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Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Strategic Alliances for a Secure, Connected, and Prosperous Region
American Far-Left Organizations

American Far-Left Organizations

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) 

Jewish Voice for Peace

Orientation: Jewish far-left, anti-Zionist

Fields of operation: campus activism,

“direct action” – demonstrations and rallies, BDS promoting

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is probably the largest and most influential Jewish anti-Zionist group in the United States. During the past five years, JVP has significantly expanded, and now has 35 chapters across the country, including on college campuses. JVP has assumed a particularly visible role in the BDS Campaign. According to the ADL, the group advocates for boycott campaigns targeting Israeli companies like SodaStream, and calls on mainline Christian churches and American financial investment institutions, especially TIAACREF, to divest from multinational companies that work with Israel. At the June 2014 Presbyterian General Assembly (GA) in Detroit, Michigan, JVP lobbied for a resolution calling on the Presbyterian Church to divest from three companies that allegedly profit from the Israeli occupation (Caterpillar, Motorola, and Hewlett-Packard).447 The group calls in its demonstrations to stop “Israeli occupation” and portrays Israel as an Apartheid state.448 During summer 2014, JVP organized rallies and demonstrations throughout the United States to protest Operation Protective Edge in Gaza. Demonstrations were held at locations such as Times Square in New York City and the White House in Washington, D.C., and near Jewish institutions.449

On August 27, 2015 JVP demonstrated on New York City’s Eighth Avenue against Israel in commemoration of Palestinians killed in Operation Protective Edge. To the question of whether she considers Hamas a terrorist organization, the demonstration’s JVP organizer Lana Povitz answered that she thinks of the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. Hamas, she added was not “her favorite,” but her first fight is with the U.S. government “because they are funding Israel.”450

Several prominent anti-Zionist or post-Zionist figures are listed as members of JVP’s Advisory Board, including Noam Chomsky and “New Historian” Avi Shlaim.451 JVP runs several projects, among them J-Nay, The JVP Network Against Islamophobia, which works alongside Islamist organizations like American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).452

Barbara Harvey is an attorney and member of JVP Detroit who promotes BDS on campuses and also deals with legal aspects of the subject.453

If Not Now 

If Not Now

Orientation: Jewish far-left, Anti-Zionist

Fields of operation: “direct action” – demonstrations against “Jewish establishment” organizations

If Not Now is a group that seeks to “end American Jewish support for the occupation.”454 Following Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014, several activists who “were frustrated no one was doing anything about the war” and knew each other from Jewish progressive organizations in New York City sent out a mass e-mail asking for a meeting.455

The meeting gave birth to the activities of the group, which focuses its efforts in staging sit-down demonstrations outside major U.S. Jewish bodies and speaking out against the Jewish “establishment.” One of If Not Now’s leaders said that “institutions should be making public statements about what’s happening. We’re tired of no progress. It’s been years and years of quiet meetings and people being let down. This moment calls for something much bigger than that.”456

Several leading figures in If Not Now were previously involved in J Street U, J Street’s student body. They include, among others, Simone Zimmerman,457 whom Bernie Sanders initially picked to lead his Jewish outreach efforts in his leadership campaign.458

Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R) 

Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (A.N.S.W.E.R)

Orientation: Far-left, anti-war

Fields of operation: “direct action” – demonstrations and rallies

The A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition is a far-left, anti-war protest umbrella group established in 2001. Similar to its UK counterpart, Stop the War Coalition (StWC), the main “red-green” coalition there, A.N.S.W.E.R., was founded soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.459 A.N.S.W.E.R. has a close relationship with former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the founder of the International Action Center, which has its roots in the far-left Worker’s World Party.460 A.N.S.W.E.R. regularly cooperates with Islamist groups. In June 2009, for example, it co-organized the “Gaza solidarity day” rally and march with the Muslim American Society (MAS).461 In September 2007, MAS took part in the organization of A.N.S.W.E.R.’s Stop the War rally next to the White House.462

According to the ADL, A.N.S.W.E.R., which has an ability to partner with a wide array of anti-Israel groups, has positioned itself as one of the leading coordinators of rallies against Israel. Some of these rallies included the chanting of the slogan “Occupation is a Crime: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine.” The U.S. military and the IDF are accused of being the “real terrorists in the Middle East.”463 On its website, A.N.S.W.E.R. lists the “major events” in its history. A rally that took place in August 2014 “protested the ongoing massacre in Gaza and the U.S. government’s support for Israeli war crimes.” “In one of the largest mobilizations in solidarity with Palestine in the United States ever,” the organization claimed, “tens of thousands of people from all across the country converged in Washington, D.C.,” next to the White House.464

