Thursday, October 1, 2020

Anti-Semitism and the Green Party of Canada's Leadership Contest

 "I have been subjected to months of antisemitic attacks. The moment it became known that I was Jewish, I was bombarded with questions about my positions on Israel, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and the proposed annexation of West Bank territories.

--Annamie Paul, Green Party of Canada Leadership Contestant, July 27 2020 (from: "You Can Respond to Hate with Hate or Convert it to a Teaching Moment. We Chose the Latter." Canadian Jewish Record)

Response from Paul after Zoom Meeting
interrupted by racist and anti-Semitic posts

When the only Jewish leadership contestant in a field of eight candidates says she's experienced prejudice that directly targets her Jewish identity, everyone should be listening.  

When the anti-Semitic attacks are coming from members of her own Party, that's egregious.  When that Party is the Green Party of Canada, it's downright unfathomable.  And yet, here we are.

I'm pretty sure that Annamie Paul would rather be discussing issues like the climate emergency and human rights, or how to build stronger Green electoral district associations across the nation.  But so much of her limited oxygen that any leadership contestant gets to expel during a leadership contestant has been taken up dealing with anti-Semitic remarks, claims and false accusations - made by Green Party members or supporters - because of Paul's religious faith.

And that's just not right.

Paul herself has been sounding the alarm bells for months, but it seems to me that she has been a lone voice in the wilderness.  Even though the instances of anti-Semitic attacks on Paul have been well-documented.  The Green Party of Canada itself has taken no actions to address anti-Semitism. And indeed, by ignoring it, the Party has gone out of its way to facilitate anti-Semitism.

And that's just unacceptable.

Look, I get it. Very few of these anti-Semitic statements are being made in places that the Party has any control over.  The Party might have its own sites on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., but that's not where the conversations around the leadership campaigns are taking place.  Those aren't the spaces that some Greens feel comfortable engaging in anti-Semitic speech.


Racist and anti-Semitic posts made at 
all-candidates Zoom meeting

If you don't have control of the space, you can't control what goes on there, right?  To a degree that may be true - but the Green Party does have a tool at its disposal that it should be using to ensure that Green Party members abide by a higher standard - one the Members themselves agree to when they pay their fee and sign their membership card. 


It's the Members Code of Conduct.  And it applies to members where ever we may go - including those dark places on the internet nominally set aside for Green Party members and supporters, but which have really turned into an echo chamber for promoting a single leadership contestant.  And it's a place where Greens feel free to express anti-Semitic tropes openly - mostly directed at the Party's only Jewish leadership contestant.  They know that little action will be taken by group moderators who should be creating a safe space for Greens to have conversations and dialogue, because the moderators themselves appear to see little problem with the use of anti-Semitic tropes.

And why should the moderators of Facebook groups like Green Party of Canada Supporters be held to a standard that the Party doesn't want to seem to uphold either? Evidence of these attacks has been there for anyone who might have bothered to go and look for it.  The following screencaps were all taken from the Green Party of Canada Supporters Facebook group over the span of about 4 weeks.  I was a member of that group, who engaged periodically. I was eventually removed from the group by moderators because I was calling out anti-Semitic posts like these too often.  

They would rather sweep anti-Semitism under the rug. It's easier to deal with their.  And in that, they are little different from the Green Party of Canada itself.

Special Requirements for Jewish Politicians

When Jewish people are singled out for "special treatment" because the are Jewish, that's anti-Semitic.  When non-Jewish people are calling for Jews to be subject of special requirements - even when those Jews are democratically elected officials - that's egregious.

Look, I get it - colonialism sucks. That's an opinion that I suspect I share with most Green Party members and supporters.  But it's not a universally-held opinion. Calling for all Jewish politicians to condemn colonialism - rather than calling for everyone to condemn it - is anti-Semitic.

As I indicated earlier, I suspect that Annamie Paul would rather be talking about the issues over the course of the leadership campaign.  That she has had to talk about what it is like to be Jewish during this campaign has come about largely because of anti-Semitic attacks like this. Keep in mind - Paul can no more deny or repress her faith than she can her gender or her skin colour or her educational experiences.  Her faith is a part of her identity. Wanting to silence her for having a faith identity that is Jewish is anti-Semitic.

Dual Loyalty

Accusing Jews of having divided loyalties - therefore rendering them untrustworthy - can be anti-Semitic.  The "dual loyalty" trope - when used to attack Jewish elected officials or those seeking public office, is anti-Semitic.

