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Censorship in the American Jewish community

Support for groups like JVP has grown significantly since the latest war against Gaza. Disenfranchising this ever-growing segment of concerned American Jews will only escalate the decline in our community.

By Seth Morrison

A protest condemning the Israeli assault on Gaza outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Chicago, July 16, 2014. (Photo by Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

A protest condemning the Israeli assault on Gaza outside the Israeli consulate in downtown Chicago, July 16, 2014. (Photo by Tess Scheflan/Activestills.org)

The past year has seen increasing efforts within the American Jewish community to censor anybody who believes that boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) are the way to end the occupation — censorship that is most often targeted at Jewish Voice for Peace. And yet, JVP continues to grow.

JVP is not anti-Israel, it is anti-occupation. Our belief that that the people living in Israel-Palestine are the ones who must decide on their own political formulations does not negate that we are committed Jews acting according to Jewish teachings of how to treat your neighbors. We support any solution that fully recognizes and respects the human rights and aspirations of both peoples — and that includes people with varying political visions for the end of the conflict.

Within JVP I have met many people who like me think that a two-state solution is best, many who believe in a single state with strong guarantees for all, and an increasing number who would like to see a two-state solution but believe that Israel has closed that door in the last few years.

Read also: ‘As U.S. Jews, we need to figure out what leverage we have in ending the occupation’

Whenever I have expressed my support for a two-state solution to JVP members, responses have always been respectful. I have never been shut down, accused of being anti-Palestinian or called names. Yet some of my Jewish friends have totally cut me off, refuse to interact with me online or in person and have called me a traitor, accused me of ignoring the Holocaust or called me names that I won’t repeat. I expected some pushback and honest debate, but censorship and alienation are dangerous to the future of the American Jewish community.

JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

JVP Boston activists protest the Veolia transportation company for operating bus lines serving settlements in the West Bank. November 14, 2012. (Tess Scheflan/ Activestills.org)

In recent weeks we have seen enhanced efforts by AIPAC to circumvent the Obama administration, as well as increased fundraising in the U.S. by settler organizations like Elad to evict Palestinians from their homes in Jerusalem. To me these groups are the real danger to Israel’s future, not Jewish Voice for Peace.

Last spring, writing in +972 I explained my decision to support JVP:

There is no longer any doubt that Israel has become addicted to settlements, occupation of Palestinian territory and to treating the 23 percent of Israelis who are not Jewish as second class citizens.

Many of us have friends or family who suffer from addiction, and all-too-often it is only when we cut them off, stop enabling their negative behavior that things can actually change. It is that model of “tough love” that led me to become a strong BDS supporter.

The Jewish community’s efforts to censor JVP’s ideas and to exclude JVP members are alienating large numbers of American Jews, especially college students and young adults. Last year’s Pew Center Study reported that 48 percent of Jewish Americans don’t think Israel is making a sincere attempt to make peace. A quarter of all Jews ages 18-29 believes the U.S. is too supportive of Israel. The next iteration of this study is sure to show even lower support for Israel’s government.

It is sad to see that our Jewish tradition of learning through debate and respecting opposing opinions has completely shut down regarding Israel. JVP, J Street, ACRI and the New Israel Fund are all victims of this censorship – but it hits JVP members the hardest because we are the least welcome.

JVP supports boycott, divestment and sanctions because we believe that this tough love approach is the only way to bring both sides together on an equal footing to end the occupation. Israel is afraid of BDS because it works, and because deep down Israeli leaders know that the occupation and the settlements are wrong.

Support for JVP has grown significantly since the latest war against Gaza. With 36 percent growth in online supporters we are now larger than J Street. Disenfranchising this ever-growing group of concerned American Jews will only escalate the decline in our community.

The future of our American Jewish Community and the future of Israel as a democracy depend on openness and full debate of tough issues.

‘U.S. Jews: Figure out what leverage we have in ending the occupation’
At Open Hillel conference, Jews demand their spot at the communal table
‘Open Hillel’ seeks to redefine U.S. Jewish debate on Israel-Palestine

Seth Morrison has held leadership posts in various local, regional and national Jewish organizations starting in college as a youth leader in Young Judea. In 2011 Mr. Morrison resigned from the Washington DC Board of the Jewish National Fund in protest over repeated evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem. He is also active in LGBTQ organizations and local politics in Northern Virginia. Professionally Morrison is a consultant specializing in marketing and strategic planning.

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    1. Richard

      Cult-recruitment tactics on full display: lying about what you stand for, what words like ‘censorship’ mean…the BDS personality type – dishonest, cynical, shallow – is remarkably consistent across demographics groups.

