Founded in April 2002, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace (JAJP) – also known by its Hebrew name, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom – was an organization that sought “to educate and mobilize American Jews in support of a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Security for Israel, said JAJP, “can only be achieved through the establishment of an economically and politically viable Palestinian state, necessitating an end to Israel’s occupation of land acquired during the 1967 war and an end to Palestinian terrorism.” Describing itself as “strictly an American organization” with “[no] official relationship with any Israeli peace group or political party,” JAJP maintained that any successful peace agreement in the Middle East would require the United States to play a major role in brokering the negotiations.
By JAJP’s telling, Israeli settlements in the West Bank “are a major obstacle to peace, a tremendous financial burden to Israel, and do little, if anything, to enhance Israel’s security.” Rather, the settlements “constantly expose to danger the settlers themselves and the Israeli soldiers sent to defend them, and they bring grave harm to the Palestinians living under Occupation.”
At its inception, JAJP’s president was Marcia Freedman, a former Israeli Member of Parliament who had since become active with Women in Black and the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace. “Israel’s illegal military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem,” said Freedman, constituted “an enormous injustice that the world has turned its back on.”
In October 2002, JAJP initiated a 14-city speaking tour for a newly formed organization of bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones to Intifada violence and were now preaching a “message of reconciliation as an alternative to hatred and revenge.”
In January 2003, JAJP held the first of its “Town Hall Meetings” where, in a live call-in format, people could discuss issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In early 2003 as well, JAJP launched a National Leadership Training Institute in Alexandria, Virginia, where the organization instructed many of its chapter leaders and grassroots activists in such matters as political advocacy, fundraising, the use of media, and “how to build effective relationships in the organized Jewish community.”
In 2003-04, JAJP administered an online petition titled “A Call to Bring the Settlers Home to Israel,” which asked the U.S. government “to provide generous foreign assistance” – in the form of $3 billion in cash incentives for 16,000 settler families in the West Bank and Gaza – as a payoff for moving back inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. The petition was signed by such notables as Eric Alterman, Ed Asner, Gordon Fellman, Morton Halperin, Stanley Hoffman, Tony Kushner, Michael Lerner, Eli Pariser, Gloria Steinem, and Studs Terkel.
Denouncing Israel’s construction of a 480-mile anti-terrorism barrier in the West Bank, JAJP said in June 2004: “With every additional kilometer that the barrier extends into the West Bank, creating a new de facto border for Israel, the prospects for a peaceful negotiated settlement recede further. The barrier is not a security barrier, but rather a political barrier to progress towards peace.”
Whereas some pro-Palestinian groups in the U.S. demanded American divestment from Israel and the withholding of monies from the Jewish state, JAJP argued that such funds should instead be donated directly “to organizations that invest in Palestinian businesses, loan money to development banks involved in micro-lending, help rebuild the infrastructure of the West Bank, invest in promoting dialogue and understanding, or provide humanitarian relief for victims of violence.”
While JAJP denounced Palestinian terrorism, the organization also condemned the strategic killing of terrorist overlords. Following the 2004 assassination of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin by Israeli helicopter gun ships, for instance, JAJP issued a statement lamenting that the killing would inevitably: (a) “accelerate the steady shift in popular support from the more moderate Palestinian Authority to Hamas”; (b) serve to “recruit much larger numbers of Palestinian youths eager to become martyrs”; and (c) “increase hatred of Israel and the U.S. throughout the Islamic world.”
In 2005 JAJP initiated a “Combatants for Peace Tour” featuring public speeches by “Israelis and Palestinians who had [once] been actively involved in perpetuating the cycle of bloodshed, but have now renounced violence and fight for peace through dialogue, reconciliation, and educational outreach.”
In March 2006, JAJP helped draft a letter wherein nearly 400 rabbis from various Jewish denominations urged President George W. Bush to “maintain a cautious approach to the new Palestinian government” led by the genocidal terrorist group Hamas. Keeping open the lines of communication between the U.S. and Hamas, said JAJP, would help to “preserve the future possibility of bringing Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table, which is the only path to achieve true peace and security for both peoples.”
In May 2006, JAJP played what it called “a pivotal role in moderating H.R. 4681,” the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which had been proposed in Congress in the aftermath of Hamas’s electoral victory in Gaza. According to JAJP, the Act, as originally written, “largely eliminates the president’s authority to waive sanctions [against the Palestinians] … while making it nearly impossible for the Palestinians to meet all the demands required to do so.”
During December 2008 and January 2009, JAJP chapters across the U.S. held more than 30 events calling on the combatants in Operation Cast Lead – a military conflict in which Israel sought to thwart a relentless stream of Hamas terrorist attacks originating in Gaza – to initiate an immediate ceasefire. On January 28, 2009, JAJP organized a telephone campaign designed to flood the State Department with calls demanding that it “release emergency funds for reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in the Gaza Strip.” In February 2009, JAJP chapters in Massachusetts. Washington, and Minnesota, respectively, praised three Democrats – Senator John Kerry and Representatives Brian Baird and Keith Ellison – for traveling to Gaza to view first-hand the damage caused by the recent war.
From May through October of 2009, JAJP administered a “We’ve Got Your Back, Mr. President” campaign featuring “A Pledge to Build American Support for [Barack] Obama’s Pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” That Pledge was signed by nearly 10,000 American Jews, including such notables as Eli Pariser, Heather Booth, Mandy Patinkin, Tony Kushner, Leon Botstein, Rosellen Brown, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and Morton Halperin.
In September 2009 in Pasadena, California, JAJP held a fundraising reception where the actor and political activist Ed Asner was headlined alongside JAJP president Steve Masters.
On January 1, 2010, JAJP ended its existence as an independent entity and became the field arm of J Street. In that move, JAJP’s 50,000 members and supporters, its 38 chapters, and its rabbinic network of more than 1,000 clergy all became part of J Street.
During its years as an active organization, JAJP received funding from the Ford Foundation; the Funding Exchange; the Nathan Cummings Foundation; the Samuel Rubin Foundation; the Shefa Fund; and the Tides Foundation.