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From AIPAC to JVP: The political evolution of Seth Morrison

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Seth Morrison used to travel to Israel to work on a kibbutz and go to AIPAC’s policy conferences. Today, the 63-year-old attends Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) meetings.

Morrison’s long political evolution is an increasingly common story among liberal Jews. The deepening of the Israeli occupation is pushing people like Morrison to the left–and to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

In recent years, Morrison has made bold stands against the occupation and what he views as the inadequacy of the Jewish response to it. In 2011, he publicly quit the board of the Jewish National Fund’s Washington, D.C. chapter because the organization was transferring Palestinian homes into the hands of settlers in East Jerusalem. He left J Street in late 2013 to join JVP.

He told me that leaving J Street was hard for him, but that meeting with Rebecca Vilkomerson, JVP’s executive director, convinced him to take the leap. Still, the break with J Street was not without costs.

In an e-mail, Morrison wrote that some friends “cut me off totally, including a few very long term friends who frankly I expected better from…Frankly some of the biggest surprises were from liberal Zionists who just can’t accept that I would support BDS.  One or more of them pushed hard to have me resign from the DC Leadership Council of the New Israel Fund.”

He says he has no regrets, though. He spoke at the Israel lobby conference in Washington last Friday.

I caught up with Morrison at the JVP national membership meeting in March to get his full story. The result of my conversation with him is this audio piece:

Alex Kane
About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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9 Responses

  1. just
    April 14, 2015, 11:15 am

    Kudos Alex.

    Many thanks for the audio and video links, too.

    Indoctrination is the cornerstone of Zionism. It’s nice to see and hear the deprogramming.

    (I like Morrison’s tricolor tie! ;-) His revelations about the 53 people is welcome.

    • socialconscience
      April 15, 2015, 10:54 am

      Just, you hit the nail on the head – the term that sums up the developed world’s complicity in the industrial-military complex beholden to Zion:

      ”Indoctrination is the cornerstone of Zionism. It’s nice to see and hear the deprogramming”

      Enthralling to listen to Seth speak on his experiences participating in the Zionist lobby machine, now looking back from the other side…

      Indeed it appears that Seth now does very valuable work in highlighting the Palestinian cause but is anyone else troubled by his response to the question during Q&A at the panels completion?:

      ”Could or should you delegitimize the Israel lobby without deligitimizng Israel itself?…do you think Israel is sustainable?”

      Responding with something along the lines of:

      – ‘I dont know’

      – Acknowledging the need for care relating to comparisons between south africa and Israel

      – Acknowleding 50% of the people of Israel are Jews…we have a horrible situation with competition for the land.. we need to be fair to all of them

      Seems a terribly weak answer

      There is not one utterance of the words ethnic cleansing…genocide…drone strikes…administrative detention orders… State sponsored murder..(to name but afew crimes of Israel)

      Is the flaw of allowing oneself to be influenced by the sentimental dreams of the protective jewish homeland that were learned in childhood, borne out to be the stuff of fantasy, inhibiting true and honest expression on the part of conscientious Jews?

      …..yet the dream for indoctrinated zionists and indeed the complicity of the developed world that is borne of indifference serves only as the living nightmare of the gentiles of palestine….

      These are the harsh realities of Palestinians’ daily life

      So my question to any interested observers is:

      Is this view representative of american anti zionist jews?

      It would be understandable if one were indoctrinated into the american zionist culture, as, Seth himself outlines in his essay.

      However it is clear to anyone familiar with the accurate history (that is the non mainstream media version) The Zion project has had its opportunity to perform and prove its legitimacy since 1947…

      Yet even from before commencing the Nakba, Zionism has proven itself to be only vicious, racist, supremacist and the atrocities stack up higher and higher with no end in sight….

      Israel has never taken the responsibility for ensuring a lasting peace.. Quite the opposite….
      It must be cut off from American mega funding for there to be any hope…

      The Palestinians need UNCOMPROMISING advocacy

    • Mooser
      April 16, 2015, 8:47 pm

      I used to be very impatient with people like Seth Morrison, or Sylvia Thier, because of how long it took them, but no more. I’ll save the impatience for those who haven’t even tried to see it another way yet.

  2. pabelmont
    April 14, 2015, 11:24 am

    Glad to hear another immigrant into JVP from AIPAC-land,

    And glad to notice (from the JVP website at ) that JVP has itself moved usefully on issues.
    JVP used to limit its BDS qactivity to occupation-specific targets. Not any longer, apparently:

    Why is JVP moving beyond Occupation-focused Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction campaigns?
    JVP has long participated in the global movement to hold Israel accountable through nonviolent economic pressure, and we’ve done so by focusing on Occupation-specific targets including corporations as well as academic and cultural institutions. Today, the idea that there is a clear economic, political, or social separation between “Israel” and “the occupation,” has been widely discredited.

    • jayn0t
      April 15, 2015, 12:38 am

      “hold Israel accountable”

      Hold ethnic cleansing accountable for ethnic cleansing?

    • bryan
      April 15, 2015, 3:51 am

      Not just an immigrant Pabelmont – he has made aliyah!

  3. weiss
    April 14, 2015, 11:39 am

    This is encouraging!

    Although The Fascists have tilted the political spectrum so far to the Right that the Left is now in the CENTER…

    … This is the real existential threat which is destroying Israel FROM WITHIN.

  4. jayn0t
    April 15, 2015, 12:37 am

    The guy thinks that a more liberal approach defends the interest he still identifies with. It still defends the legitimacy of ethnic cleansing. It’s just a difference about tactics.

  5. Sudhama
    April 15, 2015, 10:19 pm

    in case anyone could not see the soundcloud player like me, here is the link:

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