An A.N.S.W.E.R.- organized rally
An A.N.S.W.E.R.- organized rally against Israel in Washington D.C. in January 2009, where Hizbullah flags were carried.465

U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)

Orientation: Far-left

Fields of operation: political lobbying

The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights (previously known as the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, USCEIO) is a coalition which comprises of pro-Palestinian groups of nationalist and far-left orientations. It currently employs a staff of five, several of whom were previously involved with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) or far-left organizations like Code Pink.466 Its executive director is Yousef Munayyer, who previously served as executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center, nationalist organizations that were founded by figures like the late Palestinian-American Professor Hisham Sharabi.467 It also has a steering committee made up of members of far-left organizations.468 According to the ADL, USCEIO was the primary organizer of efforts to persuade the U.S. government to cut off aid to Israel. It organizes a variety of campaigns and petitions toward this end, alleging that the United States is complicit in Israel’s “crimes” because of its financial support for Israel.469

USCPR currently operates campaigns both in the fields of “Government Affairs,” aiming to affect government policies, and several specific BDS campaigns.470 In the past few years, Anna Baltzer (see below) has served as the USCPR’s Director of Organizing & Advocacy.471

Code Pink 

Code Pink

Orientation: Far-left

Fields of operation: BDS promoting, “direct action” – demonstrations

Code Pink is a radical far-left, women-led, non-profit organization founded in 2002 that aims to “end U.S. wars and militarism, support peace and human rights initiatives, and redirect our tax dollars into health care, education, green jobs, and other life-affirming programs.”472 It made a name for itself by interrupting hearings on Capitol Hill, and for its members’ perennial ejections from congressional hearings. Leading founding members of the group are Medea (formerly Susan) Benjamin and Jodie Evans. Under the title “Justice for Palestine,” Code Pink runs several BDS campaigns targeting commercial companies. It further supports Palestinian “human rights defenders,” and calls to end U.S. military aid to Israel and looks into the “deteriorating” situation of Palestinian children, in a joint campaign with American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP).473 In November 2015, two Jewish members of Code Pink posed next to the Western Wall in Jerusalem carrying banners supporting BDS. The two were part of a Code Pink delegation to the West Bank.474

Two Jewish members of Code Pink next to the Western Wall in Jerusalem with banner supporting BDS

Code Pink and its members have a long history of taking part in provocative and controversial initiatives, meetings, and delegations. In June 2005, for example, Code Pink members participated in The World Tribunal on Iraq conference, which supported the right of the Iraqi “resistance” to kill Americans: “It is the occupation and its brutality that has provoked a strong armed resistance and certain acts of desperation. By the principles embodied in the UN Charter and in international law, the popular national resistance to the occupation is legitimate and justified.”475 In November 2008, Code Pink members travelled to Iran at the personal invitation of the then-President Ahmadinejad.476 Other visits were made to Afghanistan in 2009, after which Medea Benjamin said that the Taliban are merely “poor rural people, $10-a-day Taliban, who are doing this for economic reasons. If you want to encourage people to stop fighting, encourage them to work.”477 After returning from Afghanistan,478 Evans maintained that the Taliban “deliver peace and justice and we, the United States, do not deliver that. We deliver chaos and corruption.”479

In October 2009, Code Pink published on its website a guide to conduct a citizen’s arrest against former President George W. Bush, his wife Laura, and former officials in his administration. It also issued an Action Alert, telling its members to use Code Pink’s website to “track where the war criminals will be and how to do citizen’s arrest action!”.480

Members of Code Pink have also taken part and engaged with Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas-affiliated initiatives. In May 2009, Ikhwanweb, the Muslim Brotherhood’s official English website, reported that Code Pink led several delegations to Gaza. In mid-2009, a delegation of 66 people went to Gaza,481 where they met several times with Hamas officials and encouraged them to write a letter to President Obama inviting him to visit Gaza to see the damage of the Gaza war and the border blockade. One Hamas official “stayed up all night” and wrote the letter for the delegates to deliver to Obama.482 Jodie Evans was a donor to Obama’s Presidency Campaign, an issue that was also highly criticized in the United States.483 Medea Benjamin said that “While Osama bin Laden used the occasion of President Obama’s visit to deliver a scathing attack, Hamas reached out to a feminist U.S. peace group to deliver a letter to Obama urging dialogue, mutual respect, and adherence to international law.” Benjamin delivered the letter to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo on June 4. 2009.484

Code Pink participated in international “direct action” initiatives such as the December 2009 Gaza Freedom March485 or the Muslim Brotherhood-initiated 2012 Global March to Jerusalem (GMJ), which was endorsed by both Code Pink and Medea Benjamin.486

