Members of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) gathered outside the offices of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in New York today, criticizing the group’s support for Israel’s policy towards Gaza, including the blockade of the coastal territory and the ongoing military assault.
The action was one of many across the country that Jewish Voice for Peace has organized in recent days to highlight and critique Jewish establishment support for Israeli policy towards the Gaza Strip. In Philadelphia, six people were arrested after refusing to leave a Jewish Federations office, while in Durham, North Carolina, JVP members disrupted another Federation event to call for an end to the blockade and the occupation.
At the New York action, two JVP members–Brandon Davis and executive director Rebecca Vilkomerson–entered into a Manhattan building to deliver a petition urging the heads of mainstream Jewish groups, including UJA-Federation head Eric Goldstein, to take a stand for an immediate cease-fire and and end to the blockade of Gaza.
“Your support for Israel as it destroys so many lives is all the more painful given your positions of leadership in the Jewish community,” the petition, signed by over 2,340 people from the New York area, reads. “Your decision to stand with the oppressor rather than the oppressed is a betrayal of our history and values, when authentic moral leadership is more important than ever.”
Over 20 other demonstrators also entered the office building to call on the group to do the same before going back outside to chant and march past the building that hosts the UJA-Federation. The street theater outside–protesters linked arms to simulate a blockade–and the facts JVP members recited focused on the blockade of Gaza, a key issue in discussions for a lasting cease-fire, the latest of which expired Monday. Rocket fire and Israeli bombardments have resumed since the expiration, resulting in the deaths of 22 Palestinians.
One passer-by called the demonstrators “terrorists,” while a security guard wondered why they weren’t focusing on the plight of Christians.
UJA-Federation was targeted because it is one of the many Jewish establishment organizations that have urged lockstep support for the Israeli attack on Gaza.
The JVP petition is also addressed to Jerry Silverman, the head of the umbrella group Jewish Federations of North America, which UJA is a part of. But when JVP members tried to set up a meeting with Silverman last week, the Federations had a blunt message: there would be no in-person meeting. The umbrella group said they refuse to be in “direct communication” with JVP.
“Your ongoing support for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel render any kind of direct communication, beyond this email, impossible,” said Federations’ Managing Director of Communications Rebecca Dinar in an e-mail to JVP. “If you alter those tactics, accept Israel as a Jewish State and explicitly condemned BDS we would be open to arranging a meeting.”