JVP on the Issues
- Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on U.S. settlement funders, 2010
- One State or Two? A Jewish Voice for Peace position paper, January 2007
- Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on Peace, U.S. Military Aid and Israel, 2004
- Jewish Voice for Peace Statement on the Boycott of Israeli Goods, April 2003
Statement on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, 2015
“The Only Recognizable Feature of Hope Is Action”*
Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) endorses the call from Palestinian civil society for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) as part of our work for freedom, justice and equality for all people. We believe that the time-honored, non-violent tools proposed by the BDS call provide powerful opportunities to make that vision real.
We join with communities of conscience around the world in supporting Palestinians, who call for BDS until the Israeli government:
Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
In the long and varied history of Jewish experience, we are inspired by those who have resisted injustice and fought for freedom. We strive to live up to those values and extend that history. By endorsing the call, we make our hope real and our love visible and we claim our own liberation as bound with the liberation of all.
JVP is committed to supporting and organizing all kinds of powerful and strategic campaigns to secure a common future where Palestinians, Israeli Jews, and all the people of Israel/Palestine may live with dignity, security, and peace.
*Quote by Jewish American author/activist Grace Paley
Jewish Voice for Peace is proud to be a part of the global, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to end Israeli human rights violations.
As signatories to the BDS call, we will continue to focus on those BDS campaigns we feel are most effective in building a broad-based movement for change. Our goal, and the goal of the BDS movement, is ending Israel’s ongoing violations of the rights of violations and setting the stage for a lasting and just peace for all peoples of Israel/Palestine.
Why is JVP moving beyond Occupation-focused Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction campaigns?
JVP has long participated in the global movement to hold Israel accountable through nonviolent economic pressure, and we’ve done so by focusing on Occupation-specific targets including corporations as well as academic and cultural institutions. Today, the idea that there is a clear economic, political, or social separation between “Israel” and “the occupation,” has been widely discredited.
As the Israeli group Who Profits? has described: “As we complete our mapping, one fact becomes very clear: any clear-cut distinction between the Israeli economy as a whole and the economy of the occupation can no longer be justified. The Green Line border [post-1967 border] has all but disappeared from the corporate activity map. Even if we only look at the Israeli settlements, and then again only focus on settlement construction, we will discover that the major players in the Israeli economy are deeply complicit. For instance, our findings show that all major Israeli banks have funded and supervised construction projects in the settlements.”
JVP is committed to supporting and organizing a full range of powerful and strategic efforts to secure a common future where Palestinians, Israeli Jews, and all the people of Israel/Palestine may live with dignity, security, and peace.
These include supporting nonviolent resistance inside Israel/Palestine; lobbying Congress; transforming Jewish communal institutions; weakening Israel Lobby gatekeepers; promoting cultural production; and supporting educational and BDS campaigns.
BDS can work where “Peace Talks” and international bodies have failed.
Decades of US-backed so-called “peace talks” have led to further entrenchment of the Israeli occupation, further isolation of the Palestinians of Gaza, escalating support for racist rhetoric and anti-democratic laws within Israel, and the rapid expropriation by settlers and the Israeli government of land reserved for a future Palestinian state.
Having made countless concessions in peace talks with diminished returns, Palestinians have gone to world legal bodies like the UN and the ICC to help adjudicate, but at every turn both the United States and Israel have effectively thwarted their efforts and international governments have all failed to bring the region closer to peace.
Boycott, divestment campaigns and sanctions have been used by a wide range of important social movements.
Boycott, divestment campaigns, and sanctions are tactics that have been used by formerly vilified, but now celebrated, nonviolent activists and minority groups to advance numerous social movements throughout history. These include the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the anti-Apartheid Movement, the struggle for farmworkers rights, and efforts to end the slave trade in the 18th century in England. They are tactics that allow individuals, religious and students groups, unions, and others to press for change when governments fail to end human rights abuses.
BDS is a way to hold Israel accountable for its human rights abuses.
Israel’s ongoing occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the Golan Heights; discrimination against Palestinian citizens inside of Israel; and decades of ignoring Palestinian refugee rights is both unethical and unsustainable.
We believe it is firmly within the Jewish tradition to hold any government accountable for violating the human rights of others—and that includes Israel. But the United States has given Israel a free pass for decades, providing massive economic and military aid, and unconditional diplomatic support, thus allowing Israel to take Palestinian land and destroy Palestinian lives with impunity. It is in this context that the BDS movement emerged.
We have responded to the BDS Call because Palestinian civil society has asked the world for help.
