A Message to the Residents of New Jersey from Northern NJ JVP

Recently, the Northern New Jersey chapter of JVP submitted the following letter to all members of the state’s Senate and Assembly, requesting that they reject an invitation to visit Israel in January 2024. Please take a few moments to read that letter and the attached links.

January 28, 2024

More than two weeks have passed since the above letter was sent to 120 members of the New Jersey legislature. JVP has received not a single response. The trip began on Sunday, January 21, and we understand that at least 22 legislators and community leaders are participating. We have yet to hear reports from those who took part.

As our letter points out, this trip is but the latest action taken by supporters of the State of Israel to distract from and cover up the genocide currently taking place in Gaza as well as the increasingly vicious attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank. The large antiwar demonstrations organized by Israelis opposing their own government’s actions in Gaza since Oct 7th have been stifled. Our local attempts to present accurate information regarding the decades-long treatment of Palestinians in Israel have been thwarted by community groups and individuals, largely unidentified—but clearly, those groups have successfully persuaded churches, newspapers, and even a public library to take their demands seriously and in some cases even to accede to those demands.

In the past year or so, no fewer than four churches in Montclair and Maplewood warmly welcomed us as we discussed with their leaders the possibility of holding events at their sites. In each case, discussions were abruptly cut off and spaces we had already rented were cancelled, sometimes with as few as two days’ notice. All explained that they had been pressured by individuals and community groups. When Northern New Jersey Jewish Voice for Peace tried to place an ad in The Jersey Journal, the advertising staff accepted it without concern, but the publisher intervened, rejecting it as not being “a good fit”.

Recently, we made arrangements with the Montclair Public Library to present a Quaker speaker who offered a slide show on his recent visit to the West Bank. On November 8th, a petition began circulating calling on the public library to cancel “the terror event” at the library and to recognize that “terror speech has no home in Montclair.” Signatories added such observations as

  • “[JVP’s actions] amount to hate speech, [i]ncitement of violence against Jews, and terrorist sympathy. . . . Words kill. Do not platform this organization’s slanderand blood libel.”
  • “JVP are promoting terror against Jews and against Israel.”
  • “I’m outraged that this tolerant and ethnically diverse community is allowing the open support of terror.”
  • “Cant give a stage to hamas terrorists organization in our library.”
  • “Because jewish voices for peace support the nazi, terrorist organization hamas . . . [a]llowing them to have a space to speak would be comparable to allowing nazis to hold a forum.”
  • “Jewish Voice for Peace is not a Jewish organization. It is an anti semitic group that poses as Jews and spreads Jew hatred.”
  • “Jewish Voice for Peace is . . . the ‘Jewish mouthpiece’ for Hamas.”

Without exception, these comments are false, reprehensible, truly beyond the pale. No, JVP emphatically does not support or tolerate the actions of Hamas. While we welcome everyone to join our organization, all of our leaders and virtually all of our members are, in fact, Jewish. It is confounding and infuriating that JVP would be accused of such malevolence. Anyone who wanted to know our actual views could have found them on our website, where, of course, you are reading this.

On November 11th, 2023, the day before the scheduled event, we were informed that the Library Board of Trustees had been contacted by a number of individuals demanding that the event be cancelled; in any case, we were informed, if the event were to be held, we would have to pay the police department to ensure that they would provide security. Given the last-minute nature of this stunning demand, we paid almost $900 to the police—so they would do their job and protect the public. (The ACLU-NJ sent a letter to the Montclair Police Department warning that its policies violated U.S. and N.J. constitutional rights by allowing a mob to impose a “heckler’s veto” on those attempting to express their constitutionally-protected rights. Neither the Police Department nor the township of Montclair has responded. We plan to pursue the matter to ensure that public spaces are able to host controversial discussions without the requirement of payment being made to the police or other public agencies.)

The evening before the event, the library board held an open meeting online to allow community members a platform from which to offer their opinions as to whether the event should be allowed to take place and to help the board make an informed decision. A large group attended and, while many presented cogent reasons why the event should go forward as planned, another group of attendees engaged in distortion, ad hominem attacks, and outright lies to prevent JVP from presenting vital information to the public. Thankfully, the Library Board, in a closed session following the public meeting, made the decision to allow the event to take place.

The November 12th event was attended by a great many people with a wide variety of perspectives on Israel/Palestine. This was what we had desired. Indeed, the crowd exceeded the maximum number allowed by fire laws, and 16 people voluntarily left so the meeting could continue. Unfortunately, some attendees engaged in shouting and name-calling, and what should have been a safe space for reasonable discussion became fraught with tension and animosity, the opposite of JVP’s intentions.

The following day, a regularly scheduled Montclair Town Council meeting was held. We learned that members of the community would be present to comment on the library event. A good many were pleased with the gathering that had taken place, but once again those in support of Israel’s actions publicly slandered JVP, fabricating incidents, twisting our statements, and intentionally and repeatedly lying about our organization, our objectives, and our allies.

We are horrified by the continuing violence in Israel/Palestine. We are alarmed by the number of people in our own country, in our own state, who are willing to defame, slander, and lie in their efforts to discredit JVP, both locally and nationally. Again and again we have heard contemptible statements accusing JVP — Jewish Voice for Peace — of antisemitism. Nothing could be further from the truth, yet organizations including the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) have widely promoted this canard.

We urge you to join us as we struggle to end the genocide taking place in Gaza and to bring peace and justice to the region as a whole. Visit our website and learn what Jewish Voice for Peace truly represents. Then join us at our meetings, events, and demonstrations.