Who They Are?
- The Center for Jewish Nonviolence (CJNV) is an international civil society network that seeks to cultivate and strengthen powerful co-resistance and solidarity in Israel-Palestine by building on a feeling of incredible unity among communities across the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and central Israel. These relationships of solidarity and co-resistance disrupt the material and ideological systems that uphold Occupation and oppress communities on both sides of the Green Line. Activists from CJNV are united in their commitment to nonviolent activism, to a just and equitable end to the occupation, and to the full equality and shared humanity among people of Palestinian, Israeli, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and Druze backgrounds.
How Did They Start?
- On May 19, 2014, the Israeli army uprooted over a thousand fruit trees on Daoud Nassar’s family farm, the Tent of Nations, located just south of Bethlehem in the West Bank. The Tent of Nations is an internationally known educational and environmental meeting center where people from around the world come together. The Nassar family has lived on this land for the last century, despite efforts by the Israeli government to displace them. During this time they have welcomed thousands of visitors from around the world, including hundreds of Jewish visitors from Encounter and other programs over the course of the last decade. When the tree uprooting happened, Ilana Sumka, the previous Jerusalem director of Encounter and the founder of CJNV, was asked to facilitate an international phone call with Daoud Nassar and Encounter alumni. When Ilana asked Daoud how Jews around the world could support him, Daoud replied: "You could come replant the trees with us in a show of solidarity, to demonstrate that the Israeli Army’s bulldozers don’t represent your Jewish values." Nine months later, in February 2015, twenty-five Jews from the US, Canada, and Europe spent a week replanting trees on the farm, giving birth to the Center for Jewish Nonviolence.
Why Engage In Interfaith/Intercommunity Shared Resistance?
- A central mechanism of the Occupation is the concept of "divide-and-conquer," which isolates the efforts and struggles of communities and individuals, oftentimes pitting them against each other. This weakens and deflects these efforts away from the underlying problem, the system of Occupation. The Center for Jewish Nonviolence was founded on the premise that Jews from around the world, standing in solidarity with Palestinians who are facing eviction from their homes and displacement from their land, is both necessary and groundbreaking.
What Are Some Of The Values They Reflect?
- CJNV strives for a future that honors the full equality and shared humanity of both Palestinians and Israelis. In the pursuit of such, CJNV's work embraces specific guiding principles including:
- Invitation from Palestinians: On May 19, 2014, the Israeli army uprooted 1,500 trees at the Nassar family farm, Tent of Nations, near Bethlehem. On a call with Ilana Sumka, CJNV’s founder, Daoud Nassar asked for Jews to come help replant the trees. CJNV's impulse to be in close relationship with their partners, grounded in solidarity, and to follow invitation from members of the local community helps shape their co-vision of shared resistance, which guides their work.
- Developing Resistive Relationships: CJNV believes that relationships rooted in deep solidarity and co-resistance between Palestinians, Israelis, and Jews from around the world can, and will, disrupt and destabilize the material and ideological systems that uphold Occupation and oppress communities on both sides of the Green Line. They have seen these resistive relationships transform what is possible in our actions and in everyone involved, shifting movement landscapes and upending injustice. They also acknowledge that communities of solidarity foster resiliency and audacity.
- Maintaining a Growth Mindset: CJNV knows that their work requires flexibility and being adaptable, to learn from and be responsive to changing circumstances and possibilities. They believe that imaginative experimentation allows them to visualize and actualize new realities so they can push themselves and their supporters to the edges of what seems possible: strategically, politically, personally, and spiritually.
- Embracing a Plurality of Perspectives: CJNV welcomes multiple perspectives, approaches, beliefs, and political ideologies, seeking to cultivate dialogue and negotiation about these differences. Those affiliated with CJNV take a variety of positions on the Right of Return, BDS, Zionism, etc. However, they encourage coming together under a common banner of solidarity and co-resistance. They believe that in coming together across these differences, we can all gain greater collective power and challenge each other to become fuller and more developed justice-seekers. They acknowledge this is not always easy, such solidarity requires people to be in deep, vulnerable relationships with each other.
- Consciousness of Privilege: As diaspora Jews, CJNV recognizes their unique privilege and ability to navigate across the intensified divisions created and sustained by the Occupation. They use this power to play a connecting role for Jewish, Palestinian, and Israeli groups and individuals who stand firmly against the occupation, particularly in terms of fostering and strengthening international on-the-ground connections and leveraging international support. They also support and amplify the efforts of those marginalized while working to dismantle and disrupt the systems that benefit some of us at the expense of others.
- Embracing Diversity of Strategies: Seeing the successes and efforts of our partners as a part of their work, CJNV believes that vibrancy and diversity of strategies and entry-points are needed to bring about a just and equitable end to the Occupation.
