Vermonters for Justice in Palestine (VTJP) – formerly Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel – was founded on the belief that Justice is necessary before Peace can be achieved.
Mission Statement: Vermonters for Justice in Palestine works to support the Palestinian people in their struggle for human rights and to end the illegal, immoral, and brutal Israeli occupation through education, advocacy, and action. We are committed to the principles of self-determination for the Palestinian people, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and full civil and political rights for all Palestinians in order to promote the equality and safety of both Palestinians and Israelis
About Us – The long Read
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine is committed to a peace that includes self-determination and national liberation of the Palestinian people through education, advocacy, and action. Our activism is devoted primarily to ending Israel’s illegal military occupation and settler-colonial project in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the horrific siege of Gaza. VTJP also advocates for the right of return of Palestinian refugees consistent with International Law, as well as full civil and political rights for all Palestinians in Israel, the occupied territories and across the Palestinian diaspora.
The first meeting of what became VTJP was held in April 2001 at Trinity College, hosted by Sister Miriam Ward; it resulted from a panel discussion about Israel and Palestine held at Chittenden County’s CCTV Town Meeting Television studio in February 2001. Jane Knodell was the moderator. Afterwards, Peter Lackowski called for the formation of a local group to continue the discussion. VTJP was the result. Trinity College was the host for some time until the meeting moved to the Peace and Justice Center, (of which VTJP is an affiliated group) initially on Church Street and later in its present location on Lake Street in Burlington. Since 2018 there has also been a monthly ‘Central Vermont’ meeting in Montpelier.
VTJP members focus their activism in Vermont, and on issues that affect Vermonters.
As a principal tool to achieve these aims, VTJP is a strong supporter of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. BDS is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice and equality. BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. It was launched in 2005 against Israel and its policies of occupation, colonialism and ethnic cleansing. In 2013, we initiated an international campaign calling on Vermont-based company Ben & Jerry’s to stop sales and catering of ice cream from its Israeli franchise in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in Occupied Palestine.
The BDS Call to Israel (From bdsmovement.net):
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
Why we oppose the Israeli occupation of Palestine
Occupation means that troops from a hostile nation move into an area and take control, as Israel did in 1967 when it illegally occupied Palestinian lands in the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. In Palestine these days it means that people may have to show their ID and explain their business to any Israeli soldier at any time. The soldier can decide to turn the Palestinian back on a whim, and open resistance can be fatal, so Palestinians must endure this humiliating and dangerous process routinely as they go about their daily business. Any protest, no matter how peaceful, is met with brutal violence.
Occupation means surveillance of all aspects of Palestinian life by every possible means, from secret police who interrogate prisoners with torture, to every kind of high tech surveillance. The secret police sow dissension wherever possible, and they systematically murder and imprison emerging Palestinian leaders. Sadly, they target peace activists who appear to be building support and making connections with Israeli peace activists.
Occupation means systematic destruction of roads, houses, orchards, workshops, and other things that people need to go on living normal lives. Israelis arbitrarily decide that a military post must go on a certain hill, that shots may have come from behind a repair shop, that a security road must be built across a Palestinian village or farm, or that someone’s house blocks the line of fire from an Israeli outpost. Out come the armored bulldozers and the troops. Houses are bulldozed, orchards and olive groves are uprooted, terraces broken down, wells and water distribution systems are destroyed, possessions are trashed. People who resist are beaten, tear-gassed, imprisoned, and killed.
Occupation means terroristic rocket attacks and bombing in Israeli attempts to assassinate Palestinian leaders. These attacks usually are so ferocious that they involve the killing and wounding of many ordinary people. The Israeli government defends this barbaric practice as necessary, but one can imagine their consequences if a Palestinian assassin were to do the same to an Israeli leader. The unlikeness of this happening underscores the real inequality of the struggle. The Israeli government arrogantly claims the right to dominate and bully the Palestinian people, in other words, that their might makes them right. We disagree.
Frequently heard questions and complaints
How can peace come about in Palestine/Israel?
Some Israeli politicians claim that for Israel to be secure, the Palestinians must be totally subdued and confined permanently in densely populated ghettos and reservations. Some Israeli politicians frankly admit that they want to make life so miserable for Palestinians that they will leave and become refugees somewhere else. (An Israeli Minister of Transportation has advocated giving Palestinians free one-way tickets to the border.) The actions of the Israeli government have been consistent with both of these plans as they insist on their impossibly one-sided peace terms.
We believe that before peace can be reached Israel must take its troops out of Palestine, stop its campaign of terroristic assassinations and disruption of Palestinian life, end the siege of Gaza and prepare to live with its Palestinian neighbors on terms of mutual respect.
A practical first step to achieving peace would be to have international observers in Palestine to witness the occupation. Israel vehemently opposes this, for the images of brutality, humiliation, and suffering on TV would be devastating to its image.
What can we Americans do to influence Israel’s behavior?
The United States sends billions of dollars to Israel, every year. Israel is the largest recipient of foreign aid. The US also defends Israel against the outrage of the other countries of the world in the UN, vetoing any resolutions that annoy Israel. Israel’s supporters spend millions to influence public opinion, and many politicians get big contributions from Israel’s lobbyists.
We Vermonters and all Americans must let our leaders know that we want our government to stop supporting Israel’s failed policies.
“This is just propaganda!”and “What about the Israeli victims? You only show the Palestinian side.”
Sometimes people briefly visit our site and leave with the impression that we’re pushing “anti-Israeli propaganda”. VTJP advocates the application of international law in the Middle East. Although that position puts us squarely at odds with Israel’s current policies, we are definitely not “anti-Israeli”. We are a diverse group of Vermonters with personal links in both Israel and occupied Palestine. We are firmly opposed to all acts of violence against civilians.
Thanks for visiting this VTJP site. We hope that it will serve as a gateway to a better understanding of Palestine and the denial of Palestinians’ human rights by the Israeli occupation. We want Vermonters and all others to join in the struggle for human rights. We are happy to receive questions and constructive comments via e-mail. Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please join us and get involved.
- Support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement
- Talk to people, write letters to the newspapers, pressure your elected representatives
- Come to the VTJP monthly meeting and get involved – details below