ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

The Greens And Racism.

with 30 comments

The Greens and many of the other new parties would have us believe that they represent a new type of politics, different from the shenanigans, backroom deals and manoeuvring that is often found in mainstream politics.

That might well be so, on some issues and elsewhere in local councils they say:

“Green councillors want to inspire a new culture of increased openness at city hall. Our local election manifesto included a whole range of ideas from improving the way decisions are scrutinised to publishing more information about the council and its activities.”

However, when it comes to the Green’s own debate on anti-Jewish racism trying to get a straight answer from Greens is nearly impossible.

Sure enough they answer, but only in the most obtuse of ways.

Their replies owe more to old-fashioned politicking in the House of Commons than any new form of transparency or desire to openly debate these difficult issues.

This all came about in the wake of the Green Party’s conference and a small piece in the Guardian, by Hugh Muir:

“And some year for the Green party as members meet in Birmingham for the annual conference. The party, still bright and relatively new, has yet to succumb to the dead hand of sophistry and spin. And yet they realise that some things are best kept under the surface. One such is the claim that too often a sympathy for the plight of Palestinians spills over into full-blown antisemitism. These claims have been made before. That’s why the party sought to address them by setting up an antisemitism working group. But good intentions, we understand, were not enough, and thus it apparently became necessary to remove the chair and disband the committee. We have a problem, say worried members. No we don’t, says the leadership; and if we do we’ll deal with it. It’s under the surface for now but bubbling up fast.”

I have asked a couple of leading Greens to comment, but to date I have not received any satisfactory reply, nothing to clarity the situation.

Peter Cranie seem to have a bout of political laryngitis on this topic.

I got two replies from Jim Jepps, after a bit of pestering:

1. “The short answer is that I think there is a problem.

Although I don’t think it is institutional anti-semitism in the party I do think we have a constant failure in the way we deal with disputes or handle individuals who do inappropriate things.

That failure to intervene firmly enough (or at all) can lead to a small group of people or single individuals making discussions or lists poisonous – and I know many people leave those lists because they don’t reflect the friendly and useful Green Party they know in their local area.

I think the people making a complaint have a point that is worth replying to and we should try to address their concerns. Although I should say I don’t 100% agree with them on the detail and definition I think it would be an error for the party to dismis this out of hand.

I’ll try to make a more thoughtful comment on this later, but thought a quick response might be useful to getting on with.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010 10:15:00 AM”

2. “Mod: I can answer that now. Thw working group was disbanded because certain members of it came to the group with such a dogmatic and rigid position that it was unable to function meaningfully.

It was replaced by a two person group who are submitting a report soon I believe. I’ll get to read this report when it comes out and am ‘looking forward to it’ if that is the right phrase.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 7:24:00 PM”

All rather opaque, worth of Sir Humphrey.

So there is a distinct unwillingness by the Greens to provide clarification on this important issue.

I suppose it’s understandable, like mainstream political parties, they don’t like washing their political laundry in public, but then again there is nothing new or radical in that approach, it is the politics of the old school.

Unfortunately for the Greens the issue of anti-Jewish racism will not go away, until the Greens go beyond rhetoric and the political tactics of the past then it will come back to haunt them.

What we are seeing from the Greens is the same old obfuscation that politicos are so fond of, remember the expenses scandal?

Here’s Engage’s discussion of the topic.

[Just to be perfectly clear, that I am not accusing the Greens of racism. I am not accusing them of racism.

Instead, it seems to me, that they display a recognizable lack of transparency, and if they can’t openly discuss the issues of racism then what can they discuss in a meaningful manner?]

Update 1: Despite my best endeavours and the aid of Google I have been unable to find anything of significance on the Green Party’s autumn conference 2010.

There is plenty of information going back to 2007 and 2005, etc but nothing as far as I can see freely available on the Web which openly discusses what went on at the Greens’ conference from an objective point of view.

Sure enough there is plenty of PR and speeches from leaders, but not much critical comment or an interrogation of events, which sounds to me like political parties from 40+ years ago, as if the Web didn’t exist.

If anyone finds a good summary on this issue, please let me know.

Update 2: Peter Cranie has replied and I appreciate he’s rather busy, so we might hear something in a few days or so, which is fair enough.