      Reply to Comment
      • Pedro X

        An example of JVP’s dishonesty.

        “JVP is not anti-Israel, it is anti-occupation… We support any solution that fully recognizes and respects the human rights and aspirations of both peoples”

        JVP says it is agnostic whether Israel exists or not. It does not support the existence of a Jewish state or the aspirations of the Jewish people to have a Jewish state even though the majority of the people of the state of Israel self determined as a Jewish state long ago and overwhelmingly support the continuation of a Jewish state. JVP supports the wrong of return of the descendents of Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war thereby flooding Israel with non-Jews and ending the Jewish nature of the Israeli state.

        At the same time, JVP does not support the right of Jewish refugees who were expelled from Arab countries to receive compensation from Palestinians and Arab states.

        If JVP was not anti-Israel and anti-Zionist it would hold rallies, conferences and boycotts against Arab and Palestinian Arab actions which prolong Israel’s presence in the West Bank which actions prevent any solution of the conflict. JVP does not hold rallies or conferences condemning Palestinian violence, incitement to violence, glorification of acts of violence for children to emulate, and the payment of salaries to terrorists and families of terrorists. JVP does not organize boycotts against Palestinians for their demonization of Israel and policy of non-cooperation which has resulted in the 25 commissions set up under the Oslo Accords not functioning. JVP does nothing to move the Palestinians towards any solution of the conflict.

        JVP does not support human rights for Jewish people of Israel. It does not support Israel’s right of self defence against terrorists in Gaza. It does not support Jewish rights to pray at the tomb of Patriarchs, Rachel, Joseph and on the Temple Mount. It does not support the right of Israelis to live anywhere in the City of Jerusalem. It does not support the right of Israelis to be free from violence, intimidation and economic boycotts by Arab states.

        JVP also does not support the human rights of Palestinians to be free from the denial of human rights because of the actions of their own governments.

        JVP needs to be recognized for what it is, a racist, anti-Israel, anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish rights organization.

        Reply to Comment
        • RICK

          Red Herring-ville. “support for a Jewish state”, the “wrong return of descendents of Palestinian refugees”, “ending the Jewish nature of the Israeli state.” No state is entitled to “support”, i.e. “supporting” the French state, the American state, the Chinese state? “Wrong return..”? If a refugee is thrown out of their home and you keep (all of them) out for long enough, that does not invalidate their families from the right of returning under international law. But apparently you don’t care about law or these people, who you have obviously determined are Untermenchen, and so not entitled to the same rights as Jews. I’d say you are the one that as a racsim policy. If I’m wrong, please correct me by stating you support equal rights for Palestinians under the law in Israel.

          Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Richard, the BDS mentality seems to be pretty widespread. Wasn’t it the Yishuv that invented the concept, with its twin concepts of Jewish Land (the immorality of selling land outside the tribe) and Jewish Labour (the immorality of employing indigenous labour, because Palestinians worked harder, longer and for lower wages than the effete Europeans who had recently entered the land, and besides if they had employment they would not silently disappear into Trans-Jordan or Iraq). And isn’t it Israeli rabbis who insist on boycotting Arab tenants. And isn’t it Israel that always complains that the American regime of sanctions against Iraq and Iran are not tough enough. There is a debate about the efficacy of BDS (what else would you recommend to those who want to bring justice to the world – perhaps suicide bombing or stone-throwing would be better?) It’s always double-standards when Israel is concerned, isn’t it?

        Reply to Comment
    2. BOOZ

      “our Jewish tradition of learning through debate and respecting opposing opinions has completely shut down”.

      Gimme a break.

      JVP has a well-established tradition of shouting down, intimidation and behind the stage maneuvering.

      Reply to Comment
    3. bar

      JVP is completely and entirely committed to the destruction of Israel.

      End of discussion. Next.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        You don’t get to shut down discussion of JVP. Did someone tell you you could? The Likud by the way is completely and entirely committed to the destruction of Palestine.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Mikesailor

      Interesting how the hasbaristas have no argument which makes any sense. Come on now, are you really so afraid of JVP? Afraid that they are right? So far, the hasbarista Israel-uber-alles crowd has never shown their vision of the future of Israel and the territories, let alone civil or political rights for the non-Jews. Is it any wonder that the college-educated Jews, unlike our resident hasbaristas, are turning their backs on the Zionist enterprise and recognizing the inherent racism it engenders??

      Reply to Comment
      • “Come on now, are you really so afraid of JVP? Afraid that they are right?”
        I agree with you and since they won’t admit they might be wrong, they’re ready to destroy everything they claim to hold dear. Masada 2.0?

