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JVP Leadership Transition: Palestinians honor Rebecca Vilkomerson

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On the occasion of the Jewish Voice for Peace transition to a new leadership, we the undersigned take this opportunity to honor and thank past Executive Director Rebecca Vilkomerson for her dedicated and strategic leadership of an organization that has done so much to advance Palestinian rights to self-determination, freedom, justice, and equality in the U.S. and beyond.

During her 10-year tenure, Rebecca not only helped grow the organization’s national presence and staff, making it a force to be reckoned on the U.S. stage. She also led a process that drew on JVP’s open, embracing and affirmative culture to bring consensus around endorsing the Call by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it upholds international law. By supporting the BDS Call, JVP recognized Palestinian self-determination; freedom for all territories occupied in 1967; justice for the Palestinian refugees; and equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Rebecca’s tenure also saw the JVP-wide discussion of anti-semitism and adoption of a powerful position against anti-semitism as well as against weaponizing anti-semitism, and against all other forms of racism and discrimination. Moreover, JVP worked with tens of progressive Jewish groups worldwide on a widely referenced statement to reject the IHRA definition.

In addition, the organization undertook a two-year process launched at their national member meeting in 2017 that resulted in the adoption of a position unequivocally opposing Zionism.

Rebecca’s management style was of one of empowering and creating leaders within and beyond JVP. She has left the organization in excellent hands. As we wish her all the best in her future endeavors, we take this opportunity to welcome the new Executive Director Stefanie Fox whose powerful and evocative opening speech against Zionism and the damage it has wrought at the 2017 JVP convention moved and inspired the 1,000-strong participants.

Onward to freedom, justice, and equality for all.

Signatures in alphabetical order; affiliations are for identification only.

  • Inès Abdel Razek, advocacy director, Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy
  • Dr. Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, Director, Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies, San Francisco State University
  • Hind Awwad, Steering Committee member, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
  • Tareq Baconi, Policy Analyst and Author of Hamas Contained
  • Salem Barahmeh, Palestinian advocate
  • Nasser Barghouti, Civil Rights Activist
  • Omar Barghouti, Co-founder of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights
  • Tamara Ben-Halim, human rights advocate
  • George Bisharat, Raymond L. Sullivan Emeritus Professor of Law, UC Hastings College of Law
  • Samia Botmeh, Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics, Birzeit University
  • Diana Buttu, Lawyer
  • Margaret DeReus, Executive Director, Institute for Middle East Understanding
  • Zaha Hassan, human rights attorney, writer and analyst
  • Dr. Yara Hawari, Palestinian academic and activist
  • Professor Kamel Hawwash, Chair, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Nadia Hijab, co-founder, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and member of Advisory Board
  • Ben Jamal, Director, Palestine Solidarity Campaign
  • Ingrid Jaradat, Independent analyst of Middle East policy, human rights and international law
  • Jamal Jumaa, Director of Stop the Wall and member of Land Defence Coalition
  • Andrew Kadi
  • Abir Kopty, PhD candidate; advisory board member, US campaign for Palestinian Rights
  • Mahmoud Nawajaa, General Coordinator, Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)
  • Linda Tabar, Director of the Center For Development Studies, Birzeit University
  • Fadi Quran, Campaign Director at Avaaz
  • Loubna Qutami, President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Ethnic Studies, U.C. Berkeley and member of Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM)
  • Nadia Saah, Producer & Human Rights Advocate
  • Grace Said, human rights activist
Open Letter

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7 Responses

  1. JoeSmack on March 10, 2020, 4:12 pm

    I’m guessing Rebecca Vilkomerson needed a bunch of Palestinians to sign a statement of this nature given that her leadership at JVP oversaw defending all of JVP’s worst positions, including their expectation that member groups not condemn Zionism and their refusal to support BDS until 2015. Then there was the series of anti-Semitism accusations she spread about other activists, including Miko Peled. Somehow she also managed to dodge any real internal criticism over the fact that she is married to someone who works for an Israeli security/tech company as well. Not that she needed the extra money, given that JVP’s national staff pick up nearly 6-figure salaries for being token Jews while local chapters get less than 500 bucks a year.

    I don’t know the person replacing her but I’m hoping that person will be more committed to this struggle and won’t need a token Palestinian friend to defend their reputation.

    • genesto on March 11, 2020, 12:27 pm

      Thanks for your comment. While not specifically called out, I was one of the activists included in the group she characterized as anti-Semitic, so I appreciate your enlightening others who read MW about Rebecca’s serious flaws.

      Rebecca’s time has come and gone. Let’s hope the new leadership at JVP will be proactive in its fight against Zionism and for Palestinian justice, instead of resisting progress, and misrepresenting committed activists as anti-Semitic, as did Rebecca for far too long.

  2. tony greenstein on March 11, 2020, 9:55 pm

    The above 2 responses smack of sour grapes and personal bitterness tinged with envy.

    The Palestinian and Arab signatories are quite correct. JVP has become an enviable organisation, carrying much political clout amongst American Jews and others. The fact that it has supported BDS for a long time now and it also rejects Zionism is all too the good.

    The snide attack on Rebekkah because of what her husband does is pretty despicable and petty.

    • genesto on March 14, 2020, 6:45 pm

      The comments on Rebecca are not about sour grapes, personal bitterness nor envy. Rebecca attacked us, including Miko Peled (one of the true heroes in the movement), for being anti-Semitic. That’s a despicable charge! Furthermore, it’s perfectly reasonable to question how a person, who ostensibly works for Palestinian freedom and justice, reconciles that with being married to a person who works for a company that rightly belongs on the list of companies to be boycotted.

      Instead of making ridiculous charges against us, why don’t you ask her about her husband’s association with such a company. I’ve yet to see her address this very important question.

    • JoeSmack on March 14, 2020, 7:43 pm

      I think Tony’s comment more or less embodies how toxic the climate has become. The concerns raised about JVP’s positions on BDS and Zionism were obviously very serious ones, which (I hope) is why they changed them. Likewise, what your spouse does when you are the head of an organization is an obvious conflict of interest. Could one imagine the head of an environmentalist organization being married to someone who works in the coal industry? Someone who heads an animal rights organization being married to a higher up in the meat industry?

      But, as usual, when we raise these concerns they are reduced to anti-social behavior, pettiness, toxicity, etc. Tony has been very aggressive about defending JVP’s positions (even as they have changed), but instead of being defensive maybe he should actually address the substance of other people’s concerns.

  3. David Green on March 15, 2020, 3:47 pm

    JVP has become foundationalized and corporatized and branded. BDS is a brand and a meme. It is commodified and converted into funds and jobs. JVP is the Ramallah of Jewish “dissidence.” It’s strongly aligned with identitarian politics, including in its opposition to “anti-Semitism.”

  4. GusCall on March 27, 2020, 5:57 pm

    Why does the letter use the watered-down version of the BDS Call? The original, authentic Call demands from Israel: “Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall”. This letter demands: “freedom for all territories occupied in 1967”. Who is playing with this language, and why? 1967 has no place in the Call. Putting it in legitimises Israel, which I (naïvely?) believe goes totally against the ethos of BDS.
    Hats off to JoeSmack and genesto for not putting up with Tony’s attempt to psychoanalyse you. And your criticisms are spot-on. I would add Alison Weir’s name to those falsely accused of… of what? Anti-semitism, or doing a couple of phone interviews with a noxious radio station?
    Calling Miko Peled anti-semitic is not only surreal but shows up a weakness in JVP which I hope will now be a thing of the past. Oh, and public apologies are overdue.

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