Monthly Archives: April 2008

Green candidate: no to boycott

UPDATE 1 (April 19, 4pm): It seems that Sian and Jenny do not confirm the JC information. We are waiting for a full statement from them; it will be published as soon as…

UPDATE 2 (April 24, 10am): No public statement from Sian or Jenny; I copy below the full press release from London Jewish Forum which was issued after the meeting (the JC article was based on this press release).

From the Jewish Chronicle

Green candidate: no to boycott
17/04/2008 12:01:00

Sian Berry, the Green candidate for mayor of London, has disavowed the party’s policy of support for boycotting Israel. She and London Assembly Green member Jenny Jones told the London Jewish Forum on Tuesday they looked forward to the policy being changed, according to the forum. Adrian Cohen, LJF chairman, said it was “a first step towards links between the London Jewish community and the Green Party”.

PRESS RELEASE (issued by London Jewish Forum):

London Jewish Forum meeting with Green Party candidates

17th April 2008

Embargo: Immediate

On Tuesday evening, Adrian Cohen and other members of London Jewish Forum met with Green Mayoral candidate Sian Berry and Assembly Member Jenny Jones to discuss the London elections and to foster mutual understanding between the Green Party and London’s Jewish community.

The meeting saw a discussion of the priorities of Jewish Londoners, as well as those of the Green Party. Community safety and the threat of political extremism, cultural provision and the need for increased social housing to accommodate the growing Charedi community in Stamford Hill were all discussed. The Green candidates highlighted their commitment to increase the proportion of affordable housing in new developments to 60%.

There was a frank discussion surrounding the Green Party’s support for the boycott of Israel. Both Sian Berry and Jenny Jones confirmed that they did not support the current policy and looked forward to this being changed at their next conference.

The London Jewish Forum was invited to organise a speaker for a meeting at the next Green Conference, in London in September, to speak on the issue of Jewish community interests.

Sian Berry expressed serious concerns about the threat of BNP gains in the assembly election. LJF outlined the communal ‘Your Voice or theirs Campaign’, aimed at increasing Jewish turnout.

Adrian Cohen, Chair of London Jewish Forum, said “This was very successful meeting, with a frank discussion on a wide range of issues. It was a first step towards building links between the London Jewish community and the Green Party, and I look forward to that relationship developing further.”

Over the past months, London Jewish Forum has held meetings with the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat mayoral candidates.


Boycott-induced introversion – not environmentally friendly

As well as not working very well (especially when they’re vague and don’t have realistic aims, as in the case of our embarrassing and hate-inspiring Motion C05), boycotting a country causes that country to turn in on itself. It’s worth noting, since there’s a tendency to mis-compare Israel with South Africa, that the end of apartheid was achieved through popular uprising and the political acumen of anti-apartheid activists like Nelson Mandela, and the role of the boycott, which had the side-effect of making apartheid-supporting South Africans – the holders of power – defiantly hunker down, is contested.

Israelis understand that the intention of their boycotters is to cancel Israel – by referring to it as an ‘apartheid state’ as if Israel and Palestine were a single country, by proposing to starve it of weapons despite the avowed obliterationist intentions of powerful regional factions like Hesbollah and Hamas, or by claiming that all Palestinians have the right to live in Israel. Understandable if they feel a tiny bit alienated and insecure.

After all, Israel has been boycotted and under attack since its inception, a circumstance which, in the consciousness of many Jews, is merely a continuation of age-old attacks on, boycotts of, discrimination against, and explusion of Jews. British Greens should care more.

This Jerusalem Post article on an Israeli bill to introduce a 1NIS charge for each plastic bag used in supermarkets, makes a few points that Green Boycotters should note. One is to do with the fact that states who feel under attack relegate environmentalism down their list of priorities. Another is the impact of Israelis who have travelled and return with stories about how other countries are handling their environmental problems. I doubt if many Israelis are looking to Boycotting Britannia right now. Greens Stop the Boycott would like to change that.

Yehuda Olander, manager of the Sharon District Regional Division for the Quality of the Environment, attributes Israel’s lack of progress on environment preservation to its constant occupation with survival. “Survival here is not only talking about the environment, it’s talking about security,” he explains. “Ten to 20 years ago, when the rest of the world began caring for the environment, Israel was focused on surviving as a country.

“But it works to Israel’s advantage,” Olander continues. Through other countries’ successes and failures, Israel can learn how to be more environmentally responsible.

“[Israelis] come back from Europe and [other parts of the world] and say ‘Wow, look what they have done – how they recycle and how they avoid traveling too much in their cars.'”

Ken apologises (sort of)

Peter Tatchell, Green Party’s parliamentary candidate for Oxford East, on CIF

Adrian Windisch, Reading Green Party, adds

The post is aimed at Ken Livingstone, who accuses Green Party Candidate for Oxford East, Peter Tachell of ‘Islamaphobia’. Its telling that his experience has been similar to others here over Israel.

He says ‘because I criticised Ken on one issue (Qaradawi), he has slurred me as an Islamophobe. It all began when Ken invited the right-wing Muslim cleric to City Hall in 2004 and saluted him as an “honoured guest”. I found his embrace of Qaradawi very odd and quite appalling, given that the sheikh is indisputably antisemitic, homophobic and sexist.’

