Monthly Archives: November 2008

Private Eye spies Greens

Further to the leakage of the British National Party membership list there’s a piece [pdf] in Private Eye in which Greens Engage are mentioned.

It is important to remember that the leaked BNP list also contained former minor Labour and Liberal Democrat officials. The thing is, when Conservatives forsake the the Conservative Party for the BNP it makes the Conservative Party look less bigotted. When Labour members are attracted away to the BNP, this is also straightforwardly explained in terms of Labour’s failure to respond to the needs of the white working classes. But when Greens – particularly prominent Greens like Keith Bessant – defect and all the Green spokesperson can muster in response is something like “The BNP had a more radical climate change policy”, that looks pretty bad. As the Private Eye piece illustrates, it reminds people of the first European government to promote environmentalism, back in the 1930s.

Greens have worked hard to lose our earlier reputation as the party of romantics and cranks with fringe of far right support, and for good reason we were successful. The danger is that we get it back in the ways set out in Private Eye. Basically, in order to keep on the right side of the credibility gap, we have to exorcise the spectre of David Icke which has been making its presence felt lately.

Hull Greens link to reports blaming 9/11 on Mossad and the CIA. A 9/11 conspiracy believers’ motion to Conference was defeated by just two votes. Tony Gosling gives a glaringly far-fetched and antisemitic conspiracy theory a fair hearing because it chimes with his own beliefs.

If we want to do something about this – and as a political party which aspires to the mainstream we must – we need to respond sharply to people with homophobic, antisemitic values and unassailable conspiracy beliefs when they attempt to build power bases.

If we fail in this we will attract people like Tony Gosling and Keith Bessant and force away gays, Jews, people who care about gays and Jews, and people wish us to pursue serious, stately international relations.

(Private Eye got something wrong though – Greens Engage are not a splinter group, and although we care about Jews I’m certain that not all of us are Jewish.)

UPDATE 28/11: from the comments below: further to a complaint against Tony Gosling by his local party, he has been suspended [update: Bristol Greens have removed reference to Gosling from their site – try Derek Wall’s blog instead] pending investigation of homophobic comments. This is very welcome indeed. There is no reference anywhere about antisemitic statements made by Gosling. Don’t these also matter in the Green Party?

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Bernard Harrison on the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism

At the Autumn Green Conference more than a few members loudly complained that the EUMC definition of antisemitism was stifling their natural, healthy expression about Israel.

The working definition is short, cautious and available in html and pdf formats.

For these members, the problematic parts of the definition are those which are sometimes invoked in response when they express their singular opinions about Israel.

Emeritus Professor of Philosophy Bernard Harrison comments on Engage, further to a motion to be tabled at Leeds University Student Union to adopt the definition. I think the parts of Harrison’s piece which are of most relevance to British Greens are this:

“The definition says that one form of anti-Semitism consists in “applying double standards by requiring of it behaviour nor expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” The EJJC retort is that “This is a formulation that allows any criticism of Israel to be dismissed on the grounds that it is not applied to every other defaulting nation at the same time.” This seems simply to misunderstand the force of the EUMC’s point. That point is not that it is prejudicial to criticize a nation for a criminal act unless one simultaneously mentions every other nation whose record is so stained. It is, rather, that it is prejudicial to criticize a nation for acts which in the case of any other nation would not be considered criminal. Clearly this formulation places no restraint whatsoever on any deserved and non-prejudicial criticism of Israel.”

As well as this:

“The EUMC definition says that it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel. The EJJP replies that “This is the flipside of a position frequently expressed by Prime Minister Sharon and many Zionists, that refuses to make any distinction between the interests of Israel and those of Jews worldwide.“ This reply is vitiated by the difficulty of attaching a clear meaning to the phrase “is the flipside of”. If it means that Sharon and some unnamed collection of Zionists are guilty of the conduct identified as anti-Semitic by the EUMC in this clause, then plainly it is false. Saying that the existence of Israel serves the interests of Jews worldwide is clearly not the same thing as saying that Jews worldwide share responsibility for the actions of the state of Israel. The first claim is very possibly true; the second is not so much false as conceptually incoherent: one might as well argue that because I am British I share responsibility for Gordon Brown’s recent nationalization of two British banks, and am therefore liable to be sued by the shareholders. One cannot conduct any intelligible politics on the basis of this kind of inane drivel.”