In 2005, a diverse coalition of over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations—including unions, academic institutions, political parties, cultural groups, and civil society organizations—recognizing that governments had failed to end decades of Israeli repression, called upon the international community to join in a global economic BDS campaign. Thousands of groups around the world have responded to the call, leading to a loose-knit global movement that looks entirely different in every country and every locality.
The BDS movement is conditional and asks people to stop applying pressure when Israel stops violating three fundamental Palestinian rights.
The Palestinian BDS call asks international civil society groups and individuals to use boycott, divestment, and sanction tactics until Israel meets its obligations under international law to:
- End the occupation and dismantle the Wall
- End discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel
- Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinians to return to their homes
Supporters of the call include those who support 1 state, 2 states, a confederation or some other configuration— but we all agree Israel must recognize the fundamental rights listed above.
BDS campaigns take many forms in order to address local contexts and political realities. Groups around the world have organized street protests, boardroom lobbying, shareholder actions, lawsuits, teach-ins, and other actions to call attention to corporate and institutional complicity in occupation. Among others, targets have included arms manufacturers, agricultural exporters, cosmetic manufacturers, cultural groups, investment firms, and academic institutions. What links these disparate campaigns is their common goal of ending complicity with Israel’s occupation and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.
BDS initiatives offer academics a way to oppose Israeli institutional complicity in the denial of Palestinian access to education
From checkpoints and the bombing of schools, to arbitrary travel restrictions and segregation inside of Israel, human rights groups have documented numerous ways that Israeli policies severely limit Palestinian access to education. BDS initiatives give academics in particular a way to register their opposition to such practices by targeting institutions that are complicit in Israel’s repression of Palestinian academic freedom. These initiatives are not aimed at individual faculty, but rather institutions funded by the Israeli government; or in rare cases, individuals who officially represent those institutions.
BDS campaigns promote open and honest debate.
Time and time again, we’ve seen that BDS campaigns, whether on campuses or churches, increase discussion and communication. They either bring an end to a culture of silence, or replace a monologue focused largely on the Jewish Israeli narrative, with a dialogue that fully includes a Palestinian perspective.
BDS campaigns offer unique coalition and community-building opportunities.
One of the BDS movement’s most striking features is the remarkable diversity of coalitions of students, academics, religious leaders, human rights activists and others who come together to support divestment and boycott initiatives. In divestment hearings on campuses or in city governments, groups that represent Jews, Palestinians, Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Persians, LGBTQ, Armenians, labor, women, environmentalists and so forth testify on behalf of divestment, often in marked contrast to relatively homogenous coalitions that oppose divestment.
Many Jews support the BDS movement.
As Jews who believe in the Jewish tradition of social justice, and in whose name Israel claims to act, we feel particularly accountable to respond to Palestinian civil society’s call. We join with Jews inside of Israel and around the world who feel similarly, and who recognize that Jews have an important role to play in calling out the cheapening of the charge of anti-Semitism by those who wish to silence human rights advocates.
We also feel that BDS can be good for Jewish Israelis. Much like the US based civil rights movement or the anti-apartheid movement, BDS can positively transform Israel/Palestine, help put an end to decades of human rights abuses, counter the rising racist and anti-democratic atmosphere inside of Israel, and lay the foundation for a just and lasting peace.
Statement on Palestinian Authority Bid for Statehood at UN
The Palestinian Authority (PA) has affirmed that this September, at the United Nations General Assembly, it will seek a vote on international recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border and admission as a full member of the United Nations.
While 100 countries already recognize Palestine as a state, the question of pressing for UN membership remains controversial among Palestinians. Some support the move as historic and others believe such a vote is either purely symbolic or may sacrifice important Palestinian claims.
Jewish Voice for Peace believes that such a vote, even if it were to pass, would not change facts on the ground or suddenly create a Palestinian state. Regardless of what happens at the UN, the lives of ordinary Palestinian people and the ongoing massive violations of their human rights will remain at the forefront of our concerns.
That said, we do believe the campaign for Palestinian statehood has and can catalyze an important global conversation about the fundamental Palestinian right to self-determination, and the United States’ and Israel’s ongoing role in thwarting that right. We also strongly oppose a US veto should the question go to the UN Security Council.
As an organization that focuses on the critical role of the United States in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish Voice for Peace is deeply concerned by the ongoing activities of U.S. organizations whose 501c3 (non-profit) status enables them to raise money from American donors to support and maintain settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
In the Washington Post last year, David Ignatius noted that from 2004-2007, 28 U.S. tax exempt organizations raised $33.4 million in funding for settlements and related organizations.
The construction of settlements in occupied territory is a violation of international law.
