Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Green MPs and NDP Leader Engaged in Anti-Semitism, Says Senior Advisor to Green Party Leader

I was very rattled upon my discovery that a Green Party "spokesperson" for Party leader Annamie Paul has himself recently spoken out against anti-Semitism in the Green Party, and has made the extraordinary claim that "political actors" across Canada, including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, former Green Party leadership contestant Dimitri Lascaris, and "Green MPs" have engaged in acts of anti-Semitism and discrimination.  You heard that right: a spokesperson for Annamie Paul, Leader of the Green Party, is accusing Green Party Members of Parliament of anti-Semitism.

Screencap of Statement from Noah Zatzman

This seriously ups the stakes with regards to recent turmoil within the Green Party related to accusations of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny directed at the Leader of the Party by some members of the Party's Federal Council.

Noah Zatzman, a name many Greens will not be familiar with, was hired by Paul as a senior advisor, after serving as media consultant and strategist on her campaign team, according to iPolitics (see: "Hill Movers: Green Party leader announces new team; Bennett, MacAuley changes," iPolitics, November 12, 2020).  iPolitics also reports that prior to joining Paul's team, Zatzman worked as a senior advisor to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Zatzman appears to continue to occupy his position in Paul's office - or at least was firmly ensconced there as of April 21st, when he, described as a "spokesman", offered the media comment on how Green MPs would be voting on the federal budget (see: "Three confidence votes to determine fate of minority Liberal government," Red Deer Advocate, April 21 2021).

Zatzman's accusations have been floating around social media for the past few days, having apparently been originally made on May 14, 2021 via Facebook.  Interestingly, at that time, the Green Party had only released this rather anodyne statement about violence in Israel and Gaza, for which the Party and Paul received significant criticism from many who claimed that the statement did not go far enough to address the reality on the ground in the Occupied Territories, or in its representation of member-approved policy on Israel/Palestine (see: "Green Party Statement on violence in Israel and Gaza," May 10, 2021).

Green Party of Canada Statement, May 10 2021.

Shortly after this statement was released by the Party, Green MP Jenica Atwin condemned it as "totally inadequate".  Atwin, and Green MPs Paul Manly and Elizabeth May, each released their own, much more foreceful statements.  On May 13th, Elizabeth May raised these matters in parliament, clearly placing the blame for current violence on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu's government and "extreme elements within settler groups" (see: "Elizabeth May: Canada must speak out clearly to defend the Palestinian people," Green Party of Canada YouTube Channel, May 13 2021).

Eventually, the Green Party released a more fulsome statement on the matter (see: "Green Party of Canada reiterates call for immediate ceasefire and respect for international law," Green Party of Canada, May 16 2021).  While more forceful in its call for a ceasefire, it was nevertheless condemned by many who believe the Green Party has missed the fact that the goalposts around the issue have been moved by NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who has publicly called for an embargo on Canadian arms sales to Israel as a consequence of recent hostilities (see: "CJPME URGES BLOC QUÉBÉCOIS AND GREEN PARTY TO ENDORSE ARMS EMBARGO, EMERGENCY DEBATE ON ISRAEL," CJPME, May 17 2021).  

In his post, Zatzman appears to suggest that his statement is based on his own personal experiences and observations. But as a Senior Advisor to the Leader of the Green Party who sometimes takes on the role as spokesperson, they will clearly carry more weight than words coming from most other individuals or even most other Party members.  Zatzman is positioned at the top of the hierarchy here. He has the ear of the Leader, and it's his role to influence political choices.

Zatzman's comments also have to be viewed through the lens of recent turmoil within the Green Party that has spilled out on to the pages of the Toronto Star in a series of articles and columns revealing conflict between Federal Council and the Leader. The Star reports that these conflicts have been fueled by instances of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny directed against Paul by some members of the Party's elected Federal Council.  This has led to calls for the resignation of three Council members by former Green candidates, Mike Morrice and Anna Keenan (Morrice has since been nominated by his EDA to be the next Green candidate for Kitchener Centre) (see: "An Open Letter: Our Call for Renewal within the Green Party of Canada’s Federal Council," April 29, 2021).

Recent episodes have shown that accusations like Zatzman's - even where there is no evidence offered in support of the claim - can and do seriously damage the reputations of individuals at whom the accusations are directed.  Many Greens appear to be ready to accept accusations at face value.  For a a political party that claims to be "evidence based" when it comes to policy, I find this very surprising - given that it totally ignores the political reality in which a lot of things appear to be playing out. That is not at all to suggest that the Green Party, like any modern institution or organization, does not have issues with systemic racism that it needs to address.  But it is to suggest that there appears to me at least that a lot of what's going on has more to do with a serious political conflict within the Party than it does with anti-Semitism or racism directed at the leader.

As someone who has always been concerned about anti-Semitism in the Green Party (and who documented anti-Semitic statements made about Paul in online forums during the leadership contest - see: "Anti-Semitism and the Green Party of Canada's Leadership Contest," October 1 2020), the suggestion that individuals within our Party are engaging in anti-Semitic and discriminatory behaviour is important to me.  That said, I've been following a lot of online discussion in Green groups related to Israel/Palestine lately, along with statements made by various political actors like the Prime Minister, NDP Leader Singh and of course our own Green MPs.  I believe I am coming from a place of some knowledge - albeit imperfect knowledge - when I share my own observation that I just haven't seen much in the way of anti-Semitic behaviour, and none at all from our elected caucus of 3 Green MPs.  I've seen a lot of forceful statements made about the State of Israel's role and responsibility in the recent conflict.  But I absolutely reject Zatzman's characterization of any statements made by Green MP's as being "anti-Semitic" or "discriminatory".

