Caroline Lucas, democracy and singling out Israel

Raphael writes:

Caroline Lucas declared her support for seven acquitted campaigners who caused £180,000 damage to an arms factory, backing their direct action.

Weggis makes important points on the singling out of Israel, the strange description of criminal damage as “non-violent direct action”, and whether Smash EDO  should be thought of as ‘Gaza campaigners’. In response to her statements he wonders:

“I don’t know but I would hazard a guess that Israel is not the only customer of the factory that was vandalised and that those customers are also using those weapons for killing people. So, why are they not mentioned? I also suspect that there are other factories in the UK selling arms to undesirable regimes. Why have they escaped? Why is it that Caroline Lucas applauds this action directed at one single and specific case and not the general principle? Why did she not take the opportunity, as our “Leader”, to highlight Green Party Policy? Which is: “End all export subsidies and increase controls on UK arms sales, especially to governments who violate human rights.” i.e. ALL governments who violate human rights and not just Israel.”

There is another disturbing element in Caroline’s declarations.

She says: “However, in this situation it is clear the decommissioners had exhausted all democratic avenues and, crucially, that their actions were driven by the responsibility to prevent further suffering in Gaza.”

She adds: “I do think that there is a time when [non-violent direct action] is legitimate and I think that this was such a time.”

What “democratic avenues” had been tried and exhausted? If you exhaust “democratic avenues” – that is, if you fight and lose elections – does it justify you in imposing your views through direct action and violence? The message here, intentionally or not, is that it you don’t get what you want – that is, if your views are not democratically upheld – it is therefore legitimate and helpful to take up smashing. This has implications which are unfavourable to a political party which participates in a parliamentary democracy. Caroline Lucas is our first MP, but here she seems a little conflicted.

In this particular case, the target of direct action is an arms company which does not appear to have any significant involvement in Israel’s military. I have no sympathy for this or any other arms company, but it is clear that the choice of this company in relation to Gaza is irrational and random. Smash EDO started as a response to the Iraq War. Sussex police say that 20 people have been convicted following four demonstrations against the US-owned firm over the past two years. If it was citing Gaza that acquitted these activists on this occasion, then there’s something wrong.

The protestors could have, using exactly the same line of arguments, targeted the Israel Embassy, some cultural events [after all there is also a campaign in support of a “cultural boycott”], or, why not, a synagogue considered too pro-Zionist. As long as the actions would have been driven “by the responsibility to prevent further suffering in Gaza”, then, it would seem to be OK, even if there was not the merest probability of the action having any impact on the situation in Gaza.

Mira adds:

Not for the first time I wonder what kinds of act against Israelis – or  Jews as proxy Israelis – Caroline Lucas would not excuse as simply acting on “the responsibility to prevent further suffering in Gaza”.

On the aquittal of the smashers, Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor commented “I am convinced that His Honour would have ruled differently had he been sitting in the Sderot youth cultural centre, rather than on Brighton’s sunny shores.”

This appeal to “lawful excuse” does get you thinking though. Now, I’m anxious that this is not misunderstood as any kind of threat because we have no plans in this regard – but if, say, Greens Engage came to believe that it had exhausted the democratic processes of the Green Party, would Caroline Lucas consider us entitled to a more direct avenue of action?

Update: Steven Murdoch (p147) sets out some principles by which to judge destructive acts by political activists:

“When justifying a destructive act, activists reject a part of the rationale used to condemn their actions. They may reject the validity of the law that finds their action illegal, the premise that the negative effect of the action outweighed any benefit, or the position that the act is destructive at all. Activism often exists in opposition to the power structures that govern ethics within societies, so it is important to judge each action on its merit rather than simply accept the determinations of those in power.”

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16 thoughts on “Caroline Lucas, democracy and singling out Israel

  1. Mitnaged

    Good points, Mira

    As for any of the rest of us undertaking direct action as per Caroline Lucas’ endorsement of it against Israel, I wouldn’t even think about it. The Greens, if they were so foolish, would be slung into prison and the key thrown away because they are not professional enough in victimhood, or are victims at all.

    I hope that Bathurst Norman will be chastised by the Lord Chancellor for making a judgement which seems to open the door to any sort of “well-meant” violence (if, that is, violence can ever be well-meant) against any group found to be threatening by another group. Bathurst has a record of making “idiosyncratic” pronouncements too which indicate his biases.

    Not for the first time do I see an ever more blatant double standard in play against Israel by people who have lost any sort of semblance of morality. That it finds refuge in law disturbs me greatly.

    Reply
  2. Clap Hammer

    ‘What “democratic avenues” had been tried and exhausted? If you exhaust “democratic avenues” – that is, if you fight and lose elections – does it justify you in imposing your views through direct action and violence? The message here, intentionally or not, is that it you don’t get what you want – that is, if your views are not democratically upheld – it is therefore legitimate and helpful to take up smashing. This has implications which are unfavourable to a political party which participates in a parliamentary democracy. Caroline Lucas is our first MP, but here she seems a little conflicted.’