Written by modernityblog

06/10/2010 at 02:00

30 Responses

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  1. Modernity – you emailed me at 1503 on Monday, which I picked up late on Monday evening. I work until 9pm on Tuesdays.

    So tonight I’m composing a thoughtful reply to the questions you have asked. The response isn’t finished yet. You do yourself no credit at all with this kind of approach.

    If I was a full time politician, you would have a right to complain about the speed of reply. But I’m not. I earn a living lecturing and that also requires a lot of evening time marking.

    A short blog if I can make time for it is an achievement these days. A reply will be coming, but you’ve already prejudged my attitude to your questions because things haven’t happen straight away. This is very disappointing.

    Peter Cranie

    06/10/2010 at 21:39

  2. Peter,

    I dropped a question on one of your threads, I, possibly erroneously, presumed that it was too tricky a question and was being ignored.

    I probably I got the wrong end of the stick, but it’s easy to miss comment on threads. Sorry.

    But I wanted to write this before it went stale in my mind, I have numerous posts 3/4 done only waiting for me to finish, but I never seem to.

    I am not prejudging your answer, as that would be irrational.

    What I have said is it very hard to find information on this subject, after all I asked my first question in the middle of September.

    I am even happy to offer you a guest post, but I would just like to find out more of what went on. That’s where my frustration comes in

    I’m sorry my occasional rather direct approach is undoubtedly annoying, but all I want is some summery of events and the arguments, etc

    Please, don’t be upset by the language of the post, a percentage of it is meant to be humourous, and read as such🙂

    modernityblog

    06/10/2010 at 21:50

  3. I completely sympathise with Peter Cranie’s observation that he’s busy with his day (and evening)job – but I would like to pick up on something on his own blog, his statement that “No one could accuse Levy of being a Zionist” – I suspect that Levy is using this word as a kind of synonym for ‘anti-Palestinian’, but, as someone else, pointed out in the comments, being a Zionist surely isn’t completely incompatible with being a decent human being – I assume most (Jewish) Israelis who vote for left/liberal parties still consider themselves Zionists.

    Sarah AB

    07/10/2010 at 07:56

  4. Very good point concerning the usage of the words “Zionist”.

    I suspect that Peter and those who use this word flippantly haven’t really thought it through.

    Because if they did they might realise that they are alienating most Jews in Britain, who might one way or the other consider that they have some sympathy in that direction.

    That is ordinary Jews in the street.

    Perhaps Peter would like to tell us what he means by the word “Zionist” ?

    And how any negative connotations, that he places on that word, would be received by British Jews?

    modernityblog

    07/10/2010 at 11:22

  5. A couple of minor pedantic points first:

    1. you needed to ‘pester’ me because I was in France on holiday as you know and, as you also know, I actually *asked* you to pester me. I think you’ve given the false impression here.

    2. I think Rapheal/Zionism point is actually about whether he supports Israel or not, not whether he’s a decent human being. He’s certainly been willing to be critical of the Israeli government in the past and I assume that is why Peter raises the idea that he is not a straightforward Zionist (or one at all). I’ve never asked Raphael so wouldn’t want to comment. However whether or not he’s a zionist has no bearing on whether he’s a nice bloke to go for a jar with.

    More substantively – I’m sorry you think my replies are obscure – I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

    I’ve made it clear I think there are problems that party needs to overcome in the way we conduct discussion and that these problems are partly down to how we handle disputes and rows. I don’t think we’re hard enough sometimes and I think our email lists are either effectively unmoderated or get moderated out of existence – I’d to see us change that.

    I’ve also been clear that I don’t think there is an issue of “institutional anti-semitism”.

    On the working group – I wasn’t part of it so all I can go by is the reports I’ve had which are very clear, the working group didn’t work. So we scrapped it and started again. Any conclusions it drew while it still existed are not the views of the party so aren’t worth discussing.

    I’m hopeful that the new body will produce something worthwhile that we can act on. As I’m not on that body, thank god, I can’t tell you anything more on what it may come up with.

    I’m not sure what isn’t clear about that, but I apologise if I’ve appeared to ramble.

    jim jepps

    07/10/2010 at 16:02

  6. Jim,

    Not being rude, but I’ve been going on about this from the 15th of September 2010.