Just as many on here have been, Peter found himself accused. ‘The mayor condemned me as anti-Muslim, and even suggested I was a pawn of the Israeli secret service and US neocons.’ Now before the Mayoral elections Ken is slightly changing his tune.

Is the Green Party leadership taking anti-Semitism seriously?

On Harry’s Place, here:

Somehow, the post disappeared on HP during its site move, I repost it here for reference:

Is the Green Party leadership taking anti-Semitism seriously?
In October last year, I made a complaint to the Green Party executive and Green Party Regional Council co-chairs, because of what I perceived as anti-Semitic abuse in one of the internal lists of the Green Party, namely the International list.

The thrust of the complaint was the absolute refusal by some members of this list to consider me as an ordinary Green Party member, and, instead, persisting calling me “an Israeli academic speaking on behalf of Israel”, this, being repeated over and over, in a climate of demonization of Israel, and even after I had made clear that I was not an Israeli nor an agent of the Israeli government (the latter had been explicitly suggested).

After deep thoughts, the Chair of the Party and GPRC co-chair concluded that “We do not agree with the complainant that comments made on this list were anti-Semitic, but we do agree that there is absolutely no place for racism, homophobia or anti-Semitism here.”

So, in the Green Party, it is OK to call a member who appear to have a Jewish name, “an Israeli academic speaking on behalf of Israel” and to accuse him (without the beginning of a proof) of being “part of the groups of Israeli academics who toured Britain in advance of the UCU vote to block it”. It does not even need clarification: the activists who made the comments above were not asked to post corrections.

When low level anti-Semitism is tolerated, it can be expected that more intense level of racist language will develop.

Indeed, in March of this year, one influential person in the party gave tacit support to the idea of “smashing” Jews who fail to denounce Israel (this conclusion can be drawn by putting together the content of a couple of postings from the individual concerned, see link at the end of this post). If this is not considered to constitute antisemitism, I would like to know what would. To take a not entirely dissimilar example, I hope nobody in the Green Party would find it acceptable for a Green Party member (senior or otherwise) to justify statements in support of “smashing” descendants of African slaves who fail to denounce Sierra Leone.

The casual acceptance of such serious abuse is a further cause of concern; these extraordinary statements did not cause an outrage but passed essentially unchallenged.

This matter has been raised again with the Chairman of the party by myself and others and is being considered further. If you are a Green Party voter, member or sympathizer, and would like to offer additional support, you can contact the Chair of the Green Party, Richard Mallender,

Like other organizations, the Green Party is not immune to anti-Semitism, but contrary to many other places, as shown by the publication of this letter, the Green Party is not afraid to deal with them in an open, transparent way.

Raphael Levy, Green Party member,

“Smashing the zionists”: not antisemitic

“Smashing the zionists”: not antisemitic

The Green Party has a discussion list, open to all members, to discuss international issues. The Boycott of Israel and antisemitism have been at the centre of intense debate on this list in recent months. In the last few days, extraordinary messages have been published and these deserve scrutiny.

The discussion started with an antiracist contribution by XXX reproducing an article in Private Eye which highlighted antisemitic comments made by Redmond O’Neill, Livingstone’s chief of staff.[1] Private Eye’s piece, reproduced in XXX post included the following: “But O’Neill went on and on about the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He said they represented the ‘Zionist lobby’ and ‘we must smash the Zionists’…””

YYY thought this was not antisemitism but perfectly legitimate antizionism.[2] It is fine to use words such as “Zionist lobby” to describe the institution which represent the Jewish community in this country, and it is all right to incite to violence against them because, YYY writes: “we would not agree with organizations which support Zionism. I am open to correction here, but I think that would be a fair assessment of the Board of Deputies. I have never heard them condemn the Zionist project that is the state of Israel.”

Following a query by ZZZ [3], YYY refines a bit his definition of Zionism [4].
For YYY, “both [i.e. 1) Jewishness; 2) supporting the existence of a state of Israel] would be a necessary part of such a definition, but not sufficient. Zionism implies certain things _about_ a State of Israel, such as the infamous ‘Law of the Return’. In practice Zionism involves racial discrimination, in favour of Jews and against, for example, Palestinians ”

i) YYY does not have any problem with “smashing the zionist”
ii) YYY thinks that any Jew who does not explicitly condemn the existence of Israel is a Zionist [a new version of the loyalty test [5], applicable to all Jews]

Incidentally, YYY is also revisionist: their definition of Zionism does not mention the historical cause of Jewish nationalism, also called Zionism, i.e. the widespread persecution of Jews in Europe in the 19th and 20th century, and YYY speaks of Israel, not as a state, but as a “project”.

The views of the Green Party activist YYY quoted below do not represent or engage the Green Party. The Green Party is an antiracist party; it cannot, and hopefully, will not, let open antisemitism, bordering with invitation to racist violence, unanswered. Such discourse has no place in an antiracist Party. The Green Party is antiracist, it is time for the Green Party executive to make sure that its policies are a reality within its own internal discussion lists.