    Indeed. That is the very crux of this matter. I one exhausts “democratic avenues”, is one entitled to take ‘direct action’. This opens the door to anarchy and it is hardly surprising that Extreme Leftists of the Guardian Management mold are involved. Their plan is to have anarchy in the UK and to be ‘saved’ by a new and glorious socialist UK like that predating Margaret Thatcher.

    Such is the lunacy of the extreme left.

    Reply
    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      I don’t think it follows to brand the entire far or anarchist left as lunatic smashers, Claphammer. My main issue is with the people who use and accept Gaza as an overriding get-out-of-jail-free card for whatever they fancy.

      Reply
  3. Deborah Fink

    Mira,

    If Greens engage had exhausted the democratic process of the Green party, it could always leave! Actually, I thought you had left….. All Greens engage does is tries to undermine the party, as we can see here….(much like Engage has tried to infiltrate and undermine JfJfP).

    By ‘exhausting democratic avenues’ Caroline is probably referring to lobbying and pickets…Surely you must realise how limited and time consuming these actions are. When Israel was massacring Gazans, not only was there no time to go through this process, our government was doing NOTHING! Miliband would not call for a ceasefire.

    I notice that you conflate Jew with Israeli..Surely if you were really concerned about anti-semitism, you would not do this? You should know very well that when Jews get attacked these days, it is usually because of Israel’s war-crimes.

    But I think the fact that you link to the right-wing smear site, Harry’s place, and Ron Proser, shows how far removed Greens engage is from the ethos of the Green party.

    Regarding Proser’s comments, he is using the typical apologist tactic of trying to present Israel as the victim…Anyone would think that 1400 Israelis had been killed in Sderot rather than 2 … and that 100s of their homes had been flattened rather than a few windows broken…. But it’s back to this old racist notion held by Zios that a Jewish life is worth more than a Palestinian one…

    As for singling our Israel, why not? Israel singles itself out by expecting priviledges not afforded to other countries that abuse human rights..(e.g. EU trade agreement). And what other so called democracy gets way with what Israel has and for so long?

    But this is yet another tired out apologist mantra…..If you can’t deny Israel’s wrong-doings, then why not point out other country’s wrong-doings? It’s akin to a child saying ‘But what about him?’ How childish! But then the mentality behind Israel and its supporters is childish….

    Reply
      1. Mira Vogel Post author

        To address some bits of your post, Deborah:

        “If Greens engage had exhausted the democratic process of the Green Party, it could always leave!”

        Only somebody who didn’t care about the Green Party would encourage others you disagree with to leave. In Greens Engage we care about the Green Party, otherwise we would gladly leave. This is a demoralising political life we have at the moment. But we think there is much to celebrate about the Green Party. We’re a single issue blog, as we believe is required, but we are not single issue people. Some of us are parliamentary candidates. Others are councillors.

        “I notice that you conflate Jew with Israeli”

        You haven’t taken the trouble demonstrate that we do, and I don’t think that we do. I personally spend a lot of time drawing a distinction. http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/06/27/in-a-quandry-about-relating-to-israel/

        I can tolerate and accommodate for your “shame as a Jew” about Israel and your overarching and driving hostility to Israel’s existence, but I think you are very wrong.

        “All Greens engage does is tries to undermine ….(much like Engage has tried to infiltrate and undermine JfJfP).

        That is a specious, unevidenced and aggressive allegation, for which you give (because you have none) no evidence. And the fact that you come to us here to make casual, unevidenced allegations which although they become part of the fabric of the web, you bash out seemingly without any sense of responsibility, is unacceptable. So take more care and show more respect to your fellow members, and other readers, and this blog, if you want your contributions to be published.

        “But it’s back to this old racist notion held by Zios that a Jewish life is worth more than a Palestinian one”

        That is the last time you use the word ‘Zio’ on this blog. It is the word US White Supremacists like David Duke use when they mean Jew. It is always used in a way hostile to Zionists (the common denominator of Zionism is simply that Jews need state power – a very ordinary belief we acknowledge in other nations even if we disagree with it), and so is liable to start a fight. From your International List participation, you are aware of this. You also casually throw the word around, always with contempt, as if we all knew what it stood for, and in this way you smear it. Nobody with any right to speak for Zionists says that a Jewish life is worth more than a Palestinian one. Nor do you demonstrate that anybody does. This is very frustrating. You post prolifically, but you do not show any will to get to the bottom of things. I find this very disrespectful. Worse I also think it is the kind of attitude which entrenches mindsets which characterise the conflict. It is entirely unhelpful.

        “It’s akin to a child saying ‘But what about him?’”