Change my mind. Show me the proof.

So what really is going on here?  Could it be that Zatzman does not realize that statements like his - based on personal observations and without evidence to support them - are going to leak out into the the broader world eventually, likely via the mainstream media?  As a spokesperson for the Leader of the Green Party, it's not a leap to suggest that his personal views made in statements like this one are going to call into question whether they are shared by Annamie Paul.  Some will go so far as to opine that, given his role as the Leader's spokesperson, it is unlikely that he would have made this statement without the Leader's input or direction.  While it is not clear to me where this post originates (it does appear to be from Facebook), I am not willing to think at all that this is anything more than his personal expression - one not sanctioned by the Leader.  But that's just me.

Others will see this through a different political lens.  Zatzman, who has made his career around media consultancy work, must know how this statement will be perceived.  So if he knows how this will reflect on the Party and especially on Paul, why did he make it?

The Green Party needs to get out in front of this issue in a big way.  At the very least, Zatzman needs to apologize to NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, former Green leadership contestant Dimitri Lascaris, and all three Green MP's - Jenica Atwin, Paul Manly and Elizabeth May - for tarnishing their reputation with unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism. 

And if he won't apologize, Paul needs to fire him right now, and make a clear statement that she does not support his reputationally-damaging views.

Of course, should none of this happen - well - should none of this happen, I am seriously worried about what means for the Green Party, and where things could go. What else but to conclude that the conflict within the Party at the present time has taken a very serious turn by having a spokesperson for the leader state that elected Green MPs have engaged in anti-Semitism and discrimination. Things could go off the rails here very easily if Paul doesn't act.  The Green Party runs the potential risk of having the entirety of its elected caucus walk away, if they feel that they are in the cross-hairs of a smear campaign coming from the Leader's office.

Accusations of anti-Semitism should never be thrown around casually by anybody - especially when directed at named or known individuals, whose public reputations are always tarnished, even when there is no evidence to support the claims. Criticism of Israel and the actions of its government and those who act on behalf of its government are not acts of anti-Semitism, unless they devolve into attacks on individuals or an entire people based on race and religion alone. That happens sometimes. But I have not seen it happen with regards to the individuals identified by Zatzman.

These unsubstantiated accusations coming from Zatzman are the last thing the Green Party needs right now.  But at least the Party has a chance to get out in front of this one before it blows up in the media.  I'm just shocked that this is happening at all, given Zatzman's position in the Leader's office, along with everything else that's been going on. It seems to me that the very people who ought to be the best positioned for looking out for political land mines are the ones that are laying them down in the first place.  

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

350 Canada: Partisan Greenwashing

If there are still any Greens left out there who think that 350 Canada is a non-partisan organization that is striving for better climate outcomes in Canada (and for the planet), and not a mouthpiece of for the NDP, it's time for a major rethink.

350 Canada has long endorsed the NDP-branded "Green New Deal (for Canada)", rather than a more generic call for climate action. This kind of branding piggy-backing matters, because what you end up with are partisan New Democrats and (ostensibly) non-partisan 350 supporters talking up the same partisan-branded initiative.

In the 2019 election, 350 Canada supported a Squad of Green New Deal champions, and promoted these MP's heavily on their website. All were New Democrats. Of course, this approach overlooked the considerable national gravitas that the Green Party has brought to the climate change conversation when Elizabeth May was elected to parliament in 2011. Why wouldn't 350 Canada tell voters in Saanich Gulf Islands to back May - and Paul Manly, for that matter, who at that time was the newly-elected MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith?

From: 350 Canada website

350 Canada even gave their website a make-over, changing their brand's colours from predominately red to orange and sky blue. It's hard not to notice the orange now. This stuff matters, as it sends a message to people who engage via website.

From: 350 Canada website

Today, 350 Canada did something it has never (to my knowledge) done before: it has publicly called for solidarity with the people of Palestine, and is urging its followers to get involved in the global BDS movement. While this is probably good news for many Greens and supporters, I offer two observations. On the surface, this seems out-of-step with 350 Canada's mission of "ending the fossil fuel era and building a green economy". But, recent events appear to have led 350 Canada to speak out about what's going on in Israel/Palestine - and no, I'm not talking about the terrible images we're all seeing via social media, but rather the NDP Policy Convention's approval of motions that now endorse sanctions and an arms embargo of Israel.
350 Canada on Twitter

350 Canada could have been vocal about boycott, divestment and sanctions at any time in its history - but doing so would have aligned it with the Green Party as per our 2016 policy - and not the NDP. But now a little over a month after the NDP has caught up to the Green Party on this issue, you've got 350 Canada going public. Coincidence? Maybe. But I don't think so.

Greens need to stay away from 350 Canada. They are working against our interests and the interests of the planet by playing a hidden partisan game with voters. They are not being honest with Canadians, and are now clearly working in opposition to what they claim to want in terms of climate action, by giving the NDP covert support. Instead of engaging in partisan greenwashing, they ought to be telling their supporters to do what would really work: Vote Green.