Wow..what a year
email 1.12.2011 from the Jewish Voice for Peace
What an amazing year it’s been.
I’m so proud of what Jewish Voice for Peace has done this year. I’m really proud that no matter what or who we go up against—how big their titles or budgets, our members and friends and allies are never afraid to speak out. We’re not afraid to hold them accountable or to make them uncomfortable if that’s what it takes for the truth to come out.
I think what I—and all of us at JVP—are experiencing is a reflection of events all over the world in this landmark year. All year long, people everywhere have been rediscovering how much power we really have—even in the face of armed governments and billionaire banks. Whether in the Arab world or on Wall Street, we’re getting in the streets, saying the things that must be said, and challenging power.
This is how JVP does our best work.
Earlier this month, when a team of breathtakingly courageous Palestinian Freedom Riders went up against massive systemic discrimination and made news around the world when they integrated a settler bus line from Ramallah to East Jerusalem, they asked JVP to be one of the main U.S. supporters of their action. And we said yes—we organized street demonstrations and actions across the United States and worked with you to get thousands of support letters to the U.S. State Department.
When the first day of rides was done, they wrote to us “..all the Freedom Riders want to send you and JVP a very warm thank you… the fact that young Palestinians and Jews put their energy together to make this act of civil disobedience and direct-action successful is ground breaking….together, with a lot of hard work and resilience, we will alter the course of history in this region.”
This is what solidarity looks like.
Meanwhile, here in the U.S., a bunch of big Jewish national groups like Hillel and the Jewish Federations of North America are trying to ban any discussion at all of the nonviolent Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. But despite their best efforts, we have been able to bring the debate into synagogues and other major Jewish spaces all up and down the East Coast this year.
Some of my other personal highlights, just in the last month: supporting the New York JVP youth members known as “Young, Jewish and Proud”, who used the tools of Occupy Wall Street to fearlessly take the stage in the middle of a “Wall Street” event for Birthright, the propaganda program that brings hundreds of thousands of young Jews to Israel but shows them only one side of the story. Before our young members were removed by security (photo at right), they called out the disproportionate influence over Jewish communal institutional agendas by a small handful of wealthy philanthropists with pro-settler politics.
And: reading Congressman Gary Ackerman’s press statement slamming NYU professors and students for supporting our campaign to ask retirement giant TIAA-CREF to divest from the occupation. It simply makes us redouble our efforts.
I was so proud when our Los Angeles chapter secured national media attention for Jewish support for Muslim students being unfairly criminalized for protesting the Israeli ambassador. Now chapters in cities like Detroit and Olympia are hosting the students as they go on tour to tell their story.
And, finally, I had to laugh this week when we found ourselves on the pages of gossip and fashion media outlets because of our work in coalition with Adalah-NY and their ongoing successful challenges to billionaire diamond magnate and settlement financier Lev Leviev.
So, this year. It’s been crazy indeed. But this is the kind of crazy we like. This year has been full of boldness. Inspiration. Progress. And plenty—PLENTY—of challenges. Attacks by mainstream groups have occupied too much of our time. Keeping our organization afloat, financially, hasn’t been easy. It never is. And, we can never forget that as we fight for change here in the U.S., conditions on the ground worsen every day, in Israel where democracy is daily deteriorating, and in the occupied Palestinian territories, where the web of human rights abuses and inequality continues to grow, even as non-violent resistance grows bolder and more inspiring by the day.
But, even with these challenges, it is stunning to reflect on what we’ve accomplished in 2011. And, for that, I thank you. Thank you for placing your trust in us. For investing in our work with your time and money. For speaking up at your dinner table. And for making sure that we know, every day, that you have our back.
There’s really no place I’d rather be than here, with this organization, today. I hope you feel the same.
Thank you again, on behalf of all of us,
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director
Jewish Voice for Peace
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