The dual loyalty trope remains anti-Semitic even in circumstances where someone uses it points out that Israel gives free land to Jews, and therefore....divided loyalties.  It's almost as if to say that a Jewish Member of Parliament can never be completely loyal to Canada, because they might receive a benefit from Israel at some point in their lives, so....don't trust them, they've got a "conflict of interest" or divided loyalties!

Annamie Paul, although Jewish, is not an Agent of the State of Israel. She is only being accused of being a "foreign government agent" or "shill with citizenship" in another country because she is Jewish. Here, the potential right to citizenship in the state of Israel is conflated with actually having citizenship. 

"Jewish people do not necessarily have Israeli citizenship" also means that Jewish people do not necessarily not have Israeli citizenship. Language like this casts the spectre of doubt of Jewish people's national loyalties, because you never know whether they are citizens of some other foreign country or not.

Debating whether it is fair or not to bar Jewish people from politics is always anti-Semitic.

Calling for Jewish elected officials to recuse themselves from political discussion on matters pertaining to Jews or the state of Israel is always anti-Semitic.

"I want all persons with [the right to return] to recuse from BDS debate" is a call for Jewish politicians not to take part in political discussions because they are Jewish. That's anti-Semitic.  And the author of this piece is in no position to demand Jews do as they are told - why do they think they have the authority to make this demand?

Another poster demands that a Jewish leadership contest do as they are told and answer a certain question (one I note that Paul has answered - again and again - but never to the satisfaction of some). Demanding Paul answer a question is not anti-Semitic. Demanding that she must answer a question because she is Jewish is anti-Semitic.

Susceptible to Bribery

Accusing Jews of putting money over anything and everything is a long-enduring anti-Semitic trope. When coupled with the dual loyalty trope, aspersions have been cast on Jews throughout history who would sell their allegiance to the highest bidder.  This is anti-Semitic.

For the record, Greens - along with everybody else - should not be asking Jewish politicians about their loyalty just because you think Jewish politicians are more susceptible to taking bribes. No one should be asking questions about loyalty and bribery because doing so is anti-Semitic.
Annamie Paul is not being bribed by the State of Israel. 

And for the record, I am not an Agent of the State of Israel either.

And finally, it is not an open question as to whether this post is anti-Semitic. 

Speaking to Jewish Organizations, Synagogues

If I were running for leadership of the Green Party, you can bet that I would try to get in front of as many people as I can, to introduce myself. I would do this at community centres, sporting events, churches, etc. This is what politicians do when they are running for election.

But Annamie Paul - a Jewish politician - needs to make sure that she visits only the right kind of synagogue - as determined by non-Jewish people.

That's anti-Semitism.

Beth Israel is a synagogue in Vancouver.  It is a Conservative - fairly mainstream - synagogue. It is not an arm of the Israeli government. It's a synagogue.  But even if it were an Orthodox synagogue, why should Paul have been blocked from attending it?  The answer appears to be "because Paul is Jewish" - and that's anti-Semitic.

Annamie Paul can't be trusted to attend a Jewish faith service because she might fiddle with membership roles or do something funny with the money. It is not clear whether Paul would require a shadow if she attended a friend's wedding at a Catholic church. Calls for following Jewish politicians to synagogues because they may do something wrong with signing up members and taking their money is, well, frankly it's really out there.  And it's clearly anti-Semitic.

Attending a Jewish faith service does not imply that a politician - even one in the midst of a leadership contest - is attempting to bring religion and governance together. People attend religious services because religion is a part of their identity. Non-Jews don't get to decide which synagogues Jewish people are allowed to attend.  Imposing their views of Jewish politicians is anti-Semitic. I wonder if this poster would tell me which churches I should stay away from if I were running for the Party's leadership. I think we know the answer to that question.

Reject BDS = Complicity in Genocide

Here's how extreme some of the posts from the far-left of the Party have become: if you reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement, you are complicit in the genocide of the Palestinian people.  This is not necessarily an anti-Semitic position (many non-Jews reject BDS against Israel), but when applied specifically towards the only Jewish leadership contestant in the Green Party's leadership contest, it is anti-Semitic.

Why? The Green Party's Constitution defines the leader in a singular manner: they are to be a "spokesperson" for the Party. This means they don't get to decide what the policies of the Party are. Policy is the exclusive realm of the membership of the Party.  

With regards to BDS, the in 2016, the membership of the Party rejected a policy that would have seen the Party endorse the BDS movement (yes, it was more complicated than that - but the outcome was a rejection of affiliating the Party with BDS). Paul, in her pursuit of the leadership of the Party, has no say in whether the Party supports BDS or not.  And the same is true for all other leadership contestants. 

