Monthly Archives: February 2011

Cllr Darren Johnson comments on Toby Green’s resignation

Cllr Darren Johnson has a clear and helpful comment at BobFromBrockley:

In answer to the specific questions/points put to me, I do not sit on either of the party’s manin national bodies and haven’t been privy to all the discussions but will respond with as much as I know:

1) There have been clear examples of antisemitism within the Greens.

Any instances of antisemitism are unacceptable and any members responsible for antisemitism should be disciplined.

2) These have been dealt with in an unsatisfactory fashion, as Party members have argued.

The party needs to deal with such cases swiftly and fairly and any members responsible for antisemitism should be disciplined.

3) The Greens’ official Conference decided that a policy on antisemitism was required, so why was that decision overridden by a group of politically motivated activists, at variance with the spirit of the Conference decision.

I voted for the official conference motion like others. However, my understanding was that the Regional Council’s decision to adopt the EUMC definition proved controversial as it was thought by some to stifle legitimate criticism of Israeli policy. This was debated at a meeting of the London Green Party at which I was present. I was persuaded of the case that this definition was problematic. There was then a further vote at the London meeting on whether a separate statement on anti-semitism was needed at all. The proposers argued that a separate statement was not necessary because antisemitism was covered by our general policies on racism. I did not support this view and was the only person in the room to vote against. The fact that there is such unhappiness expressed on this website shows exactly why a clear unequivocal statement on antisemitism is needed and why the national conference was correct in voting to commission one.

4) There is a clear need to address these issues yet institutionally the Green Party seems incapable of doing that, why?

There are probably a whole range of reasons why this (and lots of other things for that matter) don’t get sorted out in the Green Party but I totally agree it needs sorting out.

I hope this helps.

Cllr Darren Johnson

Toby Green resigns

BobFromBrockley has the news.

Toby has been a member of the Green Party for 10 years and he was the Chair of a working group on antisemitism established after a number of incidents:

[…] of course, members of the Green Party can´t be prejudiced. If they accuse members called “Levy” of being Israeli academics in disguise defending Israel, they can´t be rehashing old Jewish conspiracy theories. If they circulate emails from David Duke, a key figure in the Klu Klux Klan, on how “Jewish Zionists” are shaping American policy in Israel in alliance with Obama (thereby rehashing not only anti-semitic myths but also an alliance of this with anti-Black racism), they can still work in Caroline Lucas´s office and be on the list for the European elections. If they circulate emails accusing Jewish members of parliament of double loyalty (to Israel and the UK), there´s no need to suppose that they are re-hashing the anti-Catholic discourse which surrounded JF Kennedy´s run for office in 1960. If they talk of the “squealing zionists”, there´s no reason for them not to be respected party figures.

To be fair, after all of this, the party did recognise that there was an issue. A report commissioned by the Green Party Regional Council (GPRC – a powerful decision-making body in the decentralisd power structure of the party), and written by two non-Jewish members, said that these were examples of a toleration of low-level anti-semitism, and that therefore a working party on anti-semitism was recommended to be established. Although kicked into the long grass at first, it started work when a senior figure recommended an article by a known holocaust denier on his blog. But the working party was quickly an impossibility. I should know: I was the chair, a position I only adopted when no one else was prepared to.

Read what happened next here.

Update 1: Some interesting discussions are taking place on Bob’s blog, including a visit by Cllr Darren Johnson.

Update 2 (from Mira): And including this comment by a Tim Dowling, worth reproducing in full:

“One of the things about prejudice is that while it is universal in its characteristic manifestation as unreasoning opposition to a stigmatised other (the main function of prejudice being to stigmatise analeptically or recursively without leaving room for a critical weighing of the stigma as a premise – re Ms. Fink’s contribution) every type of prejudice is also uniquely molded and faceted by the ocular characteristics of the other it seeks to eradicate, and has therefore unique (and negatively creative) vileness. And yes, all prejudice is pragmatic symbolic erradication. 

In the case of antisemitism, it is really impossible to discuss it at all without the due pragmatic (and historically grounded) weighing up. Antisemitism has murdered, exiled and unspeakably disfigured an incommensurable number of human existences. It has helped to destroy every society in which it has ever taken root. It is arguably the back cause of Israel’s foreign policy (the “twin” as Toby calls it – with possibly more than conscious accuracy).

Antisemitism is always, always the sign that the body politic or corporate organisation in which it flourishes is sick unto death. This is a historically proven verdict, the degree of denial of which is one measure of ignorance. Its appearance anywhere is therefore a cause for the gravest concern, as well as a reason to desert from the ship it is on, if one does not wish to go down with the ship.

Other types of prejudice exist that are equally vile, just as a range of illnesses exist that can painfully kill a body. Antisemitism, in this sense, is distinguished not by its vileness, but by its exceptionally insidious nature, which makes it possible for the antisemite to propagate his or her views under the guise of defending other groups of people whom it can usually be shown to have damaged substantially. Or under the guise of redressing some kind of balance which turns out to be an a priori feature of the antisemitic discourse.

