Green Party, Not Necessarily Racist.

Political activists, like politicians, hate being told what to do or, in this case, their intelligence questioned, that is how I read the Green Party’s turning down of an eminently sensible statement on antisemitism.

I would assume that their rejection was part of their political stubbornness and stupidity, rather than some underlying malice. Perhaps I am being too charitable?

However, until the Green Party can candidly acknowledge its past problems with antisemitism then there will always be a lingering doubt on their sincerity, commitment to antiracism and above all, intelligence.

The failed motion below should have gone through on the nod, it is hardly contentious and nicely balanced, suggesting that the Green Party’s overall approach is not.

“The Liverpool Green Party’s working definition of antisemitism:

(1) Antisemitism is hostility to, resentment of or suspicion of Jews.

(2) Antisemitism may express itself as discrimination against Jews and this is analogous to other forms of racial or sex discrimination.

(3) Antisemitism also arises in recklessness about possible damage to the lives, welfare or feelings of Jews. When a course of action is proposed that would damage Jews, the proposer should be taken in good faith if he or she was unaware of those consequences. However, summary dismissal of evidence or argument of damaging consequences to Jews would amount to antisemitism.

(4) Antisemitism can vary in seriousness. It is antisemitic to have special expectations of Jews that are different from the general population, for example expecting a Jew to be more knowledgeable about the affairs of Israel or to be more willing “as a Jew” to criticise any action of the government of Israel, or to respond in a particular way.

(5) Antisemitism can be expressed as stereotypes about Jewishness and in references to international Jewish conspiracies.

(6) Antisemitism can be promoted by uncritical platform-sharing or co-operation with groups and individuals which are themselves antisemitic. It would set too high a standard to require perfect knowledge of any group’s or individual’s record on antisemitism. However the criterion should be that there should be an equal level of scrutiny of potential antisemitism as there would be of any other potential racialism.

(7) Criticism of the state of Israel is not necessarily antisemitic. Further, it is not a requirement on any critic of Israel that they must first locate and criticise any other state which has done worse things than has Israel. Criticism of Israel may be antisemitic if the critic applies harsher judgements on Israel than they would apply to the actions of any other state.

(8) Use of language can be antisemitic. Awareness of the history of the Holocaust, perpetrated by the Nazi regime, should preclude making any equivalences between that regime and the current government of Israel. This should not prevent any criticism of any deed by the government of Israel, but the Nazi allusion adds nothing and serves only to cause distress. “

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17 Responses to Green Party, Not Necessarily Racist.

  1. Sarah AB says:

    I agree. I’d be interested to hear your views on the JNF motion. I mentioned it in my own post on the Green Party conference, but only in passing, and in ironic contrast with Caroline Lucas’ apparent tolerance for Hamas. I don’t know much about it, and I think the fact the GP felt the need to have condemn it, could be seen as a symptom of their Israel obsession – but is it respectable/discriminatory/ a bit of both?

  2. Hi Soupyone. I am member of Liverpool Green Party and administer http://www.liverpoolgreenparty.org.uk. Thank you for this supportive commentary about Liverpool GP’s anti-semitism definition.

  3. soupyone says:

    Sarah,

    I haven’t seen a copy of the motion, however, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to criticize organisations like the JNF.

    The Stop the JNF campaign as the fingerprints of Deborah Fink all over it, ie “The campaign intends to expose and challenge the very premise of the State of Israel; it is not possible to build the basis for a democratic and pluralistic state through colonization and dispossession.

    http://www.stopthejnf.org/about.html

  4. soupyone says:

    Alex,

    You are welcome, was there a video of any of the debates?

    It is harder than it should be, to find out what happened, who said what on what at the GP conferences.

    If you can’t physically get there then the GP doesn’t make it easier to see what happened and demonstrate their ‘openness’.

    I would assume that modern technology and video is less than welcome at conference?

  5. Re: Video. I don’t know anything for sure. I was lucky enough to have casual work all through the conference so I couldn’t get to any of the debates myself.