Non-profit settlement funders include New York-based Hebron Fund, which supports the extremist Jewish settlement of 700 settlers in the center of Hebron, making the area inaccessible and unlivable to its 150,000 Palestinian residents. Israeli organizations such as B’tselem describe the settlement in Hebron as a severe violation of the most basic human rights of the Palestinians in the city and an ongoing war crime. The Hebron Fund contributes almost $1 million dollars annually to support this settlement.
An additional example is Friends of Ir David, which raises money to expand Jewish settlement in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. From 2004-2006, Friends of Ir David contributed over $10 million dollars to activities that include fraudulent home purchases and ideological archaeological excavations that are used as a pretext to demolish Palestinian homes. Since 1967, thirty five percent of East Jerusalem has been taken over by the Jerusalem municipality for the sake of housing Jewish citizens—and changing the facts on the ground in anticipation of a final status settlement.
While many of these organizations claim to merely fund “social and educational” activities, the Center Fund, also based in New York, contributed over 100,000 shekels (over $27,000) to the Od Yosef Chai Shechem yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus. This is the same yeshiva whose rabbi said it was permissible to kill gentile babies because of "the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents."  The Center Fund also funds settler organized “security” organizations—ie, militias. Indeed the violence from the Yitzhar settlement has been so pronounced that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described it as "pogroms against non-Jews."
The Colorado-based Christian Friends of Israeli Communities encourages churches and ministries to connect with "the pioneers of Biblical Israel" through the "adopt-a-settlement” program. The director of the organization’s Israeli office estimates that more than half the settlements in the West Bank receive direct or indirect support from Christian organizations.
The impact of American dollars on helping settlers deepen and broaden their hold on Palestinian neighborhoods and cities is clear. These are just four examples of how U.S.-based organizations, taking advantage of their tax-exempt status, are contributing to creating “facts on the ground” in flagrant opposition to international law, as well as materially contributing to the ongoing human rights violations and daily misery of Palestinians struggling to survive and remain in the West Bank.
Unfortunately, these settlements, and their U.S. fundraising counterparts, are in no way outside the Jewish mainstream in either Israel or the United States. The Israeli beneficiary of Friends of Ir David, for example, known as Elad, has been in and out of a contractual relationship with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. That relationship gives Elad control over the very archaeological site that itis using to pursue its political goal of increasing Jewish control over Silwan The yeshiva in Yitzar funded by the Central Fund received over a million shekels in funding from Israel’s Education and Welfare ministries in 2007 and 2008. 
Even mainstream American non-profit organizations like Nefesh B’Nefesh, which works in partnership with the Jewish Agency to promote North American immigration to Israel, receives one third of its aliyah related funding from the Israeli Absorption Ministry each year. Nefesh B’Nefesh encourages North American Jews to move to settlements in the West Bank, both by promoting those “communities” on their website, without mentioning that they are situated in the West Bank, and by helping new immigrants access increased fiscal benefit packages they receive from the Israeli government for settling in West Bank settlements.
Thus the Israeli settlement enterprise, despite an avowed settlement “freeze,” is a conscious target for expansion, aided and abetted both by the Israeli government and the American organizations that support them.
 Ignatius, David, “A Tax Break Fuels Middle East Friction,” The Washington Post, March 26, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/25/AR2009032502800.html
 Ignatius, David, “A Tax Break Fuels Middle East Friction,” The Washington Post, March 26, 2009. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/25/AR2009032502800.html
 Eldar, Akiva, “The Very Eye of the Storm,” Haaretz, April 10, 2009. February 23, 2010. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1076058.html
 Eldar, Akiva, “US Tax Dollars Fund Rabbi Who Excused Killing Gentile Babies,” Haaretz, December 15, 2009. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1135200.html
 Weiss, Phil, “NY Fabric Store Family’s Charity: We Train People to Fight in Towns in Occupied Territories With Other Civilians Around Us,” www.mondoweiss.net, December 11, 2008. http://mondoweiss.net/2008/12/ny-fabric-store-familys-charity-we-train-people-to-fight-in-towns-in-occupied-territories-with-other.html
 “Yizhar Settlers Rampage Caught on Camera,” Haaretz, September 15, 2008, http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/.html
 Avni, Ronit, “Want to Stop Israeli Settlements? Follow the Dollars,” The Washington Post, June 25, 2009 http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/06/25/ST2009062503434.html?sid=ST2009062503434
 Eldar, Akiva, “US Tax Dollars Fund Rabbi Who Excused Killing Gentile Babies,” Haaretz, December 15, 2009. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1135200.html
 Fleisher, Malka, “New Immigrants to Gush Etzion Receive Extra Help, Arutz Sheva, May 25, 2009, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/131547 . See also http://www.nbn.org.il/communities/template/community
By Mitchell Plitnick and Henri Picciotto
As activists in the movement for peace and justice in the Middle East, JVP members are often asked for our position on how the Palestine / Israel conflict should ultimately be solved. Our mission statement (http://www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org/publish/mission.shtml) endorses neither a one-state solution, nor a two-state solution. Instead it promotes support for human rights and international law. As a result, we have members and supporters on both sides of this question, as well as many others who, like the organization as a whole, are agnostic about it. If a short answer is required, it would be that we support any solution that is consistent with the national rights of both Palestinians and Israeli Jews, whether one binational state, two states, or some other solution. In this paper, we provide a longer answer.