Black American Individuals and Organizations

Two Black American academics are worth highlighting vis-à-vis their far-left, activist background –

  • Cornel West – West is a Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at Union Theological Seminary and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, as well as a political activist and campaigner for racial justice.487 Among his various activities, West promotes the boycott of Israel. He is a social democrat who was influenced by Marxism, the Black Panther Party, and Malcolm X.488 West has taken part in a large number of protest events against discrimination against Blacks in the United States and also wrote several books about Black leadership. He had stated that President Obama and other past U.S. presidents Nixon and Bush were “war criminals” due to their policies of applying drone attacks.489 Prior to the 2016 U.S. elections, he wrote that “the neo-Fascist catastrophe called Donald Trump and the neo-Liberal disaster named Hillary Clinton are predictable symbols of our spiritual blackout.”490 West himself endorsed Bernie Sanders’s campaign for the Democratic Party presidential campaign, and was appointed as one of the latter’s advisers to the Democratic Party’s platform committee.491 In one of his Tweets,492 West seems to refer to Sanders’s Jewish background, stating that –

West's tweet

West speaking at Princeton University
West speaking at Princeton University for BDS in April 2015493

West has appeared in a short film identifying with the Palestinians in which he participated alongside Angela Davis (see below). It was widely disseminated on the internet, its message being: “When I see them I see us.”494

  • Angela Davis – Davis is an academic, author and political activist, one of the leaders of the “Black Panthers” in the United States. She is a prominent activist not only in the United States, but also in other countries. In January 2014, for instance, she spoke for BDS at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, in an event organized by the School of Law in cooperation with War on Want and Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP).495
Angela Davis
Angela Davis speaking for the BDS movement at the University of California Santa Cruz, July 2014496

Black Solidarity with Palestine 

Black Solidarity with Palestine

Orientation: Black American

Fields of operation: BDS promoting

This group crystalized around a wide-scale anti-Israeli petition published by Blacks in the United States in identification with the Palestinians. It was signed in October 2015 by more than 1,000 Black personalities and more than forty Black organizations in the United States.497 The petition called upon the American government to stop its economic and diplomatic assistance to Israel. The petition was written by two young Blacks:

  • Khury Petersen-Smith, a Socialist, anti-Imperialist activist who visited Iraq in 2004 and Gaza in 2009, with delegations.498 Petersen-Smith is very active in the social media and manages the Facebook page. He has participated in a convention against “American Imperialism,” racism, and war in the United States.499 In 2015, he co-organized the “Black solidarity with Palestine” statement, “on the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre.” This was a very harsh statement that stated, for example, that “Anyone who takes an honest look at the destruction to life and property in Gaza can see Israel committed a one-sided slaughter.”500
  • Kristian Davis Bailey, a young activist and journalist from Detroit. In August 2015, Davis Baily was interviewed regarding the petition, where he appeared wearing a Keffiyeh. He pointed out that the affinity of the American Blacks to the Palestinians had already existed in the training camps in Algeria in the 1960s, where “Black Panthers” activists trained alongside PLO activists as part of the international struggle against colonialism.501 He was also co-organizer of the 2015 “Black solidarity with Palestine” Statement alongside Khury Petersen-Smith.502

Kristian Davis Bailey

Dream Defenders (DD) 

Dream Defenders

Orientation: Black American

Fields of operation: advocacy, BDS promoting

Dream Defenders (DD) is a group of Black Americans from Florida that describes itself as “an uprising of communities in struggle, shifting culture through transformational organizing.” The group operates a project called DDPalestine, “a part of the resurgence of internationalism within the U.S.-based movement for justice, especially inspired by the connections of Black & Palestinian liberation.” This relationship with the Palestinian issue is explained as follows –

Palestine is the site of a continued settler colonial project, the state of Israel. The colonial project was born out of a political ideology called Zionism, established in the late 19th century. Zionism as a movement was born out of Europe and they were seeking to establish a homeland for Jews outside of Europe, and after looking at several locations in Africa and South America, they settled on Palestine. While of course the native, indigenous population, which was mostly Muslim and Christian with a smaller Jewish population, rejected this colonial entity, the international community led by the British ushered it into statehood. In 1948 the state of Israel was declared on top of stolen Palestinian land, with zionist militias committing massacres and forced evictions, they immediately ethnically cleansing over 750,000 Palestinians from the lands, and internally displacing thousands more.503

As part of this project, DD activists led at least two delegations to Israel and Palestinian territories. Pictures and reports reveal that they met, among others, with MK Haneen Zoabi and leading BDS figure Omar Barghouti.504 DDPalestine activists promote BDS, demonstrate, publish various petitions, and write songs for the Palestinians.