    But that’s all by the by, we can now concentrate on what happened.

    I am still unclear as to what happened with the Antisemitism Working Group.

    Sorry, but plenty of words have been expended and the situation is none the clearer.

    Why was it scrapped? What with the arguments? What was the point of contention, it has not been made clear, and until it does I will press the point.

    Let me put it another way, hypothetically.

    If the Tory party in the 1970s had a working group on anti-black racism in the Tory party and for some reason, it had to be closed down, with the chair being removed and the committee being closed down, then it would be right to ask questions why did it happen, what does it tell us about the Tory party’s attitude towards blacks? and why can’t it be discussed in the open?

    I’m sure that both you and Peter are capable of swapping around the ethnicities and seeing the point here.

    Well?

    modernityblog

    07/10/2010 at 16:21

  7. Not being rude but I *asked* you to remind me (because I was so busy) so to make out I have to be chased without pointing out that simple fact puts things in a very different light.

    There were four people on the group – they couldn’t work together – the party recognised this so after an attempt to get the group to work they scrapped it and started again.

    The ‘arguments’ on the defunct group are irrelevant because they don’t represent anyone except those group members, and as I’m not going to name and shame anyone that’s as much information as anyone needs.

    What if one person was saying all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic and another was saying that there is no anti-Semitism in the pro-palestinian movement at all? What would it show apart from the party asked two stupid people to be part of a working group and came to regret it?

    If the party comes to accept one of those positions, then its a political problem, but when you’re talking about an incredibly small pool of people like this… more detail is meaningless because you’re talking about individuals with no mandate from the party saying things that the party has explicitly said is not the party position.

    jim jepps

    07/10/2010 at 16:33

  8. Jim: “On the working group – I wasn’t part of it so all I can go by is the reports I’ve had which are very clear, the working group didn’t work. So we scrapped it and started again”

    Maybe it had something to do with the decision to co-opt
    Joseph Healy onto the working group. Jerry Healy has already been abusive to Rapahel and others on the list when he referred to “squealing zionists”.

    To have somebody on the working group who refers to “squealing zionists” is unbelievable. I know he decided to resign from the working group but why choose somebody in the first place who had already talked about “squealing zionists”

    Anon

    07/10/2010 at 18:15

  9. Sorry – when commenting in haste this morning I wrote that *Levy* was probably using the word Zionist to mean something like ‘anti-Palestinian’ when I meant *Cranie* of course. I was slightly confused by some of Jim’s points but I now think he was confusing Raphael Levy with Gideon Levy, who is mentioned in this post

    http://petercranie.blogspot.com/2010/09/things-that-need-addressing.html

    and who is the one who Peter C. said couldn’t be accused of being a Zionist.

    I find the current use of the word Zionist very problematic. I do not have strong, decided views about I/P and I’m not Jewish. I am against academic boycotts of Israel. I do not instinctively think of myself as a Zionist (although I’m not an anti-Zionist). I have had a couple of pieces about boycotts posted on Engage.

    Some ‘anti-zionists’ are very keen to distance anti-zionism from anti-semitism. But Zionism (and anti-zionism are rarely defined. I think if I happened to be Jewish I would be perceived by most as a ‘Zionist’ because I had articulated an oppostion to an academic boycott of Israel and been associated with Engage. In practice, a cultural Christian (like myself) would have to demonstrate an unusually strong degree of support for Israel in order to be thought of as a Zionist.

    It is sometimes suggested that

    Sarah AB

    07/10/2010 at 19:51

  10. sorry about the poor editing in my comment!

    Sarah AB

    07/10/2010 at 20:27

  11. Jim,

    On the contrary I think people’s views about what constitutes racism is very important, whether or not they are dismissive of it, don’t understand it, or whatever, all of this should come out in the open.

    I do wish that you would take to heart my poor analogy of the Conservative party in the 1970s and the Greens in 2010.

    Let me put it another way, hypothetically.

    If the Tory party in the 1970s had a working group on anti-black racism in the Tory party and for some reason, it had to be closed down, with the chair being removed and the committee being closed down, then it would be right to ask questions why did it happen?

    What does it tell us about the Tory party’s attitude towards blacks? And why can’t it be discussed in the open?