JVP’s stance has always been that the people living in Israel-Palestine are the ones who must decide on their own political formations and how best to resolve this conflict. In fact, much of our strategy and approach is based on the conclusion that it is outside interference, especially that of the United States, that is the biggest obstacle to the two peoples creating that solution.
One might then reasonably ask why JVP does not take a two-state position, since that is the overwhelming position of Israelis and the clear majority position of Palestinians living in the region. JVP also bases its stances on international law, human rights norms, and our collective sense of justice, fairness and practicality. Some might then ask why we do not advocate a binational state where each person has one vote, equal to his or her peers, and where the national and religious rights of all communities are respected.
The answer to these questions lies in our analysis of the situation on the ground in Israel-Palestine and in the larger political sphere in which the conflict takes place. Let us look first at the two-state solution.
Two States: History
For most of the twentieth century, two-state solutions were adamantly opposed by the Palestinians and the larger Arab world. The first real attempt at a two-state solution was the Peel Commission partition plan of 1937. The Yishuv (the Zionist settlement in Palestine that would become Israel) was divided about this plan. The Arabs were uniformly opposed to this British idea. For them, it meant that Palestinian Arabs would have to give up a disproportionate part of the land to a group that constituted only about 28% of the population and owned only 6% of the land (much of it was owned by the state). The UN Partition plan of 1947 was accepted by the Yishuv, but opposed by the Arabs (although by this time, the opposition was mostly voiced by outsiders, as Palestinian leadership had largely been destroyed by a combination of in-fighting and British and Zionist efforts).
It should be noted here that Arab opposition to an independent Palestinian state, mostly from Jordan but certainly involving broader Arab leadership, was a factor in the absence of any pursuit of a Palestinian state between the wars of 1948 and 1967, as was the deepening conflict between the Arab states and Israel. Still, until the mid-1970s, the Palestinians were essentially united in their rejection of any two-state plan. The thinking was that Zionism was an illegitimate, colonial enterprise and that the new immigrants had no right to cut off a part of Palestine, or take the whole, and call it their own. Throughout the period before 1948, the preferred Palestinian solution was an end to Jewish immigration, an independent Palestinian state and a one person, one vote system. After that war and until the rise of the Palestine Liberation Organization, there was no Palestinian body that could voice support or opposition.
For several years after the 1967 war, the Arab focus was on getting Israel to withdraw from the territories it captured in that war, and little consideration was paid to the Palestinians. In 1974, under the leadership of Yasir Arafat, the PLO came up with its “Ten Point Plan”, which was the first time a two-state vision was articulated by any Arab national leader, let alone a Palestinian one. The provision did not envision a “two-state solution” per se. The PLO goal was explicitly stated as a secular, democratic state in all of historical Palestine. Nevertheless, the Ten Point Plan also provided that the PLO would accept sovereignty over any part of Palestine that could be “liberated”. This was the first time there was a significant Arab acceptance of any concept of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, albeit without agreeing to Israel existing in peace with that Palestinian state. In 1988, the PLO explicitly accepted the existence of Israel and from then on has been committed to a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza, including East Jerusalem, living side by side with Israel.
The Ten Point Plan helped to galvanize international opinion around a two-state solution and this quickly became the consensus view around the world, as seen in any number of near-unanimous UN resolutions. Some Arab opposition remained, most notably Jordan’s reluctance to cede the West Bank to a future Palestinian state (this would change in the 1980s), and the so-called Rejectionist Front, which broke with the PLO over the plan, some parts of which were supported by Iraq and Syria. The United States would take quite some time to even rhetorically support a two-state vision of any kind, and remains opposed to a Palestinian state on all of the West Bank. As the years went by and more and more Arab leaders came to accept that there was no hope of reversing Israel’s victory of 1948, they came to rally around a two-state solution as a means to resolve both the question of the territories Israel occupied in 1967 and as at least part of a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. By now, all Arab governments without exception have endorsed the two state solution.
