Jewish Voice for Peace

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Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a group of American Jews who describe themselves as "inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, equality, human rights, respect for international law, and a U.S. foreign policy based on these ideals. 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." [1] Describing it as the main group that has called for suspension of military aid until Israel leaves the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem; "given this position, one might argue that JVP is not part of the lobby at all," John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt suggest it is not part of what they call the Israel Lobby.[2]


JVP believes the occupation is enabled in the United States, and, since Israel claims to be acting in the name of the Jewish people, they feel it incumbent on American Jews "make sure the world knows that many of us are opposed to their actions. ... Because we are Jews, we have a particular legitimacy in voicing an alternative view of American and Israeli actions and policies. As Jews, we can make the distinction between real anti-Semitism and the cynical manipulation of that issue to shield Israel from legitimate criticism."[3]

Their Frequently Asked Questions do not say they assume any form of Zionism. It does not commit to, or oppose, the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Rather, they accept all who accept the principles:

  • We are committed to an end to the Occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. We see ending the Occupation as the beginning, not the end, of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • The root of ending the Occupation is here in the United States, not in Israel, and we work for an end to US military aid to Israel until the Occupation ends.
  • Interest groups within the United States, such as the Christian Zionist lobby, the arms and aerospace industry lobbies, and right-leaning Jewish organizations, have a vested interest in maintaining the Occupation. But since the Occupation threatens the peace and security of the Middle East, the true interests of the United States, as well as those of Palestinians and Israelis, lie in ending the Occupation.
  • We support a solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis that will also preserve the right of the Israeli people to self-determination. International law calls for the rights of nations to self-determination and a right of return for all refugees. We believe these two important principles of international law must be balanced to find a workable and just resolution to this long-time crisis.
  • We firmly state that it is not anti-Semitic to criticize the policies of the government of the State of Israel or the policies of the Jewish establishment in the US. But we also believe that actual anti-Semitism is alive and well and is mostly misunderstood both on the left and in the mainstream.
  • We stand against all violence against civilians. We believe that the Occupation is the root cause of the violence, and that the Occupation itself, with its checkpoints, harassment, and dispossession of Palestinians is itself an act of violence. We believe that all attacks on civilians, whether by the Israeli army or Palestinian militias, are war crimes.
  • We believe that when the Occupation ends, it will then become possible to consider all the different ideas for a permanent and sustainable peace in the Middle East. We believe that an open dialogue that includes all different formulations of such a permanent solution are legitimate, as long as they each respect the individual and collective rights of both Israelis and Palestinians.

Relations with other non-hardline American Jewish groups

Richard Silverstein observed that JVP was not welcome at fall 2009 conference of J Street, a lobby positioned as an alternative to harder-line American Zionist groups. He said that conference assumed that invitees had to explicitly support a two-state solution.

I understand the reason J Street feels it must place JVP outside the tent. There are lots of Jewish rightist warriors who are gunning for it. If they invited JVP, then they’d be spending time explaining their decision. And they’d rather be advocating for Obama Mideast policy than explaining why they invited JVP to their conference.

But I have a real problem with the impoverishment of the Jewish left that comes from this sort of exclusion. I believe in making the tent as big as possible not using artificial criteria to decide who is kosher and who is treif [nonkosher]. While I could understand excluding an anti-Zionist Jewish group, JVP is not anti-Zionist. [4]

JVP's Sydney Levy, commenting on the J Street leadership comment that JVP might have a negative reaction to J Street's position, told the Jerusalem Post he was understanding of J Street's perspective. "They're looking for their own legitimacy, and if they're getting it from [Opposition Leader] Tzipi Livni and [President] Shimon Peres, that's a fine thing," Levy said of the Kadima leaders who sent J Street letters of congratulations on its conference even though they did not attend. "J Street is redefining the game. We want to redefine it more." He said he did not agree with J Street's "pro-Israel" position.[5]


Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, in October 2008, listed it as one of "The Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in America".[6] Both Justin Elliott at Slate[7] and Michelle Goldberg at the Daily Beast called, in particular, the criticism of JVP to be unreasonable. Goldberg said
No one has done better work investigating and exposing neo-Nazi and white Supremacist groups in the United States. I’ve spoken at several ADL meetings about my own reporting on Christian nationalism. But the ADL has also shown itself willing to smear human-rights activists when it thinks Israel’s interests demand it. It is in this context that the organization’s misguided new report on the “top 10 anti-Israel groups in America,” which includes Jewish Voice for Peace and the Council on American Islamic Relations, has to be understood...

She agreed that some of the groups listed are extreme."the anti-war group ANSWER, for example, has an awful record of conflating Zionism and Nazism, and of supporting the most reactionary forces in the Islamic world, from Saddam Hussein to Hezbollah."

But Jewish Voice for Peace? This is a group with a rabbinical council chaired by respected Jewish clergy and an advisory board that includes luminaries like award-winning author Adam Hochschild, playwright Tony Kushner and Democratic messaging guru George Lakoff. Oren Segal, the director of the ADL’s center on extremism, justifies the group’s inclusion partly on the grounds that it provides cover to other, anti-Zionist organizations. Jewish Voice for Peace, he says, has “propaganda value. Some of these other groups use the fact that they’re there to kind of shield themselves from criticism that they’re anti-Jewish.” This is clearly guilt by association[8]

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, in 2008, says JVP's "moral outrage, however, is decidedly one-sided, directed overwhelmingly at Israel," and objects to its boycott and divestment campaigns.[9]


  1. Mission Statement, Jewish Voice for Peace
  2. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt (2007), The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, ISBN 13978037417720, pp. 120-121
  3. Frequently Asked Questions, Jewish Voice for Peace
  4. Richard Silverstein (6 September 2009), "American Jewish Left in Transition", Tikun Olam
  5. Hilary Leila Krieger (28 October 2009), "J Street's Ben-Ami: Our stance is like Kadima's", Jerusalem Post
  6. The Top Ten Anti-Israel Groups in America, Anti-Defamation League, 4 October 2010
  7. Justin Elliott (14 October 2010), "Anti-Defamation League beclowns itself, again", Slate
  8. Michelle Goldberg (15 October 2010), "A Jewish Group's Shameful Smear", Daily Beast
  9. Steven Stotsky (17 June 2008), "Jewish Voice for Peace" A Voice for Defamation, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America