publicity.
— Ariel Gold אריאל ? ☮️?✡️ (@ArielElyseGold) April 19, 2016
Recently (see our post here), various JVP chapters teamed up with the organization If Not Now to field a series of Passover “seders in the street” complete with unlawful take-overs of places of business. As we showed, the campaign involved exploiting the holiday traditions and themes by putting them into service for “Palestinian liberation”.
It’s part of JVP’s longstanding effort to reinforce that its anti-Zionist position is consistent with Jewish values. So, JVP activists are constantly usurping the Jewish life cycle and religious holidays by incorporating anti-Israel messaging into traditional celebratory and commemorative events.
— Ariel Gold אריאל ? ☮️?✡️ (@ArielElyseGold) April 17, 2016
To be sure, many of these activities don’t require a lot of money. As with any grassroots movement, those committed to JVP are probably donating their time and spending a lot out-of-pocket.
This is likely the case with many of the recent event disruptions that JVP activists seem to especially relish. JVP members in Chicago helped to aggressively protest an Israeli LGBTQ Sabbath event in Chicago, and shouted down a local government meeting commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz. The costs aren’t prohibitive—all it takes is some obnoxious activists and a few bus tickets.
But a number of JVP’s activities do highlight the need for increased access to funding. For example, the NGO Monitor report notes that back in February JVP joined with the USCEIO to pay for a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times. It called on Oscar nominees to reject a free trip to Israel.
— Anarcho-Zionist (@AnarchoZionist) March 4, 2016
Buying prominent ads in major U.S. newspapers of record doesn’t come cheap. Nor does making and disseminating bogus newspapers.
The NGO Monitor report also flags JVP’s recent production and distribution of roughly 10,000 copies of a fake edition of the New York Times, along with an accompanying website and Twitter account.
As we noted in our post on this particularly juvenile publicity stunt, the production quality of the paper was so good that the NYT lambasted the lookalike for being designed to mislead users.
As rightly noted by NGO Monitor, these examples
stress the importance of focusing on those that provide the funds required to make such high profile anti-Israel efforts possible”.
NGO Monitor Provides Statement to Legal Insurrection
I contacted the staff at NGO Monitor to find out more about why they undertook this research project and think it’s so critical to identify JVP’s donor base.
Here’s what Yona Schiffmiller, head of NGO Monitor’s North America Desk and responsible for the JVP report, told me on Friday:
The significance of the report is that it expands the focus on JVP to include those that enable this anti-Israel group to pursue its hateful agenda. The effectiveness and reach of anti-Israel organizations like JVP are closely tied to their ability to raise funds”.
By singling out Israel to censure and isolate, BDS promotes unlawful discrimination based on national origin and religion.
So financially backing organizations that promote BDS “raises serious legal issues” for the nearly 3 dozen U.S.-based foundations and charitable trusts that are flagged in a new report by NGO Monitor.
The NGO Monitor report makes for a sobering read.
It shows how many of America’s private family foundations and public charities, all of which profess to care deeply about contributing to human understanding, peaceful reconciliation and a more just and sustainable world, are willing to nonetheless finance groups bent on what essentially amounts to a hate campaign to denigrate Judaism and annihilate the Jewish state.
Strangely they seem to have little problem giving money—in some instances exorbitant sums—to “gangs of racists” who hold positions that are the very opposite of peace, justice, dignity and human rights.
Bottom line: based on the significant amount of research that NGO Monitor has compiled, the gift-giving of the funders engaged in supporting the discriminatory BDS campaign will need to be put “under a legal microscope”.
Featured Image: JVP-led disruption of NYC Council commemoration of liberation of Auschwitz.
Miriam F. Elman is an associate professor of political science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs, Syracuse University. She is the editor of five books and the author of over 60 journal articles, book chapters, and government reports on topics related to international and national security, religion and politics, the Middle East, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She also frequently speaks and writes on the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) anti-Israel movement. Follow her on Twitter @MiriamElmanDONATE
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