What Are Some Of The Approaches They Employ To Pursue Their Goals?
- CJNV strengthens and uplifts a robust and connected movement of Palestinians, Israelis, and diaspora Jews committed to active shared-resistance. Campaigns to achieve such goals utilize practices such as:
- Running delegations and campaigns which bring communities together for Palestinian-led nonviolent civil resistance (nonviolent direct action, community co-resistance projects, and critical education), thereby modeling and amplifying the viability of shared-resistance.
- Creating a platform for coalition and joint-movement work that would likely be impossible given existing barriers between organizations and communities.
- Building resistive relationships that transform what is possible in the organization's actions and in all of those involved, shifting movement landscapes and upending injustice.
- Using people power on the ground to bind communities together and powerfully counter the status quo of the Occupation.
- Boosting and amplifying the efforts of others in their communal and organizational strategic goals and in their cross-movement efforts.
What Are Some Of The Past Projects They Have Completed?
- CJNV has completed multiple campaigns since their founding in 2015, which seek to bring Jewish activists from around the world to Israel-Palestine to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Palestinian and Israeli partners for joint struggle, solidarity work, and building deep, inter-community relationships. These past campaigns include:
- The Original Tree Replanting (Feb. 2015): At the request of the Nasser Family, whose fruit trees were uprooted by the Israeli government, nearly thirty Jewish activists from four countries traveled to the farm to help replant fields and sow seeds of creative, nonviolent activism. Part of CJNV's work with this campaign was to ‘repurpose’ the Jewish National Fund mission, which advances an exclusive and discriminatory approach towards land use in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. CJNV promotes tree planting to enable Palestinian farmers and landowners to protect their private property and to reclaim land stolen by settlers and the Israeli government.
- Disrupting the World Zionist Congress, Standing with Susiya (Oct. 2015): The goal of this campaign was to counter the 2015 World Zionist Congress’ deafening silence on the issue of ending the occupation of Palestine. While in Susiya, a small Palestinian village in Area C and thus threatened with demolition orders since 2012, CJNV worked with the villagers of Susiya to complete their olive harvest. Harvesting olives is a seemingly simple task made dangerous and risky due to the threat of neighboring settlers who harass and attack Palestinians in efforts to coerce them to leave their land. The presence of Jewish, Israeli, and international allies can serve to deter settler violence and allow Palestinians to harvest their land.
- Occupation is Not Our Judaism (Jul. 2016): During this campaign, forty Jewish activists from more than half a dozen countries spent ten days in solidarity and nonviolent resistance with Palestinian communities throughout the West Bank to reclaim stolen property in Hebron and build the first cinema in the city. The group helped to clear and till land under threat by nearby settlements in Um Al Khair and Susiya, villages in Area C in the South Hebron Hills. They also hosted a block party with residents of Batan al-Hawa, where CJNV helped initiate “Cinema Hebron”.
- Justice Justice You Shall Pursue (May 2017): Fifty years since the beginning of the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, CJNV brought an unprecedented cohort of 130 Jewish justice seekers to the West Bank and East Jerusalem to participate in a week of shoulder-to-shoulder solidarity work in various Palestinian communities. This campaign culminated in a 300-person joint civil disobedience action, Sumud: Freedom Camp. Standing with the village of Sarura, the coalition reclaimed their village lands from which they were displaced in 1997. Never before has such a large and diverse cohort of Jews from around the world joined Palestinians on the ground in the Occupied Territories. The coalition also joined with Palestinian communities in Existence-is-Resistance projects in Issawiya, Batan al-Hawa, Um Al Khair, Susiya, and Hebron.
- May Campaign 2019 (Most recent): In CJNV's most recent campaign, forty-five Jewish activists from across North America gathered in Israel-Palestine to stand in co-resistance with their Palestinian and Israeli partners. Over nine days, CJNV learned, worked, and connected with partners in the South Hebron Hills, East Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Givat Amal, and Lyd/Lod. Together, the coalition cleared roads, laid concrete, painted murals, rehabilitated land, planted trees, and built relationships rooted in resistance that will carry this work forward. On Friday, May 3rd, 2019, CJNV joined with Palestinian and Israeli activists in a groundbreaking partnership to resist occupation and rehabilitate the historical roads and lands of Bir il-Eid. Over 125 Palestinians, Israelis, and Jewish justice seekers from around the world came together to remove barriers that prevent Palestinians from accessing basic daily needs, as well as to support their refusal to cede to the pressures of settler and military harassment.
Where Do They Operate?
- CJNV has relationships with a variety of Palestinian and Israeli grassroots activists to support their ongoing projects and resistance work. CJNV activists will engage in a range of nonviolent campaigns and activities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and central/southern Israel.