What does JVP think about the Hamas attack of October 7?
From Statement of National JVP, Oct. 10, 2023 “Jewish Voice for Peace mourns deeply for the over 1,200 Israelis killed, the families destroyed, including many of our own, and fears for the lives of Israelis taken hostage. Many are still counting the dead, looking for missing loved ones, devastated by the losses. “We wholeheartedly agree with leading Palestinian rights groups: the massacres committed by Hamas against Israeli civilians are horrific war crimes. There is no justification in international law for the indiscriminate killing of civilians or the holding of civilian hostages.” Full statement: https://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/2023/10/11/statement23-10-11/
From Statement of JVP-NNJ, Oct. 26, 2023: “We grieve for the over one thousand Israeli civilians unjustly killed on Oct. 7. We grieve, too, for the many thousands of Palestinian civilians unjustly killed since then. And we are in utter anguish at the prospect of the mass killing that faces the two million Palestinians trapped in Gaza.” Full statement: https://www.jvpnorthjersey.org/not-in-our-name/
From Statement by Alice Golin on behalf of JVP-NNJ, Oct. 10, 2023 “I am not a religious Jew, and yet this morning I found myself instinctively reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish—the Jewish prayer for the dead—for all the lives—young, old, mothers, fathers, children, lovers, Palestinians, Israelis, Americans, Muslims, Jews, Christians—lost on this horrific weekend. And for the much greater loss of life that I fear is yet to come. . . . . While we empathize with the Palestinian desire to fight back, to turn the Jewish phrase ‘Never again’ back on their oppressors, we believe killing civilians is wrong whether they are Palestinian or Israeli. But we also believe Israel is wrong: inhuman, cold, cruel, indifferent to the pain it causes. Its policies of ongoing oppression and apartheid are deeply unjust.” Full statement: https://www.jvpnorthjersey.org/statement-for-gathering-at-gould-park-paterson-n-j- 10-10-23
What is a Jewish group doing in the Palestine solidarity movement?
The Israeli government claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people, so we work to make sure the world knows that many Jews are opposed to its actions. JVP members represent a growing portion of Jewish Americans.
Is it antisemitic to criticize Israel?
No! Criticism of Israel or of its official political ideology, Zionism, should not be conflated with antisemitism. While some critics of Israel are antisemitic, there is a long and rich history of Jews criticizing Israel and its oppressive policies toward Palestinians. And social justice advocates of all backgrounds have justifiably spoken out on behalf of the victims of occupation and apartheid. Israel and its apologists accuse those who challenge Israel’s policies of being antisemites, but these apologists are just trying to shield Israel from legitimate criticism.
We in Jewish Voice for Peace are deeply disturbed by and unequivocally condemn all forms of bigotry. No crime by the Israeli state or by individual Jews can justify the mistreatment of Israeli civilians, of Jews as a whole, of individual Jews because they are Jewish, or of innocent Jews anywhere. No crime by Muslim or Palestinian authorities or by individual Muslims or Palestinians can justify the mistreatment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza or the West Bank, of Muslims or Palestinians as a whole, of individuals because they are Muslim or Palestinian, or of innocent Muslims or Palestinians anywhere. Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Palestinian bigotry are totally antithetical to all we stand for and are contrary to our vision of a world where all the people of Israel-Palestine can live together in peace and justice.
Ending the current system of Jewish supremacy is not the same as eliminating Jews or Israel, any more than ending the system of White Supremacy in the American South involved eliminating white people. And of course no one in JVP supports any solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that involves throwing Jews into the sea or expelling Jews from Israel.
An opponent of South African apartheid did not thereby oppose the existence of South Africa. JVP takes no position on whether a just solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict should be realized in two separate states or a single state or a confederation, as long as three basic principles of justice are met: an end to the occupation, an end to discriminatory practices within Israel proper, and respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees.
Does JVP support the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS)?
JVP proudly endorses the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) until Israel abides by international law. BDS is a meaningful alternative to passivity engendered by two decades of failed peace talks, and is the most effective grassroots means for applying nonviolent pressure to change Israeli policies. Defenders of the Israeli government often assert that BDS is inherently antisemitic. We reject that idea, and we defend BDS activists when they are wrongly accused of antisemitism.
Israel’s repression of Palestinians has been extensively documented by human rights groups (among them Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli organization B’Tselem). In other cases of government oppression or corporate malfeasance, human rights advocates often urge the use of boycotts to promote justice – in South Africa, Sudan, China, segregationist institutions in the American South, fossil fuel companies, and so on. None of these boycotts were improper. Apologists for Israel would like that country to be the one country on Earth exempt from criticism and from such acts of conscience, and they charge Israel’s critics with being antisemites. But if you don’t want to buy products from companies that profit from discriminatory policies, then you support boycotts. If you think people shouldn’t invest in companies whose bulldozers are used to dispossess Palestinians from their homes, then you support divestment. If you think the U.S. government shouldn’t provide arms to a regime that is committing well-documented human rights abuses, then you support sanctions—and none of these make you antisemitic.
