A report from the pro-Israel watchdog organization NGO Monitor accuses Bay Area–based Jewish Voice for Peace of masquerading as a mainstream Jewish organization when its true purpose is to create an anti-Israel “wedge within the American Jewish community.”
Examining JVP’s financial data, strategies, membership, programs and partners, the report, issued July 8, concludes that JVP has “actively promoted the central dimensions of the political warfare strategy against Israel.”
Such strategy includes BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions), demonization of Israel and support of a Palestinian “right of return.”
Officers of JVP, which is headquartered in Oakland, refused to talk to j. about the report, but the organization did issue a stern response in which it called itself “a home and a voice for those who share our values of working toward a truly just peace for all the people of Israel and Palestine.”
Yitzhak Santis, chief programs officer at Jerusalem-based NGO Monitor and author of the report, told j. by phone from Israel, “JVP has grown from a tiny group to now having national reach. We’re concerned that JVP is showing up with influence in different arenas: on campus, within mainline churches as well as the corporate stockholder meetings.”
The report (www.goo.gl/t7Bfq) cites JVP inroads on college campuses and with mainline Protestant churches, such as the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, where BDS campaigns have enjoyed some victories.
Santis, who used to work for the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, said pro-BDS and anti-Zionist activists use JVP as a “Jewish shield” to deflect suspicions of anti-Semitism and as a way of “deflecting the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community that strongly supports Israel.”
“They present a Jewish face and give permission,” he said. “They try to convince Christians [JVP is] part of the mainstream Jewish community and should be listened to. They reach out to college-age Jews in the process of forming identities to present a simplistic picture of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, taking advantage of their idealism.”
Moreover, he added, the organization supports or has partnered with groups such as Sabeel, Electronic Intifada, Al-Awda, International ANSWER Coalition, the International Solidarity Movement and Students for Justice in Palestine, all of which label Israel a racist apartheid state, support BDS and, in some cases, support violence against Israelis.
The JVP statement (www.goo.gl/w4LHw) reads, in part, “What NGO Monitor portrays as an attempt to split the Jewish community is in fact an accurate reflection of the growing divide in the Jewish community about Israel’s ongoing occupation and unequal treatment of Palestinians.”
It continues: “We are proud to support student and church efforts to divest from companies that profit from the occupation.”
Although JVP does not post donor and financial data on its website, and has not released an annual report since 2005, the report dug into JVP’s funding. Looking at public IRS information and other sources, Santis learned that donors to JVP include the Wallace Global Fund, the Violet Jabara Charitable Trust and the Firedoll Foundation, all of which donate to groups that support BDS, the report found.
Santis cited JVP’s “lack of transparency” but said he saw nothing illegal or improper in its donor/financial dealings.
He said he hopes the report will alert Jews and non-Jews alike to JVP’s agenda.
JVP is “part of the anti-Israel network in the United States, an NGO network that produces nothing but anti-Israel, anti-Zionist speakers, movies and media,” he said. “Does JVP ever sponsor a program calling for two-state solution? No. They call for right of return, which is a euphemism for ending Israel as a Jewish state. When you add up all their statements, actions and alliances, it’s clear JVP is anti-Israel and anti-Zionist.”