  6. Sarah AB says:

    I missed that quote Soupyone – the US, Australia etc had better watch out then I guess. I’m sorry your definition didn’t get approved Alex – Peter Cranie suggested that the debate had been constructive, but I wondered whether that was more hopeful than absolutely accurate.

  7. soupyone says:

    Alex,

    Be good if the GP could reach out further than those physically able to travel to Liverpool.

    In the age of the Internet the Green Party should make more effort. There is a wide audience interested in the Green party’s debates, yet unable to follow them because the GP can’t be bothered with technology, as everyone else can.

    It is a bit silly in the 21st century, isn’t it?

  8. Soupyone: Yes it would. The party’s organisation lags its popularity in ways so I’m glad you brought this up. (Nice problem to have) I remember being ill as a schoolboy and watching political conference debates on the telly. Even if we can’t get on the BBC we ought to be broadcasting somewhere considering how many people we represent.

    Sarah: If Peter was cabable of saying something he didn’t mean I’m sure he would still be in the Labour party. We’ve been here before over having a party leader, I thought it would never happen, yet here we are. Peter fought hard for that. I’m sure he can see us adopting this progressive anti-semetism definition too.

    Disclaimer: I’m a small cog in a small local Green party. My views aren’t that of my local or national party.

  9. Sarah AB says:

    Alex – I will ignore your slur on LP members ;-) I don’t mean that he was being intentionally dishonest – he seems like a decent, sincere person – just that what I have read about some forces in the Green Party, the language they use on email lists, the way they treat some longstanding members, makes me wonder whether he was looking at the debate through rose tinted spectacles. According to Tony Greenstein even the motion about a/s was decisively rejected. If we had AV, perhaps the Green Party would be a natural second or third choice for me – but I wouldn’t vote for them as things stand because they have too many problems WRT this issue.

  10. Sarah AB says:

    Though perhaps that last comment was a bit of a hostage to fortune given that the Labour Party hardly has a stellar record either.

  11. soupyone says:

    Alex,

    I am glad we agree, a pleasant surprise.

    If people can smuggle videos out of Homs, Syria, then it should be possible for the Green Party to organize coverage of their main events and allow those outside of the GP to see the debates.

    As a fallback, you could record sessions and release as MP3s, if video proves to be too complex.

  12. Raphael says:

    soupyone,

    do other political parties make all of their conference debates (internal, not public for most of it) publicly accessible?

    Raphael

  13. soupyone says:

    Raphael,

    My impression is that they do, for example, http://www.livestream.com/greenpartyus & http://www.gp.org/audio_video.shtml & http://www.youtube.com/GreenPartyVideos

    Why enforce limits to accessing debates and events by geographical or physical restrictions?

    In the age of the internet & youtube, the GP and others should make debates accessible to all, not just a select few attending a conference.

  14. Raphael says:

    Your three examples are from GP elsewhere; I personally think it would be a good idea for many reasons, and it would also be in line with the GP ideals of openness and transparency. I don’t think the GP is special in not doing so; I doubt the Lib Dems, Labour, and Conservative broadcast their entire conferences on Youtube.
    Arguments against the motion including the Livingstone formulation, denial that there was any problem, claiming that in 1), it should be “Jews as Jews”, refusing to single antisemitism for special treatment (but singling Israel for special treatment in not a problem), etc.
    I was (and still am) a supporter of the motion. We will continue to work to improve the Green Party record in dealing, understanding and fighting antisemitism. In the meantime, I am proud of my local party, Liverpool, for having led on this motion.

  15. Raphael says:

    I should add a thank you to you and Sarah (on HP) for reporting this without the Green bashing which often accompanies this kind of piece!

  16. soupyone says:

    Raphael,

    Agreed, other parties might not be doing it, but then should we define ourselves only by reference to others? If so, then we’ll normally end up with the lowest common denominator.

    I think the Green should make an effort to reach out and new technology provides a way.

    It could prove scary but even simple MP3s would be better than nothing. Physically confining quality political debate to a conference hall is so 1930s!

    PS: I won’t bash unless I have to :)

  17. Pingback: Antisemitism: Who gets to judge? | Engage - the anti-racist campaign against antisemitism

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