Category Archives: british greens

In the Green Party antisemitism can be affirming

green_party_real_changeCross-posted on Engage.

Over the past several years Green Party members have proposed a number of motions and initiatives tackling antisemitism, all of which have been defeated or deformed beyond usefulness by anti-Zionists. As The Guardian’s Hugh Muir observed back in 2010, Green officialdom has long opted to brush concerns about antisemitism under the carpet. Below are the most recent fruits of that – a bit of background, a brief timeline of recent events, and finally why you’d be wrong to blame me for bringing this to light.

For a long time the Green Party has been racked by bitter, polemical campaigning against Israel which has crashed the boundaries of simple anti-Zionism. It has included calling Green Party members who defend Israel Nazi infiltrators, alleging that a non-Israeli member with a Jewish name was an Israeli agent, failing to react appropriately to antisemitic comments in a discussion of a “Zionist lobby“, saying that Israeli academics were “not part of the civilised world”, circulating material by David Duke and quasi journalists concerned about Jewish influence in Parliament, promoting material by Gilad Atzmon, objecting to Jews taking certain official positions, affiliating to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Stop the War Coalition, and tending to treat concerns about antisemitism as politically motivated (and in fact worse than antisemitism itself).

A main channel for all this was internal Green Party email discussion groups, particularly the International List which discussed little else. Concerned members made several official complaints at the heart of which were failures by those assigned to moderate these groups. The complaints did not lead to any action, though. Some were rejected while others went into limbo. In contrast, a shockingly flimsy complaint against one member on a charge of disrepute and entryism on behalf of Israel progressed smartly to an internal tribunal (although the member, with help, managed to clear herself she has never been notified of the outcome). Members, including me, left, resigned their candidacy, or retreated into the background in protest about both the antisemitism and the ineptitude of the responses. The invective about Israel continued unabated. By some time in 2011 the International List moderator had had enough so it was decided to separate off the Israel-related stuff to the relative containment of a new discussion list called Palandisrl. The new list’s first moderator was someone who had referred to Israel as a “bloated state” with “US puppets in the UN”, and Zionism as “incompatible with Green views” and “an ancient theological fantasy”, so things went on in the same vein but with added moderator caprice. It quickly became an anti-Israel echo chamber where things could get quite surreal. When Terry Gallogly (Yorkshire & Humber Green Party) circulated a video of the 2012 Olympic logo morphing into the word ‘Zion’, an appalled member bypassed the moderator in favour of an email to then-leader Caroline Lucas. Lucas sent a quick, unambivalently sympathetic response but again as far as we know no further action was taken. At some stage Shahrar Ali (Brent Green Party and recently elected joint Deputy Leader) took over moderation.

That was some background – a brief timeline follows.

8 August – during Operation Protective Edge the discussion on the Palandisrl list became over-heated. Malcolm Chapman (Yorkshire & Humber Green Party) circulated a diatribe he had authored titled ‘GENOCIDE TODAY ~ A CALL TO BOYCOTT’. Soon afterwards it was published on the Y&H website (no link because it was taken down without explanation on 8 September). Interspersed with some trenchant criticism of Israel were references to a Holocaust “happening again”, “real terrorists” who “call their victims terrorists”, “deliberate targeting of civilians”, “influence over foreign governments”, “you have the memory of genocide in your DNA, why do you want to visit it upon others”, “why pretend any longer that your Palestinian Semite cousins have no right to their ancestral homeland”, and “all of Palestine must be freed from oppression”. More on why this is objectionable below.

14 August – I (a former member of Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party, who due to some bureaucratic error even now receives Palandisrl messages) emailed a request to Martin Deane and Shan Oakes (contacts for Y&H) to take down the piece, giving notice that otherwise I and others planned to make a complaint about antisemitism.

15 August – Martin Deane responded with a long defence but no undertakings, so our complaint was submitted. We took issue with the singularly hostile treatment of Israel, and the simplistic victim/perpetrator story which failed to recognise the role Hamas and the local jihadis in the conflict. We raised the matter of Holocaust inversion, an anti-Jewish propaganda tactic actively pursued by the far right, including Hamas. We pointed out the cruelty in referring to the Holocaust as a lesson Jews failed to learn. We observed that the mystified portrayal of the world’s sole Jewish state as a sinister, irresistible power resonates with the portrayal of Jews by people who hate Jews. We expressed discomfort with the racialised and tribal language of the piece. We objected to Malcolm Chapman’s failure to provide evidence for any of his claims, which made the Green Party look ignorant as well as prejudiced.

16 August – things got very much worse. Martin Deane posted an email to the  Palandisrl list including the sentence “At this time, to be accused of antisemitism here is a sign we’re probably doing something right”. This sentence crossed the line from shame and denial of antisemitism, to owning antisemitism. A conscientious, responsible moderator would have quickly intervened, but instead nobody intervened.