        Reply to Comment
      • Richard

        I wonder if you realize that responding to criticism with “why are you afraid of us?” is how Scientologists deal with people. You know those videos, where they yell at ex-members on the street? That’s who you’re imitating right now.

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          Actually, thanks for contributing the Scientology analogy. Scientology is a ruthless, criminal organization with a code of silence that indoctrinates it’s members with classic cult techniques. It accomplishes much by wielding the power of large amounts of money deployed to intimidate opponents. It furiously reacts to apostates. It furiously keeps outsiders away. It furiously uses “religious freedom” as a ruse to continue its relentless expansion. The Germans, allergic at this point in their history, to neo-nazi like cult organizations like Scientology, said “nothing doing” and banned them outright. There are so many similarities to Right Wing Israel that if I were you I would really avoid deploying the analogy against others. It backfires so readily.

          Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Huh? You’ll have to explain. I’m not privy to your private thought associations.

            Reply to Comment
          • Richard

            I don’t read your comments, but you’re still addressing them to me like a crazy person. Maybe you should stop this.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Transparently dishonest, even bizarre.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Gaudi

      The first 3 comments make claims about JVP lying, intimidating, and being committed to the destruction of Israel.

      No evidence is provided to support these strong claims.

      I deduce from this that tragically the authors of such comments suffered poor educational opportunities in their youth, most likely due to anti-Semitism.

      The possibility that they actually were trained to think, but avoid doing so so as not to endanger their deeply held beliefs is too preposterous even for a critic of Israeli policies like me.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard

        No, I’ve just read the BDS website, read their literature, seen JVP people speak, talked to them myself. No evidence you’re right.

        Reply to Comment
      • AD

        Actually, one can read JVP’s web site, twitter account, public statements and policies to understand JVP’s membership consists of anti Jewish racists. Past leadership of JVP has engaged in Holocaust denial and/or minimization.

        Reply to Comment
    6. Peter

      Some of the comments above beautifully illustrate the points made by the author. Thanks are in order.

      Reply to Comment
      • Richard

        You realize the author is a career marketing expert right? Do you know ppl who’ve spent long careers in marketing? Its the most shallow thing you can do with a college degree and remain respectably bourgeois. Bullshitting, as a mentality, completely takes over and seeps into every conversation and relationship. This is someone who thinks JVP is ‘bigger’ than J Street because of online supporters. When people are paid sell and brand for years, they will inevitably start to believe their own spin, because that’s how you become a good salesperson – confidence in nonsense.

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          The mind boggles. A Netanyahu-follower denigrates marketing and bullshitting as a mentality!

          Reply to Comment
          • Lo

            You see all kinds of magical things here.

            Reply to Comment
    7. Really? A scientologist? Wow!!

      Reply to Comment
    8. Lo

      shorter Seth Morrison: Traditional representatives of American Jewry are alienating younger Jews with their heavy-handed suppression of dissent. This, along with increased belligerence by the Israeli right wing means that unquestioning U.S. support for Israel is waning.

      shorter +972 hasbarists: JVP is antisemitic and committed to the destruction of Israel! Boo! Hiss!

      It’s like you guys are illustrating his arguments in real time.

      Now that there are cameras in Gaza and the West Bank, entire sectors of the U.S. population who either didn’t care beforehand or blindly accepted the Israeli narrative have begun to reevaluate the U.S. relationship with Israel. Instead of accepting this reality and changing their message, right-wingers have doubled down.

      The current situation won’t change overnight, but you can see the cracks in the facade. AIPAC and the other traditional establishments can see them, and they are freaking out over how quickly it could all come down.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Judy Gelman

      As one of the people who cut you off, I will again explain that I did not do so because you joined JVP but because you chose to comment on my wall multiple times a day on every related or tangentially related post about Israel . I still have relationships and dialogues with people who want to respectfully talk about Israel and BDS. You however overstepped the bounds of respectful dialogue. You didn’t build my network and therefore you don’t get to proselytize to it. I don’t know why others cut you off but I imagine that some might be reacting to your personal style rather than to merely your message.

      Reply to Comment
      • RICK

        your personal issue with the author are not really the crux of the matter, even if you are right. What I see in the above posts are name-calling and unsubstantiated charges against JVP and the usual hate-mongering. How sad nobody wants to address the real issues, such as American Jewish knee-jerk support for a very brutal incremental genocide against the Palestinian people on the part of an , completely parallel to other . Once identified the tactics of ethnic cleansing should be obvious to anyone paying attention.

        Reply to Comment
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