Very cunning Nazis infiltrate the Green Party?

Until now this blog has not covered internal matters of the Green Party, but has limited itself to what is in the public domain. Serious cases of antisemitism occurred and we duly pursued the issue internally through the Green Party’s own democratic avenues. In the last few weeks, however, we have come to the conclusion that this approach has failed and that in the absence of open and free discussions and external scrutiny, the Green Party problem with antisemitism will not be resolved. In the interests of the Green Party, we have therefore decided to take a more direct action type of approach, namely to raise in this forum some of the serious incidents which have happened, along with the inappropriate response of the institution so far. We cannot any longer provide cover for these things, and until the Green Party acts on its own policies, we are obliged to take responsibility for making the climate less conducive to antisemitism.

The first post in this series deals with an incident that took place on an internal e-mail list of the Green Party in July. This list is a forum for general discussion and it has over 100 subscribers. The thread in which the incident took place was not about Israel or the Middle East. A member had circulated a racist BNP article under the subject line ‘FYI: Something from an anti-capitalist party’. Raphael and others challenged the circulation of this material without a commentary which counteracted its racist content.

At some point, the member in question became annoyed and sent the following, targeted at Raphael, under the subject line “Beware!!!”:

************

Thu, Jul 8, 2010 at 2:30 PM

I always do my best to be kind to those of different race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, social class, and species, but I am afraid I have sometimes forgotten to include a warning on my emails for those of well below average intelligence.

So, somewhat belatedly, here is a warning

– some people are NAZIS, and they are very cunning,  and sometimes they even manage to infiltrate Green Party email lists.

You can recognise NAZIS by the following behaviour

1) Using terrorism to steal someone else’s land

2) Killing innocent women and children as a collective punishment when they don’t like the leaders of the group of people whose land they stole

3) Mounting an illegal blockade (well, illegal according to those busybodies in the UN)

4) Murdering peace activists in international waters when they try to break the blockade

5) Calling others NAZIS to throw people off the scent

Now let’s all chill out and listen to this http://www.seizetheday.org/music.cfm?albumID=4&trackID=52

Love and Peace

XXX

***************

Raphael made a formal complaint to the GPRC (Green Party Regional Committee) co-chairs. The first page of the complaint is copied below. The other pages of the complaint detailed the legal background, as well as the internal Green Party background (anti-racist policies, internal reports, etc) and further analyzed the meaning of the offending e-mail:

This complaint relates specifically to the e-mail sent by XXX on the discussion list of the Green Party (discussion@lists.greenparty.org.uk) on Thursday, Jul 8, 2010 at 2:30 PM. This will be referred to below as the offending e-mail.

I consider that:

1) The offending email constitutes harassment under the provision of the Race Relations Act;
2) The offending email constitutes defamation under the Defamation Act 1996;
3) The offending email is in direct contradiction with the fundamental principles and policies of the party.

The object of this complaint is to ensure that an appropriate strong institutional response is finally given to this serious abuse. Such a response is necessary to protect me as an individual, to protect the reputation of the Green Party as a tolerant and anti-racist organization, to reduce the probability of future abuse, and to ensure that, in case of further similar abuse, a prompt and adequate response will be given.

An institutional response should include at the very least the two elements below

1. A full withdrawal of the offending email and an unreserved apology concerning the offending email. In case of refusal from XXX, disciplinary action should be sought.

2. A clear statement issued by the GPEx [Green Party Executive Committee] Chair, or moderator of the list, or GPRC co-chair condemning the offending e-mail, and making it clear that such abuse will not be tolerated.

Here is the official response of the Green Party Regional Council co-chairs Nicola Watson and Tim Dawes.

———- Forwarded message ———-

Date: Fri, Jul 23, 2010 at 2:34 PM
Subject: Complaint from RL about XXX
To: Raphael Levy

Raphael,

The Co-chairs of Regional Council have carefully considered your formal
complaint concerning the XXX’s recent postings on the General
Discussion List.

