Rebecca Vilkomerson is (2009) the National Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She has over fifteen years of experience in community organizing, advocacy, program development and fundraising in the United States and Israel. In the U.S., she focused on economic justice issues, especially regarding women. She has been an active member of JVP since 2002, and lived in Israel with her family from 2006-2009.
Most recently, Rebecca worked for a Palestinian Israel public policy center and a Bedouin-Jewish environmental and social justice organization, as well as continuing her work as an activist for a just peace in Palestine and Israel. Her study, Public Policy in Divided Societies: The Case for a Civil Rights Institution was published in July, 2008 by Dirasat, the Arab Center for Law and Policy. She is also currently an editor of Jewish Peace News. Rebecca is a graduate of Connecticut College and has a Masterís Degree in Public Policy from Johns Hopkins University.
From her JVFP profile:
I have been visiting Israel my whole life. My aunt "made aliyah" as a young adult, and my grandparents soon followed her. My parents also lived in Israel for a year before I was born. I have layer upon layer of memories of being in Israel with my family throughout my life. My Israeli family are religious kibbutzniks. When I was twelve, my favorite cousin's fiance died in a car bombing in Lebanon during his last two weeks of army service. She had known him since they were both thirteen, and it took her years to recover. The ripples of grief this one death caused brought home to me, in some small way, the impact of Israel?s wars. My connection to Israel was reinforced when Nasser,the Jordanian manager of my neighborhood cafe here in San Francisco,decided to introduce me to one of his best customers--Yoni, an Israeli.When we married, I gained a whole other Israeli family. Shortly after I met Yoni, the second intifada brokeout. The combination of these two events forced me to sharpen my knowledge of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I had enough vague ideasa bout the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to debate with my fathera bout Israeli policies, but I realized I needed to know more.
In my professional life, I am an organizer and advocate, specifically around welfare, homelessness, and other issues that affect low-income people in the United States. In my work I have seen enough of the negative impact of American capitalism and racism to question the prevailing myths of American opportunity and American history. The history and politics we are taught in school often do not reflect reality--whether in the United States or around the world.
Like many people, because of my emotional attachment to Israel, I had been reluctant to examine the "story" of Israel-making the desert bloom, the heroic wars Israel fought as the underdog, the duplicitousness of the "Arabs" (never Palestinians). But then I began to educate myself. I read books like "The Iron Wall" by Avi Shlaim and"Drinking the Sea at Gaza" by Amira Haas. I became a regular reader of the Electronic Intifada and JewishPeace News. As my own position became clearer to me, I knew I needed to become active in the movement for justice for Palestinian people.
The more I learned, the more I had to question not just the occupation, but the premise of a state for one religious group. I had to look at my own politics and ask myself if giving rights to some people and not others is consistent with my values. For example, do I believe that immigration laws should be based on ethnic identity? Would I define a country as democratic if only Christians had full rights? The answer, of course, is no. But in Israel, this is the reality.
I don't currently belong to a synagogue, so JVPhas become my Jewish community. It is a pleasure to struggle with otherJews to live the ethics that I associate with Judaism in the fight forjustice in Israel and Palestine.
Rebecca Vilkomerson is an editor at MuzzleWatch, a group exposing zionists using "anti-semitism" to muzzle criticism of Israel.