Anti-Semitic fringe element threatens the Green Party’s very existence

Now is the time, with the convention set to begin, for the membership of the party and its supporters—those who have spent years volunteering for the party, on campaigns, in meetings and more—to refuse to be silent.

By Paul Estrin, The Hill Times

When I was the President of the Green Party, I dreamt of many things, but never that fringe elements who peddle hatred and discrimination would appear to be given free rein, tarnishing the party’s reputation that, at its core, is supposed to fight those very things.

I never imagined that Elizabeth May would sponsor a resolution against the Jewish National Fund of Canada, an organization that was a pioneer in the green movement (thankfully she has since recanted and said she will fight against the resolution she sponsored). Or that the party would fail to definitively censure anti-Semitic comments. And I certainly never thought the party would consider a bigoted resolution, to support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) of any and all things involved in or with Israel; it is nothing more than discrimination based on national origin.

Starting tomorrow, the Green Party will hold its convention in Ottawa. The only resolutions pertaining to foreign policy single out one country—the only country with a majority Jewish population: Israel. That no other country is the subject of such an effort reflects poorly on the Greens, and many cannot but help seeing this as an indication of anti-Semitism among some of the party’s supporters.

Time and again, racist, anti-Jewish, and anti-Israel sentiment has been a litmus test for the broader legitimacy of a political party. Racism has no place in a Canadian political party, yet I fear, despite Elizabeth May’s opposition to these resolutions, that anti-Israel activists are causing immense damage to the party’s reputation and capacity to connect with voters.

I worry for the continued existence of the party, and also for its supporters who I know are struggling with this—many of whom come from anti-racist backgrounds, and who live their lives going out of their way, everyday, to make the world a better place.

I ask Greens to take a moment to breathe, look around, and recognize the impact of what is happening to their party. Sadly, hate has been imported by a small segment of the membership and threatens the party’s very existence.

In 2014, I left my position as party president after having written, in a moderate tone, my concern for the welfare of Israelis during the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. While some who criticized this choice were operating in good faith, many others were clearly motivated by hate and even anti-Semitism. The worst example of this was a former Green Party candidate who publicly accused me of being a “Zionist shill”, adding that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks. The same candidate, just last month, declared in a YouTube video that the Holocaust is a lie, definitively charging that “there were no gas chambers”.

When I left my position as president, I expected and then asked for the Green Party to take a firm, unequivocal stand against the anti-Semitic attacks I had faced. Apparently, the anti-Semitic comments I received in 2014 were not enough, as it is only now that this former candidate has claimed the Holocaust is a hoax that the party finally took action by moving to revoke her membership.

Now is the time, with the convention set to begin, for the membership of the party and its supporters—those who have spent years volunteering for the party, on campaigns, in meetings and more—to refuse to be silent.

It is my hope that the party reasserts control of its agenda, that it shelves these problematic resolutions, that it returns to its core mandate that Canadians want and expect to see from the Greens, and that it unburdens itself from the racism that plagues it, loudly and firmly shutting the door on hate and discrimination.

Paul Estrin is a former president of the Green Party of Canada.

:: The Hill Times

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