And yet Paul, because she is Jewish, is singled out for her complicity in ethnic cleansing and genocide, while all of the other leadership contestants get a pass.

Racist Nazi Zionist Infiltrators & Hasbara Trolls

When party members state that "only racists" support Israel ("zion Jews"), and wildly claim that "Zionist Infiltrators" are overwhelming the Green Party, and Jews are equated with Nazis - there is a problem in our Party. 

And when other Greens point out the racism, anti-Semitism and absurdity of these allegations are labelled "Hasbara" ("in the pay of Israel"), there's really no hope for working things out through conversation and dialogue. 

Sweeping Anti-Semitism Under the Rug

Sometimes, moderators for the Green Party of Canada Supporters group would remove specific anti-Semitic comments.  But posters were allowed to remain in the group. Instead of ejecting the posters making anti-Semitic statements, the moderators found it easier to rid themselves of Green Party members who called out the anti-Semitism - essentially sweeping it all under the rug. Sometimes this was done in the name of fair comment (made about the Party's only Jewish leadership contestant). Other times because the moderators implied that they were ok with all viewpoints being shared in the group - presumably even those informed by hate.

A fairly typical response by group moderators to criticism about the proliferation of anti-Semitic posts.

This screencap (below) is of the a post I made shortly before being booted from the group by one of the moderators.  This post was eventually removed by group moderators.

Paul Isn't Here on Her Own Merits

The following two screencaps come from a different Facebook group.  They describe Paul as a "token" who only appears to be in the leadership race because of Elizabeth May, and is not deserving of being there based on her own accomplishments.  This may not be anti-Semitic, but it is certainly misogynistic for a male poster to claim that a black female candidate couldn't make it on her own.  These posts were removed by the group moderator.

Paul is Just Too Jewish

Not sure what to make of this. The poster seems to be saying that he's not against Black women politicians - only those who identify as Black, Jewish woman.  And that somehow a Black, Jewish woman is going to fail at promoting Party policy about the climate crisis because she is a Black, Jewish woman.

Other Examples of Online Racism from Greens

I wish I could say that the Green Party of Canada only has a problem with anti-Semitism - but that wouldn't be truthful. Racism, homo- and transphobia are also serious issues that the Party will have to tackle.  They may not have been as apparent to me in the leadership campaign, but they did rear their heads a few times.

Here is an exchange between several Green members, the first of whom is Black. Another member, who is white, feels compelled to tell the Black member that they outright don't believe him after he had shared his lived experiences as a Black man with the group.


*Sigh* From a Green Party member or supporter:

This next set of screenshots was appended to a post that I made wherein I had good things to say about Green Party leadership contestant Glen Murray - who is gay.  These posts were ultimately removed by group moderators after my constant pestering.  They were available to be read in the group for approximately a week, even though the Green Party member clearly conflates homosexuality with pedophilia.


Thank you for getting this far. I know this was a hard slog - especially if you are a long-time Green Party member like myself.  I know I don't like to think that my fellow members could hold dear these sorts of positions.  But it's best not to kid ourselves - just because we are Greens, we are not immune from racism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, homo- and transphobia.  They are as much a part of our political culture as they are a part of Canadian society.
But I will say one final thing.  These few posts that I screencapped over the course of several weeks of the leadership campaign all appear to come from existing and new members of the Green Party.  Only in one case could I not confirm or intuit membership (and in that one case, it was apparent that the poster had at one time been a member of the Party).  Besides sharing membership in our Party, it was also apparent to me that all of these posters were also supporting candidate Dimitri Lascaris for leadership. To not comment on this point of commonality would be an egregious omission. 

That's not to say that Green members supporting other leadership contestants haven't also made some questionable posts. But with specific regards to anti-Semitism, I can tell you that if those posts are out there, I haven't seen them.  I know I'm not infallible, and that my eyes aren't on the internet 24/7.  But I'm probably as engaged as the most engaged Green, at least on Facebook (not so much on Twitter).

If you want to read more about the Green Party's issues with anti-Semitism stemming from the Lascaris campaign, you may wish to read this important column by David Akin, "On eve of leadership choice, Canada’s Greens confront anti-Semitism in their ranks," Global News, October 1 2020. 
Last Word

Greens, we have to be better than this. We can't stand by idly and do nothing while anti-Semitism tears our party apart.  We certainly can't ignore it, hoping it will go away. If this leadership contest has revealed anything, it's that the Party that we love has been seriously infected with anti-Semitism. If we're not careful, and if we don't take better care of the Party, this disgusting condition could be fatal to our hopes and dreams for electoral success.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)