We have decided that the complaint has no sound basis and that there
being no case to answer, it will not be considered further.  This
decision, which is taken by the Co-Chairs in accordance with the current
complaints and disciplinary procedures will be referred to the next GPRC
meeting for noting.

In taking this decision we are taking into account that:

1.  The moderator of the list took the appropriate action at the time.

2.  XXX’s tone and actions were clearly intended to be satirical in
nature and the last posting, which you saw as a personal attack, was in
fact prompted by a suggestion from A N Other person that XXX was
himself a Nazi infiltrator who was deliberately trying to promulgate BNP
ideas, a suggestion we find completely ludicrous.

3.  At the time of the incident, one of the Co-Chairs did in fact speak
to XXX about the posting of BNP text and advised him that, even for
illustrative and/or provocative purposes, this had been an unwelcome
action and was considered wrong.  He accepted that the way he had drawn
attention to the issues was inappropriate, had been a lapse of judgement
and undertook to be more circumspect in future.  An apology from him was
posted to the list.

Kind regards,

Tim Dawes and Nicola Watson
Co-Chairs of GPRC
———- End of forwarded message ———-

In fact, and as noted in the complaint, the moderator closed the thread without comment – hardly an appropriate action. The apology was not about the offending email above, but about the circulation of the BNP article. Here is the text of the said apology.

9/7/2010:

Sorry if my posting of something from the BNP caused so much upset on the
list. Of course my aim wasn’t to recruit for them, merely to alert people to
the danger

XXX

_____________

You can write to Nicola Watson and Time Dawes (http://www.hustings.com/tim-dawes) with your comments (please make your criticism constructive and avoid abuse).

See too the following people (none of whom have any political hostility to Greens, at least one of whom is a Green):

Mira Vogel
Raphael Levy
Gordon Hodgson
Toby Green
Alan Howe

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23 thoughts on “Very cunning Nazis infiltrate the Green Party?

  1. John

    As a member of the Green Party I’m pleased that the chairs took clear such sensible action. I am sad that you are so upset by it.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Very cunning Nazis infiltrate the Green Party « Engage – the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism

  3. Chris

    One of the grounds for dismissing the complaint was that the offending email was provoked by a prior accusation. Yet this claim, which the co-chairs find “completely ludicrous” is also completely unsubstantiated.

    And even if it were provoked, such provocation should surely be considered in mitigation, in the event that inappropriate behaviour were deemed to have taken place, not as grounds for summary dismissal of the complaint.

    Furthermore, what are the criteria for deciding a comment is “satirical”, and why should an ironic comment be immune from complaints about inappropriate language?

    Having been provoked by the treatment of this and other complaints, I am sure that I can formulate an ironic comment about the conduct of some individuals in the Green Party which would not be immune to disciplinary action.

    Reply
  4. Aled-Dilwyn Fisher

    As a Green member, I hope, and suspect, that all Green members will find aspects of this very disturbing and worrying indeed.

    While I’m really not sure whether this constitutes a breach of the Race Relations Act or defamation, that’s not the most important point for the party in the first instance – the main problem is that someone who is presumably a member of the party posted an article from a fascist organisation without explanation, and then chose to smear others as fascists.

    In my experience, the party has always taken a zero tolerance attitude towards fascism, as evidenced by the enormous amount of anti-fascist campaigning undertaken by members. I would have expected a far more vigorous response to someone posting material from a known fascist organisation and then acting like an idiot on a public e-list by smearing others as ‘Nazis’.

    Out of interest, what was the BNP article in question and were any reasons given for why it was circulated?

    Reply
    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      Agree that the posting of the fascist article without explanation was a problem. I do however find that there is a will within the Green Party to confront and marginalise our far right influences (n.b. I don’t assume the poster is far right), and the poster indeed apologised for that particular error. But antisemitism is something the Green Party does not understand to be its problem. Your prioritisation of the fascist article while failing to give any attention to the poster’s association of Israelis, Nazis (already unacceptable enough), and a Jewish member. And this, as we have said above, is only one of the most recent incidents in a lamentable and unacceptable series.