    Jim, please do to engage with that particular argument.

    modernityblog

    07/10/2010 at 20:41

  12. Jim: as noted by Sarah, the “Levy” Peter Cranie refers to is not me but Gideon Levy. I have been accused of being a “Zionist”, a squealing zionist, an Israeli academic, a Nazi, and many other similar things, on internal e-mail lists of the GP by people who use all of these words as terms of abuse. The complaints made have been either dismissed or ignored. Frankly, the question of whether I consider myself as a zionist or not is totally irrelevant: before joining the Green Party and being exposed to this obsession and hatred of Israel, the question had never even crossed my mind, the word itself was totally outside of my political thinking, and nobody had ever asked me such a question.

    I did not comment on Peter Cranie’s post – but I agree with the comments made here about his use of the word zionist. I think this was unfortunate and it is possible that he will recognize this himself. Apart from this, it is important to note that this is one of the first – or maybe the first – of the major Green politicians to acknowledge publicly that we have a problem: good for him.

    Raphael

    07/10/2010 at 20:45

  13. The working group on antisemitism was disbanded because it could not work. On this, Jim is correct: this is true.

    Jim also writes:

    There were four people on the group – they couldn’t work together – the party recognised this so after an attempt to get the group to work they scrapped it and started again.

    The ‘arguments’ on the defunct group are irrelevant because they don’t represent anyone except those group members, and as I’m not going to name and shame anyone that’s as much information as anyone needs.

    What if one person was saying all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic and another was saying that there is no anti-Semitism in the pro-palestinian movement at all? What would it show apart from the party asked two stupid people to be part of a working group and came to regret it?

    Here, I am afraid, Jim is factually incorrect (there were 6 members in the group) and in my opinion misleading on a number of counts.

    There was nobody in the working group saying that all criticism of Israel is antisemitic, and there was nobody in the working group saying that there is no antisemitism in the pro-palestinian movement [two claims which are, as rightly noted by Jim, stupid].

    A bit of history is however necessary here. There has been a major incident a couple of months before the European elections. That incident, following pressure put by a number of antiracists, including incidentally Peter Cranie, led to a report. One of the recommendations of the report was the creation of this working group on antisemitism. The remit of the working group was to work towards guidelines to recognize and avoid antisemitic lanaguage. The report was essentially about the incident mentioned but not described above, but it looked also at other incidents and mentioned the blurring of the frontiers between anti-zionism and antisemitism on some email lists, and the failure to properly deal with complaints. All in all, an excellent document, and one which was endorsed by GPRC, i.e. effectively by the GP. It was deemed however a too sensitive document to be circulated.

    One of the specific examples of antisemitic language mentioned in that report was accusations that I was a member of zionist lobby – the full quote is below:
    “However, I am certain that it will get the Zionist lobby squealing – some of whom are currently causing major problems on the international list and have lobbed charges of anti-semitism against several members on that list because of their criticism of Israel.”

    The person who wrote the above and has refused consistently to apologize for it, or withdraw it, was made a member of the working party. This can only be understood as a deliberate attempt to undermine the conclusions of the very report which led to creation of the working party.

    The working party was going nowhere: nobody except the Chair was doing any work. That may be understood as indicating that the working party had been all along a tool to keep people quiet at a rather sensitive time.

    At some point, in parallel to the work (or more precisely the absence of work) of the working party, on an email list of the GP, someone defended the quote above as legitimate use of language and not antisemitic.

    At that point the Chair made his recommendations (in the almost total absence of feedback from other members over a period of over 5 months) and included a comment regarding the recent use of similar language to that which had surfaced a year before and said that this should not be tolerated.

    This led to massive problems.

    Eventually, the Chair produced a report which was looked upon by the executive of the party which decided to “resign” the Chair and disband the committee.

    Two persons were then designated to produce a one page document which is due to be examined on the 15th and 16th of October at a GPRC meeting. This document is totally secret before that meeting.

    Wait and see.

    Raphael

    07/10/2010 at 22:08

  14. Jim

    “name and shame”, when it is about people who stand for elections, is called accountability and transparency, two values which I think we should defend.

