Monthly Archives: May 2008

What is Racism? by Adrian Windisch

Adrian Windisch is Chair of Reading Green Party, the original paper was published on Adrian’s blog, here.

Racism is Prejudice based on an individual’s race which can be expressed individually or through institutional policies or practices. Prejudice includes; race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social origin, age. Also anything that pretends to describe the characteristics or traits of a whole people might be racist even if unintentionally so.

Is it racist to say black people are good runners or women are good at multi tasking? Some of these things are generalisations, they are true for some people but not all, and I think it depends how they are used. Because many top runners are black doesn’t mean all black people are runners. To prejudge anyone is wrong, no matter how many other people of the same background you know, we all have the right to be judged for our own actions.

Prejudice is also behind antisemitism, another form of racism, and should not be tolerated. Antisemitism is hostility toward or prejudice against Jews or Judaism. Holocaust denial is anti-Antisemitism at its most extreme. Its true many things the government of Israel does is wrong, but to blame all Jews, or Israelis, is also wrong.

What causes racism? In my opinion its ignorance, the idea that one group is superior, or different, to another doesn’t survive knowledge of that other group. For centuries people in Eastern Europe and Russia defined Jews as inferior, caused them to live beyond the pale . Now this means ‘unacceptable; outside agreed standards of decency’, but it came from Catherine the Great who created a ‘Pale of Settlement’ in Russia in 1791. Some Jews were allowed to live, as a concession, beyond the pale.

So if segregation helps cause racism, what of different culture living together, or multiculturalism. ‘In this sense multiculturalism requires that all cultures should be open, self-critical, and interactive in their relations with other each other’ said Lord Parekh, professor of political philosophy Chair of the 2000 report for the Runnymede Trust , ‘The Future of Multi-ethnic Britain is and should remain a vibrant and democratic multicultural society that must combine respect for diversity with shared common values. Multiculturalism basically means that no culture is perfect or represents the best life and that it can therefore benefit from a critical dialogue with other cultures. ‘

Trevor Phillips, Labour politician and ex chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, called for multiculturalism to be scrapped. The Phillips debate about multiculturalism has been to shift the emphasis away from the real challenge, which is fighting social inequality, intolerance and racism, as well as the unprecedented demonising some people for what can only be described as not fiting in.

What’s in a name?

If you look at the “About Us” section of this web site you will find my name listed. There are more of us but some have chosen not to have their name splashed on the Internet.

Let’s have a look at those names. Levy. It’s a fair bet that he is Jewish. Vogel, not so sure, but Mira, there’s a clue. Toby Green, maybe Jewish? A “stein” on the end would be more of a giveaway. Burns, shades of Scotland there. And Howe, potentially Scottish too. I do have ginger hair and there is the caricature of the “mad ginger Scotsman”. But hold on. How many Scots do you know who are ginger?

Recently, Mira asked me a question. She said “Has anybody asked you if you’re Jewish yet?” She pointed to the experience of John Mann MP in relation to the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism.

‘When I commissioned this inquiry, one MP commented with surprise: “I didn’t realise you were Jewish.” Neither did I.’

My reply was “Not only have I not been asked if I am Jewish, as far as I can recall I have never ever been asked about my religion, except on census forms and when I got married.” How about you?

Nobody, at least not overtly or to my knowledge, has made assumptions or connections between my expressed views and my religion or my background. But it has happened to John Mann, Jon Pike and other anti-boycotters. Perhaps it has happened to me because of my stance on this boycott, but without my knowledge? If it has, should I be surprised?

Alright, Jews can be sensitive, especially when it comes to the subject of the history of their people. But can we blame them when their views are so often automatically associated with their Jewishness rather than being derived from independent and reasoned thought. Are Jews not capable of the same independence of mind as anybody else?

Alan Howe

Fair cooperation and water needs-based approach to solve the water crisis in Middle East

It’s been a while since I posted news of Israeli and Palestinian collaboration on solving a shared environmental problem – here’s news of high level work amongst international water experts on one of the critical outstanding issues for Israelis and Palestinians – a joint redefinition of water needs. (The ‘Peres’ in the ‘Peres Centre for Peace‘ is the Israeli President, Shimon Peres). The consensus is:

  • There is a basic human need for water resources of approximately 60 m3 per capita per year for human health, hygiene and running a water efficient economy that permits sufficient social and economic development to allow progress towards providing all people with a high quality of life.
  • After this basic human need has been met, priority must be given to providing water for base flows in rivers and streams to prevent ecosystem collapse, and water for livelihoods for vulnerable groups that lack any alternative economic opportunities.
  • Water surplus to these basic needs must be allocated between nations on an equitable basis, and subsequently allocated to economic uses relating to such production activities as those nations choose through their own internal processes, while taking into consideration principles of economic efficiency, social equity, environmental sustainability and international water law.