Two States: Today
As we have seen, there can be many different meanings of a “two-state solution”. The issue is complicated by the massive expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, especially in the last 15 years. The two-state solution offered by Ehud Barak at Camp David, even after it was modified by Bill Clinton following the failure of those talks, would have left three major settlement blocs in the West Bank. These blocs would be annexed to Israel, with the Palestinians being compensated with land from the Negev that was comparable in neither quantity nor quality. Moreover, these three blocs give Israel significant control over the major water supplies in the West Bank and would have cut deeply into proposed Palestinian territory, making ordinary travel from town to town much more difficult and cumbersome. This is not a mere inconvenience; it makes trade and travel much more problematic for Palestinians, significantly affecting their ability to build a functioning economy and state structure.
Palestinians as well as many Jewish and Israeli peace groups would see two states as meaning a Palestinian state in Gaza and on all of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. At most, there might be minor border modifications in order to connect the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and perhaps to make the transition easier for both sides, but any such modification would have to be based on a true one-for-one land swap, equivalent in both quantity and quality.
American and Israeli two-state visions have been quite different. Ranging from the Barak-Clinton proposals of 2000 to Ariel Sharon’s notion of giving the Palestinians only 42% of the West Bank, none of them have envisaged a truly viable Palestinian state. The Oslo Accords never actually mentioned a Palestinian state, yet for seven years, these accords were believed to be the basis for a two-state solution. They never actually encouraged the creation of a Palestinian state but allowed a massive and unprecedented expansion of Israeli settlements, the creation of Jewish-only access roads, and finally the separation Wall. All of the truly thorny issues (Jerusalem, the settlements, borders, refugees, water rights, etc.) were left to final status talks that were hastily put together in 2000 not because the time was ripe but because the terms in office of Ehud Barak and Bill Clinton were ending.
The two-state solutions that are on the diplomatic table these days all reflect a willingness to allow the three major settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim to remain in Israeli hands. We do not believe that this can possibly lead to a viable Palestinian state. Nor do we believe that such a “solution” is acceptable to the vast majority of Palestinians living under occupation. If a viable two-state solution that was truly acceptable to the majority of both sides was proposed, JVP might be inclined to re-evaluate this position.
The only two-state proposal that might fit this description is the Arab League plan of 2002. This plan calls for two states, essentially along the 1967 borders, a shared Jerusalem and “achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194.” In exchange, the Arab League offered not only peace, but also full normalization of relations with Israel. Normal relations mean building the economic, cultural and social links that remove the incentive for war between countries. The proposal would certainly need further discussion, clarification and negotiation. However, it would serve as a solid basis for talks, and has been affirmed as such not only by the Arab League, but also by Iran, as well as groups like Hamas and Hezbollah. Many Israeli commentators and even official leaders, many of whom could not be confused with members of the radical left by any means, have also said that Israel should explore negotiations on this basis (most recently including Israeli Minister of Justice Meir Sheetrit of the leading Kadima Party). Yet Israel continues to ignore the proposal.
Similarly, JVP would also support a viable one-state solution that was acceptable to the majority of both Israelis and Palestinians, but there is no such plan. We believe in the right of self-determination for all the people of the region. That means we are not interested in seeing any solution imposed on the people, even though we would welcome even-handed pressure on both sides that pushes for honest negotiations. There is a clear majority among Palestinians and a near-total consensus of Israelis who are opposed to a one-state solution.
While most people on all sides think of a one-state solution as meaning a secular, democratic and/or bi-national state, there are some few with more extreme interpretations. These include Palestinians who would wish to forcibly exile much of the Jewish population out of the region as well as Jews who believe that the resolution should lie with the Palestinians being exiled to Jordan, which they view as an existing Palestinian state. These extremists represent marginal fringes of both communities. Yet the majorities in both also reject the single secular-democratic state. A bi-national state, where the rights and national aspirations of both peoples were spelled out and protected might have more support, but still nowhere near a majority on either side. Both Palestinians and Israeli Jews still hold a national homeland for their own people as a primary goal and value.
At this stage, a one-state solution presents other problems as well. The two communities have been in a very bitter struggle, with much pain and loss, for a very long time. Throwing them into one state together would risk intense sectarian violence on many levels. After a reconciliation and healing period, the one-state formulation might be more viable.
There are other theories out there as well. A single country that would join the two states under a federal umbrella (something like the way the USA is structured, or the UK) has been discussed, as has a Palestinian state federated with Jordan. Others have speculated on a “two-stage solution” where two separate states would have various economic and cultural connections designed to lead to one state in the future. However, these ideas are nowhere near the political arena at this point.