      So Aled, what about our Party’s antisemitism? Or are we still in Gosling mode?

      Reply
      1. Aled-Dilwyn Fisher

        Mira – I simply meant I have no idea whether such posts constitute a breach of race relations legislation or defamation (I am no lawyer), not that I diminish the impact on the individual.

        For what it’s worth, I find comparisons between the Nazis and Israel ridiculous, and have often found them to be deliberately aimed at taunting Jews – therefore, they are also anti-Semitic. I do not yet know enough about the context of the post above to know whether this qualifies as one of those incidents, but it is certainly stupid.

        My experience in the party is that whenever something like this happens, it is confronted and challenged strongly. I remember when someone in the economics working group unknowingly published the economic work of someone with close associations to the far right in the working group’s journal. Derek Wall, in particular, and others very quickly ensured that this article was removed, publicly condemned the individual and sort an apology from the person who had accidentally posted it. It also led to a change in the nature of the journal (it was thenceforth not a party organ, but published by individuals in their individual capacity), and, I believe, changes in practices for checking articles and editing within the economics working group.

        I am hoping for a similar, quick, zero tolerance response here. Again, it would be nice to have some more context about what actually occurred here, such as the reasons given by this person for linking to the BNP. And it would be useful to see the response of others.

        Reply
  5. John

    Sarah AB, you mean the comparison of some behaviour of the Israeli government with “Nazi behaviour”? The problem is surely in the aggressive and rude tone. However we are not shown the other emails that were in this slanging match, and it is difficult to assume intent from the words. I hope that the chairs have warned the persons involved about general email ettiquette.

    I think the Nazi email is weak, but it is quite common comparison in other contexts: Comparing actions of Mugabe to the practice of the racist Ian Smith regime he fought to overthrow. Comparing the Afrikaner apartheid nationalist’s bantustans with the concentration camps set up by the British in which so many Afrikaner women & children died. Of course simply calling Zanu supporters “racist” or the Afrikaner nationalists “concentration camp guards” as an insult is insensitive and unlikely to win an argument.

    I have seen valid academic explorations of some of the topics yhese examples raise: How could the freedom fighter Mugabe so comfortably use the oppresive State machinery inherited from Smith? How did the Afrikaner “persecution complex” influence their ideology?

    Reply
    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      John, you seem generally inclined to diminish this. If you decide we are to take each antisemitic incident in isolation from the others, then we can easily talk Green Party antisemitism out of existence by giving the benefit of the doubt in each and every case. But don’t you smell a rat when there are so many cases that require us to give the benefit of the doubt? And why would we not decide to give the benefit of the doubt to those who are raising concerns about antisemitism?

      This is why we intend to bring other cases to light in time. Meanwhile please consider this post in the light of what is already in the public domain:

      An intense, singular and hostile interest in Israel.

      Participation in comparisons between Israelis, Jews and Nazis which are calculated to, or have the effect of, neutralising the Holocaust.

      The will to ignore antisemitism, and discredit those who raise concerns about it.

      Against Green Party policy, the sharing of platforms with speakers from antisemitic organisations without opposing those views.

      Blindness to antisemitism when couched in anti-Zionist or pro-Palestinian terms – for example approving publicity for Gilad Atzmon’s writing from a parliamentary candidate.

      The insistence on the part of our leader that concerns about antisemitism have a secret pro-Israel objective; confusing antisemitism and pro-Palestinian activism.

      I don’t want to tar all Greens with the same brush. Peter Tatchell and Peter Cranie are two notable exceptions, and there are others. There’s everything to play for in the Green Party, my chosen party.

