Jewish Voice for Peace (1996 – present)

jewishvoiceforpeace.org

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a national, grassroots organization whose goal is a just and lasting peace for all the people of Israel and Palestine. JVP's mission statement declares: "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."

JVP works towards these goals by supporting the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, calling for American military aid to be withheld until Israel complies with international law and ends its human rights abuses against Palestinians, and supporting any solution that is consistent with the full rights of both Palestinians and Israeli Jews, be it one bi-national state, two states, or another solution.

Founded in 1996 by three UC Berkeley undergraduates, JVP has changed quite a bit over the years. It began as an all-volunteer grassroots peace group that supported a two-state solution. In 2002, members hired the first staff person in order to build a larger based that would one day be able to change US policies toward the Middle East.

JVP has long supported the use of economic pressure to bring about change in Israeli policy and had participated in BDS campaigns focused on companies that profit directly from the enforcement of the occupation. Not until in 2015, however, did JVP officially endorse the full Palestinian civil society call for BDS until Israel abides by international law. JVP believes that BDS is a meaningful alternative to passivity engendered by two decades of failed peace talks; that it is the most effective grassroots means for applying nonviolent pressure to change Israeli policies.

The national JVP organization is closely connected to a growing grassroots base. JVP has over 200,000 online supporters, over 60 chapters nation-wide, a youth wing, Rabbinic Council, Artist Council, Academic Advisory Council, and an Advisory Board comprised of leading U.S. intellectuals and artists.

JVP's work, characterized by its rights-based approach, involves grassroots organizing, youth orientation, and savvy online communications. JVP is "a community for Jews and allies who are disaffected from the censoring of criticism of Israel in mainstream Jewish institutions, and want to take action to demand change in Israel/Palestine."

On campuses JVP supports student-led campaigns to divest their universities from Israel and supports faculty organizing for academic freedom. JVP prioritizes interfaith relationships. They work closely with Christian peace groups that advocate for divestment in their churches; they educate about and act to oppose Islamophobia in Jewish communities and elsewhere alongside Muslim allies. JVP helps to bring the voices and stories of Palestinian and Israeli activists struggling to resist occupation to a US, and increasingly global, audience through events and online communications.

In 2010, in response to Israeli artists seeking support in boycotting a theater in the Israeli settlement of Ariel, JVP circulated a statement signed by 150 theater and film professionals. This was the first time that such mainstream figures had come out in vocal opposition to Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law and which constitute one of the main impediments to a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

At 2010 Jewish Federation of North America General Assembly in New Orleans, young Jewish Voice for Peace activists disrupted Prime Minister Netanyahu's speech. The activists stood up one at a time during Netanyahu's presentation, each stating that it is Israel's oppressive actions, and not the BDS movement, that delegitimize the Jewish state.

JVP ran a successful national divestment campaign that encouraged the largest pension fund manager TIAA-CREF to remove five companies (Caterpillar, Elbit, Veoila, Motorola, and Northrop Grumman) that it claims are complicit in Israeli human rights violations from its socially-responsible investment fund.

Increasingly, JVP is becoming involved in working for change at the Congressional level and in Washington more broadly. They supported the passage of the Iran nuclear deal in 2014, contributing more than 20% of the Win Without War coalitions total of letters and emails to Congress, as well as visits with 47 district offices and 50 offices on the hill, thousands of phone calls, and participated in over 25 vigils, protests and town-hall events. When Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke against the Iran deal in a controversial address in March 2015, JVP initiated a petition and a media campaign calling on Congressional representatives to skip his speech, which nearly 60 of them did.

JVP was the only major Jewish organization to oppose the 2014 Israel--Gaza conflict. The group grew significantly during and right after that war.