In the end, we come back to the same issue: it is very difficult to come up with viable, permanent solutions to this crisis while the occupation exists and the United States is the only significant outside player in diplomacy. Moreover, in recent years, the situation in Israel/Palestine has deteriorated so badly that the growing anger, despair and hopelessness makes any long-term solution, which will inevitably require compromise and good will on both sides, seem nearly impossible to achieve.
That is why JVP does not advocate for a one- or two-state solution at this time. We prefer an emphasis on human rights and international law, which have clearer, less ambiguous meanings, do not discriminate, and preclude the grimmer versions of either the one or the two state scenarios. The current climate has to change if any solution is to be implemented successfully. That is what JVP is working toward.
We pursue a multi-prong strategy: education and media work, economic action, a call for open discussion of these issues without censorship or intimidation, and political activism aimed at the US legislative and executive branches. Please join us in this work, whatever your thoughts about the ideal ultimate solution to the conflict.
The seeds of hope, in our view, lie in the small but very important nonviolent joint projects by Jewish Israeli peace activists, Israeli Palestinians, and Palestinians living under occupation, such as efforts to resist the separation Wall, campaigns to stop the demolition of Palestinian homes and to rebuild the ones destroyed by the Israeli military, and attempts to directly alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians through direct humanitarian aid. Any successful solution will have to be based on collaboration between the two peoples, and these projects show such collaboration is possible. It is up to us to support them from the United States by changing our own country’s involvement from an impediment to peace to a role that supports progress that is fair for all involved.
Why we urge the U.S. government to suspend military aid to Israel until it ends its 37-year occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
U.S. military aid to Israel has a dramatic effect on Israel's policies towards the Palestinians. It has increasingly been used not to pay for defense but to finance the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. It keeps Israel from facing the difficult but necessary challenges of building a more democratic society, and encourages solving deep-rooted problems by military rather than peaceful and more effective means.
The U.S. funding that pays for the guns and ammunition, F-16 bombers, and Apache helicopters that are used to carry out Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and people serves neither Israelis, Palestinians, nor Americans.
In short, Israel cannot build a society based on the principles of democracy, human rights, and compliance with international law while brutally occupying another people and their land. The United States is currently paying for that occupation with its annual aid. That's why Jewish Voice for Peace urges the U.S. government to suspend military aid to Israel until Israel ends its 37-year occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.
Top Five Things You Should Know About U.S. Military Aid to Israel
1. Harm to Palestinian civilians A large part of U.S. military aid to Israel goes to purchase tanks, helicopter gunships, machine guns, and bullets that are used against Palestinian civilians. Our tax dollars have been used to destroy homes; uproot trees and crops; seize land from its lawful owners; close all access to food, medicine, and the outside world for small towns in the West Bank and Gaza; staff checkpoints that cut off ambulances and other civilian traffic; and carry out assassinations that kill children in addition to summarily executing political leaders. When Palestinian doctors remove bullets from the bodies of Palestinian children, the bullets are typically stamped ?Made in the U.S.A.?
Israel has used its U.S.-financed arsenal against unarmed Palestinian civilians, including children. Amnesty International reports that in 2002 alone, ?At least 1,000 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army, most of them unlawfully. They included some 150 children and at least 35 individuals killed in targeted assassinations. Certain abuses committed by the Israeli army constituted war crimes.?[including] unlawful killings, obstruction of medical assistance and targeting of medical personnel, extensive and wanton destruction of property, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, unlawful confinement and the use of "`human shields."?
?The IDF continued to demolish houses and destroy agricultural land and industrial installations throughout the Gaza Strip?.The IDF routinely used F-16 fighter jets, helicopter gunships, and tanks to bomb and shell Palestinian residential areas in response to gunfire or mortar attacks by Palestinians or in reprisal for suicide bombings and other attacks??
Go to Amnesty International for more reports on the Occupied Territories and Israel.
2. Harm to Israelis In addition to the devastation it visits on Palestinians, the occupation threatens the democratic values Israel seeks to uphold. Massive military aid promotes militarism, which has led to a reliance on military, rather than diplomatic means to work for a solution to this ongoing conflict. More and more Israelis question the moral decay that accompanies the criminal actions of the military and the dehumanization of the Palestinian people. A peace rally at the height of Israel?s reoccupation of the main towns of the West Bank in April 2002 drew 15,000 protestors in Tel Aviv. Currently nearly 1,200 Israeli army reservists refuse to serve in the Occupied Territories because the occupation corrupts Israeli society and endangers, rather than enhances, the security of Israelis. Israeli activists support the suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel; in the words of feminist activist Rela Mazali, ?[T]he U.S. foots most of the bills run up by this siege and makes some of the most lethal weapons used to maintain it. We hope you will tell your government to stop arming the conflict.?
