On the 17th of February the Green Party of England and Wales passed Motion C05. Euphemistically titled the ‘Justice for Palestinians’, the resolution made policy to enact boycott, divest and sanctions (BDS) against all of Israel. As well as serving up a number of misrepresentations, half-truths, untruths and bad suggestions which serve to construct Israel as a cartoon pariah state, C05 leaves the Israeli Green movement high and dry. The environmental threat doesn’t recognise borders, and is exacerbated when we compartmentalise it by turning our back on one country. The boycott is a bad idea which diminishes the Greens. We formed Greens Stop The Boycott in response.
The resolution proposes astoundingly vague endpoints and can be easily read as a call for the voluntary self-cancellation of Israel. It is not clear who constitutes “Palestinians and their families” – the Taba peace plans designated as refugees people originally displaced in the fighting of 1948-9, whereas anti-Zionists, in a way which would negate Israel, call for anybody of Palestinian origin, regardless of their place of birth, to be free to take up citizenship in Israel. Along with the failure of the Oslo peace process, the Second Intifada was a major factor in the break-down of relations between Israelis and Palestinians and the current restrictions on movement faced by all occupied Palestinians. Restoration of complete freedom of movement within and between the Occupied Territories, called for by C05, is unequivocably desirable, but first requires negotiations to minimise the real threat to Israeli civilians. The release of “all Parliamentarians kidnapped by the Israeli army” implies that parliamentarians cannot by definition be criminals. And yet we know that Hamas has since its inception planned suicide bombings of Israeli civilians, used Palestinian civilians as human shields and currently threatens dissenters including non-Muslims in Gaza. Resolution C05 ignores jihadi elements of the Palestinian resistance and fails to distinguish between these and more pragmatic, humanitarian elements.
There are no easy answers to this conflict. It is unceasing negotiations we should be calling for and supporting.
We note the antisemitism which attaches itself to the current BDS campaigns and we take it seriously. Greens have circulated far right material and conspiracy theories about Jews in the British government as part of a campaign which is ostensibly on behalf of Palestinians. This has been tolerated, or addressed reluctantly and only after exposure in the media. For many reasons, this is completely unacceptable.
We believe that Green policy should be a truly pro-peace policy, and so we are against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinians, and supportive of the wish of the majority of Israelis and Palestinians for a Palestinian state alongside Israel. However, we acknowledge the overwhelming will of over 5 million Jewish Israelis to maintain the self-determination originally conferred by the UN Partition Plan of 1947. Given the aspirations of religious fundamentalists, ultra-nationalists and negationists in the region, often violently pursued and lubricated with antisemitism, we also recognise that ending the occupation is less straightforward than boycotters acknowledge.
There are viable peace plans on the table, negotiated in unprecedented detail at 2001 at Taba, developed into the Road Map under the auspices of the Quartet in 2003, and affirmed at Annapolis late in 2007. Israel and the Palestinians are, despite many set-backs, moving towards peace. Greens should work to scaffold this, to support the elected representatives (democrats who do not ultimately seek to obliterate or expel the other side) in those places to negotiate their own settlements based on these or future plans. Harried by their respective wreckers and fearmongers – such as those who wish to import global jihad and those who wish to expand the settlements and Israel’s control – elected representatives need our support, not ill-informed side-taking which serves only to exascerbate the conflict. We will, going on the experience of other anti-boycotters, come under pressure to ‘criticise’ Israel. We feel that there is plenty of Israel-bashing about already but we are ready to criticise Israel’s policies as they touch on our central issues.
We stand against this BDS aspect of Green Party policy because it is unrecognisable as Green policy and because it enacts an inconsistent foreign policy approach which does not befit the country’s fourth largest political party. We seek to refute it with examples of Israeli and Israeli-Arab contributions to environmentally-friendly technologies and ways of living – examples which British Greens should be supporting rather than impeding with particularist wedges. We also challenge the dominant discourse about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We do not set ourselves up as experts in an environmentally-sustainable conflict resolution in the middle east but we hope – with due humility – to touch on this.
We began life as a single-issue site which we anticipated would last as long as the boycott lasted. Since then Greens have unveiled startling draft policy which proposes the imposition of 1947 UN borders, unilateral withdrawal from occupied Palestinian lands, and the right of return for all UN-designated Palestinian refugees while repealing the Jewish right of return. In addition, Greens have policy to address antisemitism as a particular problem. In response we broadened our horizons and changed our name from Greens Stop The Boycott to Greens Engage, reflecting our links with Engage, the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism.
There is a difference though – Engage is a single issue campaign against antisemitism – Greens Engage is a site which we hope will grow into a resource for Green policy makers on Israel. If you would like to write for us, we would like to hear from you – firstname.lastname@example.org
Greens Engage includes:
Alan Howe, Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party
Jessica Goldfinch, Norwich Green Party
Chris Fox, Colchester and District Green Party
David Burns, Barnet Green Party
Mira Vogel*, Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party
Raphaël Lévy*, Liverpool Green Party
Toby Green, Mid and North Shropshire Green Party (Toby has now resigned)
We write here because the Green Party has demonstrated itself incapable of dealing with antisemitism when it is raised as a concern through internal channels. When the antisemitism which is currently alive and well in the Green Party stops, it will be our great pleasure to pack up and go about our business. Until then, we are obliged to press on.
*Editors of this site – correspondence to email@example.com
Image source: The peace that nearly was at Taba, Haaretz.