      Reply
  6. John

    Mira, I have a lot of repect for you and I’m sad that you feel I’m trying to diminish this. Speaking as someone who has fought racism in a number of different guises, I would never want to diminish it.

    You have thrown out a number of accusations now, and I’m not sure if these are directed at me, the emailer, or the Green Party in general (minus a few individuals). What I see is the need to engage with each generation and educate them. This is relentless and life-long work. No doubt it is repetative and frustrating at times. It is also apt to repeat a point you have made in the past: criticise the action, not the individual. We are trying to educate our comrades and take them with us, not to alienate them. This means listening to them. We show them respect, even if we feel disrespected. It means we don’t tar them all with the same brush. But you know this… and you know it doesn’t mean “giving people the benefit of the doubt”.

    Reply
  7. Sarah AB

    I find the responses very interesting and want to go back to the ‘Zionazi’ email and try to identify why I think the concerns about it are fully justified. This poster begins by throwing an accusation of Nazism back at Raphael Levy. I assume it’s in a direct response to an objection raised by RL? The poster says:

    ‘some people are NAZIS, and they are very cunning, and sometimes they even manage to infiltrate Green Party email lists.’

    He goes on to make tendentiously worded statements relating to Israel. Israel is being invoked completely gratuitously, apparently simply because RL has an identifiably Jewish name/is associated with Engage. Now I assume that the UK Green party doesn’t have Israeli members. Yet the poster seems to want to implicate some people, or someone,in this definition of a particular kind of Nazi. To me that suggests that he is conflating Jews and Israelis and targeting RL. I’ll leave aside the statements about Israel and draw attention to the final statement.

    “5) Calling others NAZIS to throw people off the scent”

    This reinforces my sense that RL and Israelis (and some people can’t see a link between anti-Semitism and antizionism) are being conflated together and branded as ‘Nazis’ and that he is accusing RL of acting in bad faith, of being scheming and ‘cunning’ to use the poster’s own word, when simply because he raised a perfectly reasonable concern about a BNP link.

    Reply
    1. Mira Vogel Post author

      Sarah, I think you have that right, and the conflation has been made by members other than that poster. This is just a recent example. Your reading of the situation explains why it’s the officials – the moderators and the committee members who decide what to do about complaints – we are worried about here. They are responsible for what people feel able to say to and about (in this case) Jews in the Green Party – this was the purpose of the complaint and is the reason for including it here.

      John, what accusations have I thrown out? And if you can suggest a model way to raise this stuff, I’ll give it some thought.

      Reply
  8. Raphael

    Aled, thanks for coming here and engaging in this discussion. You may remember that a couple of years ago, you spoke against an emergency motion which I proposed and which opposed Green Party support for the exclusion of Israeli academics. We discussed afterwards, I sent you some articles, which you promised to read and we were even supposed to meet again and discuss – somehow this never happened.

    The case here is different. The post which triggered the thread was an article by the BNP leader. It was sent without comment under the headline “FYI: Something from an anti-capitalist party”. This was challenged by myself and by some others, but not by the moderator, nor by any leading figures of the party, some of whom are on that list. As a Green Party member, you are entitled to join the list, and you will have then access to the archives. Alternatively, I am happy to forward you the entire thread. You will see that thread had no connection whatsoever with Israel / Palestine. This was brought into the discussion purely and entirely as a device to attack me.

    You write: “As a Green member, I hope, and suspect, that all Green members will find aspects of this very disturbing and worrying indeed.” But your hope is demonstrably misplaced: the highest instances have considered the case and decided that there was no case to answer. This is not the first incident and it is not the first complaint which is shelved in such a way. You give an example of Derek brave fight against antisemitism. Nice. When antisemitism is easily identified as “right-wing antisemitism”, Derek is good at spotting it and act. When the UCU and BRICUP host an antisemitic speaker, Derek, a supporter of BRICUP, has nothing to say, has he? When STWc host antisemitic speakers, we, the GP, a member of STWc, have nothing to say either.