More work is needed on the principles of allocation, and this is related to the still-awaited final status agreement:

Oren Blonder from The Peres Center for Peace summarized:“ The purpose of the Water Needs in Middle East Initiative is to identify and agree upon possible definitions of water needs. Once these definitions will be elucidated, they will be used by Israeli and Palestinian experts, assembled by Green Cross and the Peres Center for Peace, together with the Jerusalem Institute and Palestinian Hydrology Group, to formulate water need scenarios for Israel/Palestine“. Upon completion of the research, a final conference will be held in Paris and the potential outcomes resulting from the project will be examined, as will the potential effects of the project on the revival of the Palestinian and Israeli water sectors. The results of this research will play an instrumental role in the final status negotiations.

Caroline Lucas defends the Boycott in Jewish Socialist magazine

Quote:

Financial and moral support from the United States means that Israel has been able to act with relative immunity, hiding behind its incendiary claim that all who criticise its policies are anti Semitic. This does a great disservice to the many Jewish people who support the principle of universal human rights, and who oppose the current policies of the Israeli state.”

Full text of her article entitled: No green light for occupiers, here.

David Hirsh discusses Caroline’s use of the Livingstone Formulation, here.

Caroline Lucas – a platform too far?

UPDATE (28th May 2008): It appears that on that day, Caroline did not only share a platform with Hamas rep in the UK, but also with Hamas leader in Gaza. A video message from Ismail Haniyeh was shown to the public. Here is a quote from Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar “After we defeat the Zionists we will persecute them… we will persecute them to eternity, and the sun of the freedom and independence of the Palestinians will burn all of the Zionists,”.

Green Party Principal Speaker isn’t celebrating Israel’s 60 year survival and its successes in any shape or form. She’s going for the haggard old 60 Years of Disaster line.

On May 10th she will speak at an event co-organised by the British Muslim Initiative, aligned with the sexist, homophobic, racist and pan-Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, and headed up by Hamas envoy, suicide bombing supporter and (in case it wasn’t already clear) Israel negationist Azzam Al-Tamimi (if you follow that link you’ll be wondering about this rumoured new antisemitism-free Hamas charter. Well two years later there’s no sign of it). As well as organising terror campaigns against Israel and carrying out putsches in Gaza, Hamas is an organisation which inspires children to become martyrs, peddles an official line that Jews abused holocaust memory to hold onto Israel, and calls for Jews to be killed.

Another organiser is the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), one of the organisations leading the Boycott Israel Into Oblivion campaign. The PSC is involved in a hideous faction fight in which the anti-Zionists who want to get rid of its entrenched antisemitism are fighting the anti-Zionists who think that antisemitism is integral to the struggle for Palestinian rights. Now is not a good time to be sitting on the fence – the defenders of antisemitism are winning.

Caroline Lucas staunchly threw her weight behind the campaign against the BNP in the run-up to this month’s elections. The BNPs racism is easy to recognise. They say things like “We’re going to repeal all Britain’s anti-racism legislation and ban any non-British languages in schools”. Caroline even pointed out in a press release that “The BNP has a long history of anti-semitism”. Well yes. And so do Hamas and Hesbollah. And the Socialist Worker Party. It’s obvious we’d be against the BNP. But what about the kind of racism that creeps around on tiptoe calling itself other things?

According to the Green Party policy (RR803), the Green Party of England Wales and Northern Ireland will not mount joint campaigns or policy initiatives on any issues with groups who endorse racial, ethnic or national hatred.

And yet its Spring conference decided to join a global campaign to boycott Israel – a campaign based on double standards and half-truths, and advanced with racist politics. A campaign that doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

And yet its principal speaker, Caroline Lucas, will be speaking tomorrow at an event organized by the British Muslim Initiative and the PSC.

Of course, as important as the people and organizations she will be with, is what she is going to say.

According to Green Party policy, Speakers and Officers of The Green Party of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will only share platforms with groups who endorse racial, ethnic or national hatred at a public or private meeting where that offers an opportunity to confront and oppose racism.

We hope that Caroline will confront and oppose racism tomorrow.

You can contact Caroline via her website www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk

Raphaël Lévy and Mira Vogel, editors of Greens against the Boycott of Israel