New Jersey and 34 other states have legislation on the books penalizing those who support BDS. The ACLU and other civil liberties organizations condemn these laws as violations of our First Amendment rights. We agree.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accuses JVP of antisemitism, being a hate group, being soft on terrorism, and supporting violence. Is that accurate?
The ADL was once a well-respected civil rights organization—but it recent years, it has put its support for Israel ahead of its commitment to civil rights, trying to close down criticism of Israel as antisemitic. It is not surprising that ADL considers JVP antisemitic because of the way they define antisemitism. The ADL considers that anti-Zionism is automatically antisemitism, and it deems supporters of BDS to automatically be antisemitic. By these conflations, if you reject an ideology calling for special privileges for Jews (Zionism) or you support a nonviolent strategy for advancing the cause of justice for Palestinians (BDS) you are tarred as antisemitic, and your political arguments dismissed—and organizations taking these views are considered by the ADL to be hate groups. The ADL considers use of the slogan “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free” to be antisemitic and show support for terrorism, despite the fact that the slogan has long been used by many in the Palestine support movement to call for a future of democracy and justice, with all peoples living in peace (see here [PDF file] and articles in The Forward and 972mag.org).
The ADL website lists a bunch of pieces of evidence since Oct. 7 of alleged JVP antisemitism and hate-group behavior. Very few of the examples refer to something actually said on behalf of JVP (as opposed to a statement made by a protester at a rally co-sponsored by a JVP chapter, or a speaker from some other organization at a rally co- sponsored by JVP.) JVP is a large organization, with thousands of members. In tense times, people sometimes say stupid, sometimes wrongheaded, and sometimes highly objectionable things. But no other organization is judged by what some people at a demonstration say. Imagine if we applied the same standard to the ADL. Is the ADL a hate group because it participates in demonstrations at which antisemite John Hagee is a featured speaker? Because people at demonstrations it co-sponsors utter racist slogans? Is the ADL pro-terrorist because it “stands with Israel,” a country whose leaders include Minister of National Security Itamar Ben Gvir, who was deemed a racist by Israeli courts and who for many years had a picture in his home of an Israeli settler who went into a mosque and murdered 29 worshippers?
The ADL provides a few references to statements by actual JVP leaders. What ADL objects to are any attempts to provide context for what happened on Oct. 7. Countless observers—including all the major human rights groups—have been warning for years that treating the people of Gaza like caged animals, allowing their living situation to get more and more desperate, dispossessing more and more Palestinians on the West Bank, and shutting down all nonviolent forms of protest, could not last forever. There would be an explosion. That doesn’t mean one is justifying the criminal acts that occurred in the explosion; rather one is explaining the root causes. Imagine a student who has long been bullied and the school administration ignores the problem. One day the student shoots a bunch of his classmates. Of course we condemn the shooting. But no serious analyst would think the problem began on the day of the shooting. Or fail to see the root causes of the shooting. JVP statements that identify decades of oppression and dispossession as the root causes of October 7 are not justifying Hamas’s actions; they are seeking to explain where oppression leads and why the only long-term solution to the violence in Israel-Palestine is justice. Israel and the ADL want people to think that the story began on Oct. 7, with Hamas’s horrors—but one can’t ignore what brought us to this terrible point.
The Montclair Civil Rights Commission claims that JVP is a hate group. Are they right?
Despite the reporting by the Montclair Local, it was not the Montclair Civil Rights Commission that called upon the Montclair public library to cancel JVP-NNJ’s program featuring a Quaker speaker. The call came from the chair of the commission, Christa Rapoport, speaking on her own behalf, though she didn’t make this clear. Rapoport claimed that Jewish Voice for Peace, “made clear their support for Hamas on October 7, referring to the organization’s statement calling the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians a form of apartheid.” But denouncing Israel’s discriminatory policies as providing the context for what happened on October 7 has nothing to do with whether one supports Hamas or terrorism. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem have all described the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians a form of apartheid. Are they all terrorists too?
It is interesting that Christa Rapoport called for a public library program to be cancelled – an astounding and unprecedented position for a member of a civil rights organization — without taking the simple step of contacting the organization they wished to ban to get their side of the story. Isn’t this a basic requirement of due diligence and due process?
We’d be interested to hear the reaction of Christa Rapoport to the fact that while JVP was hosting its event at the public library featuring a Quaker speaker promoting the values of nonviolence, peace, and justice, pro-Israeli extremists were outside, one of whom with a megaphone chanted “Gaza will become an ocean view for Israel.”