    We have a deep problem. The above incident is only a small part of it. I hope you can help. Most Greens have their head deep in the sand. They do not want to hear about this. But the problem won’t disappear. Decisions such as the above just make abuse even more likely in the future and this is why we have decided to go public.

    Reply
    1. Aled-Dilwyn Fisher

      Raphael – I remember well our exchanges. My views on the academic boycott have shifted somewhat since then.

      The context you provide is helpful – and only makes me more concerned about the lack of a strong response from GPRC and the moderators. As I said, I have come to expect a zero tolerance policy towards any kind of association with fascism. For me, this person should at least have been suspended from the list just for posting positively to a BNP article. A vulgar, ridiculous, taunting comparison of you to Nazis just makes it worse.

      On Derek, in all my years as his friend and someone with whom he has worked closely, I have never heard him defend or support UCU, BRICUP or anyone else for hosting anti-Semitic speakers. I agree entirely with you that StWC have a lot to answer for in terms of hosting anti-Semites, or supporters of anti-Semites – which is why I no longer go on the big PSC/StWC demos.

      I now live in Oslo, Norway, so I am not completely up-to-date with the situation in the party; I haven’t been as active as I would like the past 2 years. All I can say is that, in my experience, the party does not have a deep problem, only a small minority of people with very strange and reprehensible views that do not represent the vast, vast majority of members. I agree, nonetheless, that this incident appears to show some senior members seriously under-estimating the problem.

      Reply
  9. Isca Stieglitz

    The ‘Beware’ e-mail gave me the shivers.
    Look how it jumps from love&peace-vicious-love&peace. Similar patterns in abusive relationships.
    This e-mail went beyond the personal, it said NAZI=ISRAEL=RAPHAEL=JEW. The author talks about the reader’s lack of intelligence and the GP response calls this all ‘satire’.
    As a ‘nazi infiltrator’ then, I’d like to publicly request that I stop getting unsolicited e-mails, (with no explanation), from any GP members, who think I might be interested in the content.
    Why would anyone think it appropriate to ‘creep me out’ in this way, just because I dared enquire about anti-semitism in the GP?
    I was villified, libelled and accused publicly, is it any wonder I continue to use my hebrew/old name.
    To have anti-semitism creep up on me, when I thought I was good at spotting it, has made me feel a tad scared. Reading the evidence and seeing the imagery makes me wonder what else does the GP need to know.
    I feel ashamed at what some GP members have had to go through.

    Reply
  10. modernityblog

    John,

    To non Green Party members these ‘happenings’ are very worrying, I would hope that you and others could address these issues…

    Reply
  11. Raphael

    Thanks Aled, what Mira said… Please, please, make your concerns heard from GPRC / leadership.

    You write “I agree entirely with you that StWC have a lot to answer for in terms of hosting anti-Semites, or supporters of anti-Semites – which is why I no longer go on the big PSC/StWC demos”

    But the Green Party has to answer too: it is a member of the STWc and has never challenged the participation of antisemites to these rallies – at some of these, our speakers have shared platforms with antisemites in direct contradictions with our own antiracist policies.

    When, I raised concerns about Mousawi’s participation, along GP speakers, to a STWc conference in 2007 (see Eve Garrard letter here http://www.workersliberty.org/node/9621), these concerns were dismissed with contempt by our then STWc representative (“His attendance had ruffled the feathers of one or two Green party members in advance of the conference”).

    Hezbollah speaker Mousawi has since been denied entry into the UK. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7942319.stm

    Reply
    1. Aled-Dilwyn Fisher

      I agree – I support our continued membership in StWC with the caveat that we must campaign within it to stop anti-Semites from being given a platform. If we failed, then we should leave. I supported NUS’s continued membership on the same basis, but they disaffiliated for these very reasons.

      Reply
  12. Pingback: The Green Party and antisemitism – Eve Garrard « Greens Engage

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