The Israeli government and private groups are watching closely the activities of an anti-Israel American group that supports the BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement against Israel. The Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), a San Francisco-based organization, has been operating since 1996 and has conducted numerous anti-Israel activities, especially on college campuses.
JVP claims not to be anti-Israel, but many officials in the Jewish community said that, based on its agenda, there was no way JVP could claim to be pro-Israel, but was actually the opposite.
The NGO Monitor group accused JVP of seeking to sow dissent among American Jewish campus groups by holding provocative campus events that have caused numerous splits in Jewish organizations on campus. Among its supporters are well-known anti-Israel activists, including linguist Noam Chomsky, Broadway playwright Tony Kushner, and actor Wallace Shawn.
The group's latest gambit, NGO Monitor said, was a “summer camp” for campus activists to train them in the most effective methods to conduct a BDS campaign against Israel. The camp promises to train participants to identify Israeli products in stores, how to prepare an anti-Israeli product campaign, how to recruit other BDS activists, and how to lobby the community to join in the boycott.
JVP has caused a great deal of disunity in the Jewish community. In September 2011, San Francisco's Jewish Community Relations Council said that “Jewish Voice for Peace routinely allows itself to be used as political cover by organizations promoting anti-Israel boycotts and divestment so that they can claim that they have Jewish backing for their positions, even though JVP represents a tiny fraction of the community.”
Earlier that year, Brandeis University's Hillel voted to deny JVP membership in its group of Jewish campus groups, saying that “while we understand that JVP at Brandeis considers itself a pro-Israel club, based on positions and programming JVP has sponsored, we do not believe that JVP can be included under Hillel’s umbrella.”
In a just-completed study on JVP, NGO Monitor wrote that JVP has “actively promoted the central dimensions of the political warfare strategy against Israel.” JVP, the report said, “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.”
Responding to recent media reports, a JVP spokesperson said that the group “is committed to the vision of full equality and democracy for Israelis and Palestinians. We also support the use of non-violent strategies to achieve this goal.” The BDS effort fits the description of a “non-violent strategy,” the spokesperson said.