        Which the child is entitled to do if they are forever on the receiving end of intense and extraordinary scrutiny and hostility experienced out of all proportion to their ills, while proportionally similar ills of other children excite no particular interest. I encourage GP members to take a look at the Green Party International list archives, and our conference agendas and resolutions, and wonder how this came to happen. This singling out is the foundation of antisemitism.

        Deborah, until you begin to make better, more responsible, and more constructive criticism of what you oppose, and until you care about the antisemitism which prolongs the conflict and which is troubling us now, we will have to talk about you rather than about Israel and Palestine. Is that what you want? And if you come here to insult, rather than to move forward constructively, then I will be entitled to moderate you.

        Reply
    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      23% of the politically-minded internet-using electorate can stomach it Joseph – they just don’t realise it. In the run-up to the election, 292,708 people took a blind survey at the Vote For Policies site, and on the basis of policies alone over 23% would have voted for the Green Party. That was the biggest share of support – Labour came in second with over 20%. Green Party policies attract people who care about social and environmental justice.

      Reply
  4. Raphael

    Debbie is clearly not here to debate and engage into rational arguments. Let’s just note that the following paragraph is not significantly altered if you replace “fight and lose elections” by “lobby and pickets and don’t obtain satisfaction”.

    ************
    What “democratic avenues” had been tried and exhausted? If you exhaust “democratic avenues” – that is, if you fight and lose elections – does it justify you in imposing your views through direct action and violence? The message here, intentionally or not, is that it you don’t get what you want – that is, if your views are not democratically upheld – it is therefore legitimate and helpful to take up smashing.

    Reply
  5. Mira Vogel Post author

    Deborah returned with further comments of insults and aggressive and unsubstantiated assertions, so I acted on the comments policy.

    I don’t mind disagreements or challenges, as is hopefully clear from ‘Black’ Engage (where I think Deborah wore out her welcome before I started). But I can’t guarantee to tolerate insults, defamation or use of a discussion thread to propagandise an uncomplicated and unconditional opposition to Israel where Israel becomes some kind of cartoon villain, and Palestinians hardly touched on. This is a blog about antisemitism related to campaigning about Israel, something that readers of the International List know Deborah has never acknowledged and actively denies, in contravention of Green Party policy statements. This denial could conceivably happen in good faith – but then you have to want to read and respond thoughtfully to other people’s point of view to comment on this blog, rather than to tool it like a demagogue.

    Deborah has places on the web, and she can write there. If she wants Greens Engage to read what she writes, she can use the Contact Us form.

    Reply
  6. Isca Stieglitz

    Imaginary scenario –
    I write letters to the Green Party of England & Wales’ Executive-because of their interest; I write letters to my MP etc. about the activities of say ‘Friends of Palestine’ or ‘Stop the War’ and say –
    I ‘believe’ that they have links to unsavoury groups and provide funds which are, down the chain, syphoned of for Hamas military and terrorist activity; killing dissenters/ ‘collaborators’ and civilians (inc. women & children), within Gaza and sending ‘x’ thousand mini-missiles at southern Israeli towns, killing civilians (inc. women & children).
    I am ignored.
    I lobby every person/ group I can.
    I am ignored.
    I demonstrate outside said offices and buildings.
    I am ignored.
    I attempt to take them to court.
    I am ignored and told that these organisations do not have links to groups which are directly responsible for ‘crimes against humanity’, within or without Gaza –
    I have in my mind ‘exhausted all avenues’! Not sure if ‘Smash EDO’ did any of this, but we are told ‘all avenues were exhausted’.
    So, I decide to take direct action. I have now called my group – ‘Smash FoP & STW At the Same Time’. I break into the head offices of ‘Friends of Palestine’ and ‘Stop the War’ and trash the place, especially the computers and the safes where money is kept. I cause £187, 000 worth of damage.
    My defence? Well, I exhausted all channels and I know for sure that the funds coming out of this office go directly or indirectly to funding terrorist activity and hence crimes against humanity.
    FoP and STW deny this. My MP supports me. How would I be treated by a judge & jury?
    The same as the ‘Smash EDO’?

    Naaah, of course not and neither should I be…neither should they have been treated in this way.

    It does not resemble any Judge’s guidance or jury decision within the legal framework that I learned about in law.
    My case sounds even more ridiculous when I read it back to myself!

    Reply
  7. John

    Can you actually prove that these funds go to supporting Hamas, and military actions against Israel? In the case of an arms factory you have to admit that the link is more obvious, that there’s an intention of violence to start with.

    A few years ago I gave some money to MAP. It was for medical and hospital supplies. I did some careful research before I gave them money. however even if someone stole my donation and used it to buy bullets, they would have been subverting the organisation, and the intention of the organisation.

    Reply
  8. Pingback: Formal reprimand for Bathurst-Norman « Greens Engage

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