3. Harm to the U.S. and its citizens Israel is required to use 75% of its military aid from the U.S. to buy arms and equipment such as Caterpillar bulldozers made in the U.S. It funnels this money to more than 1,000 U.S. arms suppliers, which in turn lobby for U.S. policies that benefit them at the expense of peace in the Middle East. As a result, the diversion of our tax dollars not only reduces funding for education and social programs but militarizes our public policy overall. U.S. military aid to Israel sets the U.S. in opposition to many Arab and European nations who recognize the horrors of the occupation. This makes U.S. citizens less safe because we are more hated. And the massive flow of arms into Israel is made even more dangerous by arms sales of lesser quality to other Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. While all this business fills the coffers of arms merchants, it makes the Middle East ever more unstable. Furthermore, when our government arms proponents of massive human rights abuses, we become complicit in their crimes and hated by their victims. U.S. support of Israel?s occupation of Palestinian lands and its abuse of human rights undermines any moral authority to criticize human rights abuses in other countries. And it shreds the U.S. of any credibility in acting to promote peace in the region. 4. Violations of U.S. and international law U.S. law prohibits the president from furnishing military aid to any country ?which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.? 22 U.S.C. ? 2304(a). The U.S. Department of State reported in March 2003 that, ?Israel's overall human rights record in the occupied territories remained poor and worsened in several areas as it continued to commit serious human rights abuses?.Israeli security units used excessive force during Palestinian demonstrations, while on patrol, pursuing suspects, and enforcing checkpoints and curfews, which resulted in many deaths.? Targeting civilians, as Israel has done, is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention. The fact that Palestinian groups have done the same makes it no less criminal. For more information on these human rights violations visit www.btselem.org, and web.amnesty.org/report2003/2md-index-eng.
5. Aid is excessive and disproportionate More U.S. aid goes to Israel than any other country, even though Israel?s per capita income is as high as many European countries. In fiscal year 2003 Israel received a foreign military financing grant of $3.1 billion and a $600 million grant for economic security in addition to $11 billion in commercial loan guarantees. This total aid package of nearly $15 billion makes Israel by far the largest single recipient of U.S. aid. U.S. aid is a function of politics. According to a Time/CNN poll, released April 12, 2002, 60% of Americans favor cutting aid to Israel if Israel does not immediately withdraw its troops from Palestinian areas. Further, U.S. aid to other countries is often tied to various conditions, depending on what the U.S. wants the aid recipient to do. We are asking that aid to Israel be treated in the same manner.
Pouring arms into an area of the world already plagued by violence can only increase death and destruction and render the U.S. a questionable broker for peace at best. In these hard economic days, that money can be put to use in the U.S. or it could be used to build a stable Palestinian society, out of the devastation that exists there now. The Israeli economy has been in a downward spiral for years, and foreign investment has long been directly related to the level of violence in the region. Using military aid as a lever to end the occupation will be a boon to the security and hopes for the future for both Israelis and Palestinians.
- Total direct aid to Israel, 1948-2003 $89.9 billion (uncorrected for inflation)
- Since 1976 Israel has been the largest annual recipient of US aid. It is the largest cumulative recipient since World War II.
- Direct U.S. aid for each Israeli citizen in 2001 (per capita annual income of Israel = $16,710) -- over $500
- Direct U.S. Aid for each Ethiopian citizen in 2001 (per capita annual income of Ethiopia = $100) -- about $.45
- REGULAR US GRANT AID in FY 2003 $2.76 billion military aid grant $2.1 billion economic support funds $600 million refugee resettlement grant
- COMMERCIAL LOAN GUARANTEES IN FY 2003 $2 billion
- BUSH ADMINISTRATION SUPPLEMENTAL REQUEST FOR FY 2003 Military aid grant $1 billion Commercial loan guarantees $9 billion Arrow missile development $60 million
- TOTAL AID FOR FY 2003 $14.82 billion
- Percentage of U.S. foreign aid that goes to Israel -- 30%
- Israel's population as a percentage of world population -- .01%
- Section 116 of the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA) states, "No assistance may be provided under this part to the government of any country which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights." 22 U.S.C. 2304(a)
- Section 4 of the Arms Export Control Act prohibits selling military equipment to countries that use them for non-self-defense purposes.
- The U.S. State Department determined in February 2001 that Israel has committed each of the acts that the law defines as "gross violations of internationally recognized human rights, including torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, prolonged detention without charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denials of the right to life, liberty, or the security of person." It described Israeli army use of live ammunition against Palestinians when soldiers were not in impending danger as "excessive use of force."