[1] On March 21, XXX posted a contribution entitled “Antisemitism on the Left ? – or not”. This contribution was inspired by a Private Eye article. Here is XXX contribution:

I reproduce here part of an article that appears in the current Private Eye, no 1206, p.9, under the heading ‘Mayor Culpa’, It deals with ‘devastating leaks about public money going astray’ under Ken Livingstone’s administration, but also details the ‘strange alliances’ that Livingstone has been pursuing.

Greens in Lonsdon are of course being urged to give their second
preference vote to Labour.

Now I am not Jewish, but the account I read here sounds very much like
antisemitism to me.

Can anyone explain to me why I should see it otherwise?
“...The most senior whistleblower is Atma Singh, a member of Socialist Action and Livingstone’s adviser on Asian affairs. In 2003, his comrades urged Livingstone to ally with the Arab Muslim brotherhood and Jamaat-i-Islami…

Singh was stunned. He tried to stop Livingstone embracing Yusuf al-Qadarawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s chief theologian, who…had said of the civilian victims of suicide bombings in Israel: ‘We cannot say that the casualties are innocent civilians. They are not civilians or
innocent’. Livingstone’s staff arranged for the sheikh to visit London…Singh confronted Redmond O’Neill, Livingstone’s chief of staff.

“I objected to Livingstone saying we must work with al-Qadarawi and
others who were soft on suicide attacks on Israelis’, Singh told the Eye. ‘I
said we had a good relationship with London’s Jews and the Board of Deputies of
British Jews worked with us in the National assembly against racism. But
O’Neill went on and on about the Board of Deputies of British Jews. He said
they represented the ‘Zionist lobby’ and ‘we must smash the Zionists’…

[2] YYY disagrees, when O’Neil rants about the Board of Deputies of British Jews and say they represent the ‘Zionist lobby’ and ‘we must smash the Zionists’, it is not antisemitism, it is just normal and justified anzionism:

You refer to “anti-semitism”, but actually quote only opposition to Zionism, which is quite different.

I don’t think the Green Party is at all anti-semitic. On the other hand, I am clear that we have long been opposed to Zionism. The latter is entirely incompatible with Green views on human rights and a sustainable future.
The infamous Israeli ‘law of the return’ is just the most obvious example.

It follows that we would not agree with organisations which support Zionism. I am open to correction here, but I think that would be a fair assessment of the Board of Deputies. I have never heard them condemn the Zionist project that is the state of Israel.

Some of Livingstone’s alliances and allies are not to my taste either, but I think one has to recognise that in the second round of the Mayoral election there will only be two choices – Ken Livingstone or Boris Johnson. If one wishes to express a preference, one has to take the rough with the smooth, either way. Are you seriously suggesting that Boris Johnson would be a better Mayor?

That is a choice for our members in the London Federation, but I doubt they would agree with your apparent preference, for all Livingstone’s faults and egoism.

XXX replies:

I don’t think you read my post very carefully. What I quoted was Redmond O’Neill’s claim that the Board of Deputies of British Jews ‘represented the Zionist lobby’.

Is it enough that someone claims that someone else is a member of the ‘Zionist lobby’ for that claim to be accepted as fact?

Because that seems to be what is happening here.”

Apparently, it is enough: YYY will not reply to this point.

[3] Then ZZZ stepped in and asked:

“Before we go any further into this bramble patch, can we agree on what is meant by Zionism please? I could find no reference to it in the MfSS, although it would have been there in the preamble to the Palestine & Israel motion was passed, which it was not.

I had a chat with an Israeli at the UNA-UK conference who defined a Zionist as any Jew who wants to see a State of Israel. A quick onliine definition for Zionism is given as “a policy for establishing and developing a national homeland for Jews in Palestine “.

[4] YYY is keen to provide an answer:

I think both would be a necessary part of such a definition, but not sufficient. Zionism implies certain things _about_a State of Israel, such as the infamous ‘Law of the Return’. In practice Zionism involves racial discrimination, in favour of Jews and against, for example, Palestinians.

Zionism is an ideology which the Green Party obviously does not share, believing in human rights for all now, rather than ancient theological fantasies.


David Aaronovitch suffers

David Aaronovitch writes in the JC on the new polite antisemitism:

“By minor serendipity these two things happened on Tuesday of last week. First there was the laconic posting in the comments section accompanying my column in the online edition of The Times. I’d written about the row over the oath. Anyway, in amongst the “I am British and they’ll have to force me to take an oath over my cold, dead body” stuff, was this from “Edward” of Lincoln. Repeating a line that I’d used, Edward simply appended: “Ah the international people. Don’t you just love them?”

“On the same evening as Edward slithered around the taste-and-decency guards, I attended a dinner at the Commons held to discuss “antisemitic discourse”, and comprising of a number of MPs, a gaggle of journalists — including two from the BBC — a writer or two and several folk from the community. The event was governed by a convention known as Chatham House Rules, whereby I can tell you what was said, but not who said it. And no, I can’t leave tantalising hints so that people can work it out. What do you take me for?”

Things went badly – read on at the JC.

HT: Tristan