    Raphael

    Raphael

    07/10/2010 at 22:17

  15. Thanks Raphael, you’ve explained it well, I can now appreciate some of the issues.

    It is a pity that your colleagues in the Green party couldn’t be as open.

    Naturally, I understand their desire to defend the Party at all costs (anyone following politics will have seen it dozens of times from the Far Left to mainstream parties and beyond), but I don’t think it’s a very good tactic in the age of the Internet.

    It makes those doing it seem shifty, and rather “political”, but, Raphael, you clarify the issues and I thank you for that🙂

    I will wait with bated breath for what comes out of the GPRC.

    modernityblog

    07/10/2010 at 22:27

  16. […] Modernity is keeping an eye on the Greens. Post and comments. […]

  17. Thanks Mod – Peter has added a relevant comment on his blog.

    Raphael

    08/10/2010 at 00:24

  18. modernityblog,

    Could you expand on point 4: Why would use/misuse of the term Zionist (to describe someone who supports oppression of Palestinians rather than someone who supports the existence of the state of Israel per se) be offensive to “British Jews”?

    It seems fuzzy thinking is a common problem. Some people conflate “Zionist” with “anti-Palestinian”, others “Zionist” with “Jew” and others assume that this should automatically be offensive to British Jews.

    But why shouldn’t any person be able to find it offensive? (Or alternatively choose not to be offended as such but to argue against it). And why British Jews in particular as if they were a homogeonous group or somehow all individuals who were immune from such mistakes themselves?

    John

    09/10/2010 at 07:33

  19. John,

    Do you wish to ask me a genuine question or TELL me something?

    modernityblog

    11/10/2010 at 21:24

  20. I don’t know where Jim’s getting his info from.

    I was ON the anti-Semitism working group, and it was never explained to me why it was disbanded.

    Green Gordon

    12/10/2010 at 18:34

  21. Green Gordon,

    I am very surprised that even within the Green Party not all of the facts came out.

    What were your experiences of the antisemitism working group? I would like to hear them.

    modernityblog

    12/10/2010 at 19:04

  22. Peter Cranie needs to learn from his own mistakes. Before the Gen Election he advocated an alliance with Respect.

    Peter according to PSC Manchester was a speaker at :

    “Isolate Israeli apartheid: Why the EU must act”

    http://www.psc-manchester.org.uk/

    PSC Manchester has as its chair Linda Clair who refused to allow the head of the Jewish Rep council into a meeting with Israeli journalist Gideon Levy because she was a “zionist”. Gideon Levy had to intervene.

    http://engageonline.wordpress.com/2010/09/08/

    Peter needs to learn from his own mistakes

    12/10/2010 at 19:44

  23. You have to feel sorry for the Green Party, taken over as it has been by the Left.

    Now, along with the Left, it is caught between the rock of pro-Palestine and the hard place of pro-Israel, and you cannot please both these mistresses at the same time.

    They’ll keep on grinding away at each other, at the same time lashing out at anything and anybody that is stupid enough as to get involved.

    They’re doomed I tell ye, doomed!

    mockmayor

    12/10/2010 at 21:10

  24. It’s nothing to do with the Left. You’ll be stunned to hear that some Israelis (and even Zionists) are left-wing! Similarly this has naff-all to do with pro-Israel, but about the idea that people who disagree with the opinions and tactics of some agencies involved in the Middle East, don’t need to be treated as if they were Mossad agents (in which case, I’d guess the accusers would be a little more reticent).

    The Working Group was exceptionally quiet apart from the work done by our chair, Toby Green, whose work I was in broad agreement with. Jim Jepps’ implications don’t hold water. There were no arguments in the group or examples of being unable to work together, there was just a lack of work done at all (except by Toby Green).

    Green Gordon

    14/10/2010 at 19:45

  25. Gordon,

    Thanks for the reply, little by little the story behind this issue is coming out.

    Out of curiosity, what was the type of stuff that Toby Green, the Chair, was doing?

    Was it contentious ? Or something else? Maybe misunderstood by others?

    modernityblog

    14/10/2010 at 20:17

  26. […] been here before. Hugh Muir was right first time […]

  27. […] been here before. Hugh Muir was right first time […]

  28. […] will remember I have been following the issue of the Green Party and anti-Jewish racism for […]


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