Or possibly under the political relegation of a complex idea such as Zionism, whose place in intellectual history is multifoliate. Or the speculative and slanderous marginalization of an individual, as if the individual’s projected vulnerability were not also tactically collective.”

What is the role of the Green Party’s Regional Council?

In the comments on this post on top Green blog, The Daily Maybe, Modernity asked blogger Jim Jepps for an update on progress with the Green Party’s guidance on antisemitism, and Weggis informed him that the Green Party Regional Council’s (GPRC’s) previously-agreed guidance on antisemitism had been withdrawn after intervention from the Green Party’s London Federation.

In the ensuing discussion, Jim Jepps made the following comments about GPRC:

  • “We’re an anti-racist party and we have a policy on everything (unfortunately) hence anti-semitism policy – although this is different as it is a committee report not party policy… exciting stuff i’m sure you’ll agree”
  • “This is a committee producing some guidelines that no one will ever read.”
  • “The Green Party has clear policy that it is opposed to racism including (explicitly mentioned in the PSS) anti-semitism.”
  • “What we’re talking about here is a minor committee that most members never notice and few people want to be on wrangling about ‘guidelines’ that it chose to write.”
  • “But GPRC is irrelevant – if it accepts something is a problem then decides it isn’t it’s only their own time they are wasting. And if [Green Party member X] wants to put motions about it then at least it keeps [them] off the streets.”
  • “Sorry if this sounds dismissive I just think GPRC’s role within the party is ‘not central’ shall we say.”
  • “If this was Darren Johnson or Jean Lambert that would be one thing but we’re talking about a very small clique which has almost no influence in the party – the fact the [Green Party member X] has noticed them does not change that.”

So, in playing down the fiasco over the GPRC’s antisemitism guidance, Jim has dismissed the GPRC as not being “central” to the party, being a “minor committee”, and being an “irrelevant” “clique”.

We thought this was worthy of some investigation. Could it be that the Green Party Regional Council doesn’t matter after all? Here are our findings.

GPRC is responsible for policing the democratic structures of the Green Party and ensuring the Party’s “well being”. The Party’s executive (GPEx) is responsible to the GPRC.  Members of the Green Party Executive (GPEx) can be required to report to GPRC, which has the right to recall (suspend) GPEx members, including party Leader and Co-Leader. GPRC has responsibility for policy between conferences, and the enforcement of party procedures. GPRC can review local party decisions, and overturn them, in the event of a complaint. GPRC also plays in a key role in determining the strategic priorities of the Party.

The GPRC, and in particular its co-chairs, have a key role in handling disputes and complaints raised by regional parties, individual party members and member of the public.  The GPRC co-chairs can summarily dismiss a complaint, refer it to dispute resolution, or initiate a full-blown tribunal. They can suspend a party member pending a tribunal, and initiate investigations into members behaviour. It may be the case that they are a clique suffering from a bad case of groupthink. But to say GPRC is irrelevant in the Green Party is akin to saying that the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, and the judicial system, are all irrelevant cliques that  can be ignored by those concerned with democracy and justice.

GPRC’s constitutional role means that the fiasco over guidelines concerning antisemitism is important and not merely a trivial side-show.  The GPRC has previously agreed that there is a specific problem with antisemitism in the Green Party, which requires action on its part, including specific guidance to be considered when dealing with complaints relating to antisemitism.

The Green Party declares itself an anti-racist party. RRR08.1:

Members should at all times, including when proposing and implementing policy, be sensitive to the fact that the Green Party does not and will not endorse or tolerate antisemitism, or discrimination of any form.

In 2009 GPRC endorsed a report raising concerns about antisemitic behaviour.
Recommendation 4.1.3 states:

We recommend that training is offered to all party members on a regular basis, for example through conference, around the topic of anti-racism and anti-semitism. We are aware that some of the anti-semitic behaviour noted at 4.1.2 may not be perceived as such by the people involved, and we feel that it is vital that these kind of attitudes are challenged in a proactive manner.

The Green Party Regional Council accepted a report that there is a problem with antisemitism in the Green Party.  It also accepted very specific recommended actions.

And yet the Green Party has now failed to carry out any of the actions that GPRC previously deemed necessary. It now has no guidance on how to deal with a specific problem that it agrees exists. The absence of documented guidelines in such a difficult area is bound to lead to grave doubts as to whether GPRC is competence to make impartial decisions.

Members of the Green Party may usually have little, if any, contact with the GPRC. But should they ever become involved in a dispute, they will probably come to disagree with the view that it is an irrelevant minor committee, whose decisions, and failings, are of no importance.

To a cynical onlooker it might seem that the entire process for producing guidance on antisemitism was set up to fail, perhaps so that GPRC could wash its hands of a problem that they acknowledge exists but cannot or will not act on. Perhaps one question is whether GPRC is seeking “merely” to appease certain individuals and groups to avoid confrontation and embarrassment, or whether those individuals and groups are de facto in charge of the institutions of the party.

All of this indicates that GPRC has a critical role in policing the Green Party: it is wrong to dismiss GPRC and its decisions as irrelevant.

Author: Chris Fox, Colchester and District Green Party.