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14 Mar, 2016

Jewish activists “making sure there’s a price to pay for supporting Israel’s propaganda machine”

Message from Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson

Dear Friend,

I want to try something a little bit different.

No request to sign a petition or call your Congressional representative — just an update about what our team has been working on over the last month, and what we’ve got on deck for the next month.

There are two specific things I want to make sure you know.

First, the Oscars. Last month, it was announced that the Israeli government was offering Oscar nominees a free all-expenses-paid VIP trip to Israel, worth $55,000. This was yet another effort to enlist celebrities in Israeli efforts to improve its “brand” abroad. The Israeli government seems to think that paparazzi photos of actors sunning themselves in Tel Aviv can distract us from occupation, apartheid, and oppression.

But thanks to you, it backfired, after an international coalition swung into action to call on the nominees to #skipthetrip. Working with our allies at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, we decided to place an ad in Variety asking the nominees not to go. But the story doesn’t end there, because our ad was censored. After the contract was signed, Variety pulled the ad, telling us it was “too sensitive” — despite the fact that they have printed far-right pro-Israel ads in the past.

Censorship wasn’t going to stop us, though! We raised the alarm, rallied our supporters, and raised enough money to place a full page ad in the LA Times just days before the Oscars — reaching even more people than we would have done in Variety. (Here’s a link to the ad, in case you haven’t seen it yet.)

We’ll see if any of the nominees go on this trip, but I suspect that enough of a controversy has been created that the vast majority, if not all, the nominees will #skipthetrip!  And most importantly, we’ve proven yet again that Israel’s image is no longer uncontroversially positive. Together, we’re making sure that there’s a price to pay for supporting Israel’s propaganda machine.

But that wasn’t the only thing we were doing last month.

Our friends from Youth Against Settlements in Hebron asked us to participate in a week of action to support their work to Open Shuhada Street.

For decades, Shuhada Street in Hebron was a bustling open-air market. Now, it’s severely restricted for Palestinians, while Jewish settlers have free access. It is one of the most egregious examples of apartheid it is possible to witness.

Here in New York City, JVP members from our Columbia/Barnard chapter protested outside the office of the Hebron Fund, an extremist group that funnels money to settlements — all tax-free because of their status as a tax-exempt charity. We flooded the White House with emails calling for an IRS investigation of settlement funders. In DC, our Legislative team met with 10 different Congressional offices to discuss the issue, and JVP members wrote this powerful op-ed in Tikkun magazine.

JVP is now at a size where we can wage campaigns on multiple fronts at once. While all this was happening, our team was also working on our campaign against Airbnb’s vacation rentals in occupied Palestine, not to mention the countless local and regional campaigns that our organizers are moving forward.

And here’s what we’re working on this month: In dozens of states, legislation is moving forward that is trying to penalize the right to boycott Israel. These laws are unconstitutional — as well as being just plain wrong — and we’re gearing up to fight them all over.

There’ll be more on that soon, and it’ll be all hands on deck to take them on, but until that happens, I just wanted to make sure you were updated about our work last month.

Onwards — there’s a lot to be done.


Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director

Jewish Voice for Peace is a national membership organization inspired by Jewish tradition to work for the freedom, equality, and dignity of all the people of Israel and Palestine. Become a JVP Member today.