And in conclusion, this:

“Given the feebleness of the arguments brought against it by people very anxious to discredit it, in short, the only conclusion to be drawn is that the EUMC definition deserves to be adopted by the Leeds student union, not least in view of the level of anti-semitic incidents and intimidation of Jewish students on campus recorded by its supporters. Let us hope that the vote goes in favour of Motion 4.” 

It’s very easy to avoid charges of antisemitism when criticising Israel. Read Bernard Harrison’s piece to avoid pitfalls in future, and for pity’s sake let’s hear some better opinions and better criticism with respect to Israel from British Greens who want to make a priority of it.

But, deprived of the opportunity to single Israel out, I doubt that Green human rights, civil rights, and anti-war activists would find it such a good priority. I think those who persisted in pushing Israel to the top of the agenda would be reduced to a hardcore of dedicated anti-Zionists and implacable antisemites.

All the EUMC implies, and all Greens Engage insist on, is that Israel is treated according to the same standards accorded to the world’s other states. This is no more than responsible foreign policy.

UK Trade Unions to Foster Closer Links with Israeli and Palestinian Unions

On Engage.

“A delegation of British trade unionists has returned from Israel and the Palestinian territories with a commitment to develop links and co-operation between their Israeli and Palestinian counterparts. This comes at a time of increased co-operation between the Histadrut (Israeli TUC) and the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) following from their historic agreement signed in June 2008.”

Read it all.

Hat tip Green Prophet.

Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians collaborate on water

From Friends of the Earth Middle East (who would suffer badly from any Green Israel boycott) via Green Prophet:

Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Mayors meet to discuss the Regional Water Crisis

The meeting will take place in Baka Gharbia, at Al Kasemi College, in the framework of the “Good Water Neighbors” project and the “Pro-Aquifer” project.

November 25-26, 2008

“The Water Crisis – Community Leadership”

Nov. 23, 2008

Against the backdrop of the severe water crisis in our region, Friends of the Earth Middle East is convening its fifth annual conference of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian mayors. The purpose of this year’s meeting and panel discussion is to deepen understanding of the different implications of the crisis on the three peoples. The mayors will share their different experiences and the efforts undertaken in their local community to address the crisis.

“While in Israel they are reducing agricultural water quotas, in the Palestinian village of Auja , the entire agricultural sector has come to a complete halt, due to the drying of the Auja Stream. As a result, residents are left without any source of income,” states Nader Khateeb, Palestinian Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East.

In light of the failures in water management on the national level, the ability of the mayors and local leaders to find solutions to the water crisis takes on a greater sense of urgency.

Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director of Friends of the Earth Middle East, says that “while the national leadership seeks supply-side solutions such as desalination of sea water and various canals, the local leadership which experiences the impact directly, is focused on demand-side management; conservation and wise water use.”

The conference is being organized by Friends of the Earth Middle East, with the participation of the Ambassador of the EU delegation to the State of Israel, the Director of the United States Agency for International Development, diplomats, mayors, community leaders and residents from the participating communities of the “Good Water Neighbors” project.

The conference will present creative ideas for community empowerment, including the use of the latest GIS technology and will release a publication on ways to alleviate groundwater pollution to the shared Israeli and Palestinian water resource of the Mountain Aquifer.

Participating Communities:

  • Israeli GWN communities: Jordan Valley RC, Beit She’an City & Beit She’an Valley RC, Tamar RC,
  • Emek Hefer RC, Eshkol RC, Tsur Hadassah, Baka el Gharbiya – Jat
  • Palestinian GWN communities: Auja, Jericho , Wadi Fukin, Tulkarm, Baka el Sharkiya, Abassan
  • Jordanian GWN communities: Muaz bin Jabal, Tabket Fahel, Deir Allah, South Ghors

The conference is being supported by USAID, the EU Life Third Countries program, Green Cross France and the Goldman Fund.

For more information: Mira Edelstein, FoEME foreign media officer, 054-6392937