17 August – I emailed Shahrar Ali as Palandisrl moderator, reminding him of the need for scrupulous moderation on that list, warning that I would publish the events and offering him a chance to respond. He did not respond, nor did anybody on his behalf. I’ve waited a month.

6 September – at the Green Party Autumn Conference Shahrar Ali was elected male deputy leader of the Green Party.

8 September – the ‘GENOCIDE TODAY’ piece was quietly taken down. Since the Green Party has not responded to our complaint about the piece, the reasons for this are unclear. However we do know that somebody had a ‘quiet word’.

12 September – on the Palandisrl list, former Green Party male speaker and newly elected International Coordinator Derek Wall announced that Shahrar Ali would be stepping down as moderator and invited volunteers to replace him. When Martin Deane volunteered Derek Wall, who is himself energetically anti-Zionist, responded that he would be “very happy” for him to take the role.

Perhaps at this stage you’re inclined to shrug – after all, this kind of talk is normal now. But it shouldn’t be because it lowers resistance to antisemitism when what we need to do is make antisemitism strange. Perhaps you’re thinking that I am trying to create a diversion from criticism of Israel. But Greens Engage has always drawn attention to criticism of Israel. Perhaps you’re of the opinion that the Greens’ creation of the Palandisrl list was a principled measure of containment and damage limitation, a sort of pre-moderation in itself. But the Green Party was aware of antisemitism from these quarters, has taken a policy stand against it, and therefore has a responsibility to keep things clean under that stone. Perhaps you’re wondering why I didn’t pursue the ‘quiet word’ approach – the offending piece is gone now, after all. The reason I wasn’t prepared to pursue the matter informally and discreetly through an intermediary is because I consider that approach ultimately unsustainable, not to mention disempowering for members without these privileged connections to the inner circle of activists.

Perhaps you’re tempted to shoot the messenger or deny that anything antisemitic has or possibly could have happened in the Green Party, because the Green Party is the party of the good people. Yes, but Shahrar Ali – moderator of the step change when Martin Deane announced “At this time, to be accused of antisemitism here is a sign we’re probably doing something right” – is now a Deputy Leader of the Green Party. His conference speech was all about the need to fight discrimination. That anti-discrimination agenda needs to be honoured when it comes to Jews – including Zionist ones, and even when the attacks on them come from what seems to be pro-Palestine campaigning. And then there’s Martin Deane himself, selected to replace Shahrar Ali as moderator of a discussion about Palestine and Israel, a role for which he has shown himself to be inadequate. So this is not an anti-Green Party post and it’s not suggesting that antisemitism characterises the Green Party. This post has happened because there are no functioning official internal channels for redress on antisemitism.

As well as being frightening and wrong, antisemitism weakens both the Green Party and the cause of Palestinian emancipation. In this case I’m hoping that sunlight is the best disinfectant.

True Colours Shining Through?

On the Green Party’s Palestine & Israel discussion list, Green Party members have been urging a bigger Green Party presence at UK pro-Hamas rallies. Jessica Goldfinch, Norwich Green Party, responds.

‘Green is the colour of Hamas; green is the colour of resistance’ – for some reason when I read this, the 80’s classic, by Cyndi Lauper, ‘True Colours’ popped into my head.

The last time I checked the Green Party of England & Wales has no affiliation to Hamas and yet to have gone unchallenged that we should have more green banners at Gaza protests because ‘Green is the colour of Hamas; green is the colour of resistance’, demonstrates at least a tolerance for the idea.

I was going to go into a potted history of Hamas, the meaning of its acronym, its election to power in Gaza, its documented treatment of Gazans and so on, but there is really no need. There is evidence and counter-evidence all over the web and we are all capable of doing that for ourselves and drawing our own conclusions. However, whichever opinion camp you find yourself in, the following issues are still up for dispute at the very least and questions remain unanswered:

  • The essence of the 1988 Hamas Charter still stands under articles 6, 7, 22, 31 & 32.A ‘temporary truce’ or hudna does not mean recognition vs. Hamas is prepared to recognise Israel along the 1967 lines – various western & eastern political commentators have views on this.
  • Hamas was not democratically elected, (seats won, Hamas 76 – 43 Fatah), in the way thatmost democratic countries would understand free and open elections vs. Hamas is the democratically elected government of Gazan-Palestinians.
  • Despite reform and change, Hamas is responsible for: the summary executions and torture of collaborators and Fatah members; incidences of persecution, torture and murder of men,women, Christians and LGBTIQ citizens; the deaths of 100s of children predominantly from tunnel building & training as combatants and using its citizens as human shields vs. not the case/ unproven.
  • Hamas is designated, (as a whole or as constituent parts); by some countries and the EU as a terrorist organisation vs. Hamas is not a terrorist organisation.