SOURCES: Clyde R. Mark, ?Israel: U.S. Foreign Assistance, Congressional Research Service, updated April 1, 2003; Clyde R. Mark, Middle East: U.S. Foreign Assistance, FY 2001, FY 2002, FY 2003 Congressional Research Service, March 28, 2002
Questions on JVP's Stand
Do you seek the destruction of Israel? No. By linking the suspension of military aid to the occupation, we make clear that we are not calling for the abandonment or destruction of Israel. Israel?s ability to defend itself will not be compromised by this proposed suspension of aid. Indeed, it will be enhanced by ending the occupation. We are calling for Israel to comply with international law and the principles of democracy and human rights.
What's your position on economic aid? While Jewish Voice for Peace does not call for the suspension of economic aid to Israel, we do believe that such aid should be based on need and that Israel should be required to comply with the same laws and standards, and be subjected to the same congressional supervision as other aid recipients.
Won't a suspension of military aid endanger Israel and increase violence against Israelis? Ending the occupation would hasten peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as with Israel?s Arab neighbors. A reduction of military aid to Israel by even a small amount would create strong pressure to end the occupation. Israel?s military superiority will still be there, as will Israel?s alliance with the United States. Further, in the event the occupation ends, if Israel were attacked without provocation, it would have most of the world supporting it. As long as it continues its occupation, Israel will continue to be seen as the aggressor in this conflict by most of the world.
Jewish Voice for Peace opposes the Israeli government's illegal and immoral occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. JVP also stands strongly for the civil and human rights of all people in the Middle East. We support all ethical actions designed to achieve the goal of ending the occupation and securing and protecting the rights of Israelis and Palestinians.
A Jewish Voice for Peace calls for the boycott of Israeli products manufactured in the occupied territories, or distributed by Israeli companies based there, such as Ahava cosmetics. (While Ahava products are manufactured near the Dead Sea, the company is headquartered in Kedumim, an illegal settlement on the West Bank.)
JVP does not now endorse a boycott of all Israeli products, but we disagree with claims made by some members of the Jewish community that such a boycott would necessarily be anti-Semitic.
* It is not anti-Semitic to oppose the large and growing number of well-documented human rights violations by the Sharon government. In fact, opposition to Sharon and the crimes of the Israeli occupation is in the best tradition of Jewish solidarity with those who are oppressed. Information on these violations can be found on the web site of B'Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights: http://www.btselem.org/
* It is not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel even though there are other violators of human rights. Indeed, it is legitimate to challenge human rights violations wherever they occur without having to simultaneously take on every offense on the planet. Furthermore, because Israel gets far more financial support from our government than any other country, our responsibility there as Americans is greatest. A Jewish Voice for Peace opposes human rights violations anywhere, but as Jews we are especially concerned about the situation in Palestine-Israel, especially the thousands of Israeli and Palestinian deaths which are the direct and indirect result of the occupation. We encourage shoppers and retailers to listen to their conscience on this issue and not be swayed by bogus charges of anti-Semitism. As Jews, we have no tolerance for anti-Semitism, but we also find it offensive when the historical suffering and persecution of the Jewish people is used as a shield for the crimes of the Israeli occupation.
The boycott of products from the settlements of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem (which was initiated by Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc) is an effective educational tool. It puts the spotlight on a main obstacle to peace: the existence of the settlements, which violates the Geneva Conventions and numerous UN resolutions. Despite assurances from numerous Israeli governments that settlement activity would cease or slow down and despite massive opposition to settlements by the Israeli public and the international community, this illegal land grab has increased in recent years. For a detailed discussion of Gush Shalom's arguments for such a boycott, see: http://gush-shalom.org/archives/faq.html
JVP is also continuing with its campaign to suspend US military aid to Israel until the end of the occupation. Read about it on our web site. In addition, we have joined with others in marketing Palestinian olive oil, as a way to support Palestinian farmers whose income has been devastated by the Israeli government's policies of closures, economic strangulation, and war. In addition to supporting the Palestinian economy, portions of the proceeds from each bottle will benefit Ta'ayush, an Arab-Jewish partnership in Israel (http://www.taayush.org/), and the International Solidarity Movement (http://www.palsolidarity.org). Both groups work for a just peace and offer direct support to the Palestinian people living under occupation.
We encourage all Americans and, in particular, all Jews to act for peace and justice and not to be intimidated by the apologists for the Israeli government's policies. We urge everyone to remember the historical crimes committed against the Jewish people, but not to allow those crimes to become justifications for crimes against the Palestinians.