So, whichever opinion camp you fall into, should ‘we’ talk to terrorists? Clearly history shows us that eventually talks do happen. Slowly, agonisingly so, previous arch enemies sit & make uneasy peace. We know, from the Irish-British “Troubles”, that hundreds of years of animosity can be overcome.

However, there needs to be the ‘right’ conditions for talks to begin, even for so-called ‘unconditional’ talks. Who do you talk with? – my personal opinion here is that Jordan, (two thirds old Ottoman-Palestine), should not get-off for this and be part of the solution too. Who is most representative? High level training in diplomacy and peace negotiations? A ‘human’ touch maybe?

The current Israel-Palestine tragedy is embedded in, not just decades, 100s of years of ethnic-religious-geo-political conflict and whether we like it or not, the solutions lie with the politicians and citizens of the region, with conditions of trust enhanced and fear reduced. There may be help from outside, which enhances these conditions. The conditions which are not needed are ones in which venom, demonization and rabble-rousing, glamorous cause celebre sound bites.

Crass comments undermine the peace process, undermine the Green Party’s credibility and reputation and are dangerous.

Crass comments include: we should have more Green Party banners at Gaza protest because green is the colour of resistance, green is the colour of Hamas.

Is this unchallenged comment our ‘true colours’ shining through?

I hope not.

Israeli elections 2013

israelpoliticallandscapelabels1

Israeli elections are taking place on 22nd January. Likud has merged with the further-right nationalist party Israel Beteinu to form Likud Beteinu, a party with a solid support base, if dwindling chances. Likud, who used to be firmly on the right of Israeli politics, have become much more like the centre ground. With all the new alignments and parties there is a lot of confusion – except for the religious right which is looking dangerously stable.

OneVoice Israel has produced an election campaign video, below. Unlike the several featuring Israeli soldiers (can you imagine how troubled this country would have to become before Farage and Cameron started using squad imagery to win elections?) it hasn’t been banned. The urgency of its message is striking – if the far right come to power, the EU and US will withdraw their moral and material support from Israel. The consequences are obvious and left unsaid: Israel will be impotent to withstand the religious and nationalist menaces in the region. OneVoice isn’t an organisation given to provocations – it must feel that desperate times call for desperate measures.

It’s helpful for moderate Israelis to be able to predict a loss of goodwill from concerned international supporters. In these affairs supporters have more influence than detractors.

Unfortunately the Green Party, which has been treating Israel as an untouchable state for years, won’t be making any contribution to this election campaign in this country and region which they and many others – on paper at least – hold crucial to world peace. The Green Party won’t be of help to Israeli moderates – not even its comrades Yeruka, the Israeli Greens. In fact, the Green Party turns its back and officially boycotts Israel as if Israelis were politically alike.

The Green politicians who understand these things aren’t able to prevent the Greens who don’t from indulging their disturbing prejudices as Party policy. Along with the worry and concern it’s caused British Jews, it’s a badge of Green politics.

And during the period of the Green Party boycott campaign against Israel, what has happened with Israeli public opinion? Israeli public opinion has moved toward the political right – Bob From Brockley points to some differing commentary on this. And although it’s probably far-fetched to claim that Green policy has any effect on Israeli policy, it’s important to note and learn from this Green mistake.

Here’s OneVoice’s Israel’s election video. It makes me sad but I think this negative, defencist, scare campaigning will work – because it’s correctly to the point.

Pippa Bartolotti doesn’t have antisemitism in the family

A few weeks ago Martin Bright ran a Jewish Chronicle piece on Green Party England and Wales leadership candidate Pippa Bartolotti, somebody who makes the obvious and boorish kind of antisemitic statements which can’t be ignored.

Adam Ramsay’s response at Bright Green Scotland reminded me that most people who say they find antisemitism unbelievable are reacting to other people who don’t toe their line on hating Israel. He’s an exception and it’s important to recognise that.

You can read PB’s defence in the comments under Adam’s post. She refers to her Jewish grandfather as if not being antisemitic were in the genes. If Jews were as harshly oppressed by Palestinians, she says she’d be working as hard for their human rights – I imagine her invoking the “university of life” lie about Arabs being treacherous by nature. That would be the equivalent to what she has said about Israel’s Jewish ambassador. I wonder how her conversation with the Foreign Office unfolded – has Rowan Laxton been reinstated? They’d have so much to talk about.

You can find out about better candidates on the Green Party’s Internal Elections pages, and by listening to this recent audio hustings. Voting closes on August 31st.