Green Party Witchhunt Against Shahrar Ali, its former Deputy Leader at the behest of the Islamaphobes of the Campaign Against Antisemitism
As the Zionists Wage Their ‘Anti-Semitism’ Wars, Caroline Lucas and the Green Party Leadership Have Abandoned Support for the Palestinians and BDS
Who would have thought, that in the fight against ‘anti-Semitism’ that Caroline Lucas and the Green Party Executive would get into bed with the overtly racist, far-Right Campaign Against Antisemitism which is almost certainly funded by the Israeli government’s dirty tricks Ministry of Strategic Affairs under Gilad Erdan.
I remember back in 2005 when I stood for Brighton Pavilion on behalf of the Alliance for Green Socialists. I did a hustings with Keith Taylor the Green Party candidate (who later became MEP for the South East).
I asked Keith why did he think that Greens everywhere move to the Right when. I cited the fact that the first war that Germany had fought in post-1945 was in Afghanistan under the Green’s Foreign Minister Joshka Fischer. Why in Ireland did the Green Party enter a coalition with Fine Gael to introduce austerity, which resulted in them being decimated at the next elections?
Why you might ask did the Greens, when they controlled Brighton Council, ally with the Tories to finance, the hideous i-360 (called the eyesore locally) a speculative venture to put a tower into the sky which is losing money hand over fist. Or why indeed did the Green Party councillors ally with the Tories and New Labour last year in Brighton & Hove to support the IHRA?
Why indeed have the Green Party in Austria just formed an alliance with the racist Conservative Peoples’ Party? A coalition agreement which will mean an immediate attack on Muslims including a ban on headscarves in schools, attacks on immigrants and a succumbing to Prime Minister Kurz’s racist agenda.
The answer is simple. The Green Party is a classic petit-bourgeois party that moves left when it is opportune and to the right when the winds are blowing in that direction. It is a party entirely devoid of class politics and principle. It aims to green capitalism without understanding that production for profit and environmentalism don’t make for easy bedfellows.
I copy below an edited article by Les Levidow, a longstanding Jewish anti-Zionist in Green Left Blog. It shows how the leadership of the Green Party [GP], including Caroline Lucas (& Peter Tatchell) have done their best to get the GP to support the IHRA ‘definition’ of anti-Semitism, a definition pioneered by Dina Porat, a Zionist ideologue at the Tel Aviv Kantor Centre, whose aim was explicitly to render criticism of Zionism/Israel ‘anti-Semitic’.At the November 2018 GP conference, Shahrar Ali, its Home Affairs Spokesperson, successfully proposed that the conference not support an Executive motion in support of the IHRA.
Instead the GP leadership has behaved as undemocratically as all other major political parties. So much for their talk of a different way of organising politically. When the far-Right, openly racist, Campaign Against Antisemitism [CAA] targeted Shahrer Ali with a bogus complaint of ‘anti-Semitism’, instead of dismissing it, the GP instituted a disciplinary inquiry.
The CAA in its Report British Muslims and Antisemitism stated that:
the gradual buildup of understanding and friendship between Britain’s Jews and Muslims has been utterly eclipsed by growing antisemitism amongst British Muslims.
On every single count, British Muslims were more likely by far than the general British population to hold deeply antisemitic views…. many British Muslims reserve a special hatred for British Jews, rating Jews much less favourably than people of other religions or no religion, yet astonishingly British Muslims largely do not recognise antisemitism as a major problem.
It has long been suspected that sections of the British Muslim population harboured hatred towards British Jews. This survey… shows that the prejudice is horrifyingly widespread.
The report included a racist full colour profile of the ‘typical’ Muslim. It was taken down after protests and replaced by a black and white version. The image was accompanied by a strap line ‘More likely to be’ and then there were a series of bubbles:Male, In Social Housing, Older than 35, Working, Living in Scotland or in England South of the Midlands, Sympathetic to Terrorism, Extremism or violence, First Generation Immigrant.
Just imagine the outcry if a Muslim group posted a similar image of the ‘typical Jew’. The CAA used on its front cover a picture of a Black person holding a ‘Hitler was Right’ poster. The message being that most Muslims are supporters of the Holocaust.
Yet the GP Executive have accepted a complaint against Shahrer Ali from the CAA, which is chaired by Gideon Falter. Falter is Vice Chairman of JNF UK and a trustee for the JNF Charitable Trust. The JNF is a pillar of Israeli apartheid. It controls 93% of Israeli land from which Arabs are barred. The JNF portrays itself as a ‘green’ charity because it plants forests and parks on the ruins of razed Palestinian villages thus participating in their ethnic cleansing.
On 3rd August 2007 the Jewish Chronicle staged a debate, in the wake of the Kadan case in Israel where the Supreme Court ruled that the practice of allocating land only to Jews was illegal. The article was entitled ‘Is it racist to set aside Israeli land for Jews only’. To most people it’s a no brainer that it is racist but not for Falter.
In its submission to Israel’s Supreme Court the JNF pleaded that:
JNF lands are not state lands…. JNF ownership of JNF lands is total, private, and separate from the state. The JNF purchased all of the land in its possession from previous owners by means of funds donated incrementally by Jews from all over the world for the purpose of purchasing land in Eretz Israel to be held and developed on behalf of the Jewish people. JNF trusteeship is not and cannot be given or granted to the entire Israeli public. JNF trusteeship is preserved solely for the Jewish people, on whose behalf it was founded and acts.
The Knesset overturned this ruling in 2011 with the Reception Committees Law. On its website the JNF proclaimed that
over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than a state of its own citizens.’
Yet Caroline Lucas, Peter Tatchell and co-leader Sian Berry, joined forces with the CAA against a Black member of their own party.
Caroline Lucas – A Tale of Absorption into the British Political Establishment
I have had a lengthy correspondence with Caroline Lucas [CL]over the IHRA. Our conversation traces how she has never been able to defend the supporting the IHRA.
On 28th May 2017 I wrote to CL saying that
‘I was surprised to find out that you supported a definition of anti-Semitism that is being used to restrict free speech by defining opposition to Zionism and Israel as anti-Semitic. It is to be hoped that you rethink this position. The IHRA is a creature of the Right and people like Eric Pickles’
CL responded on 30 May stating that
‘There has been considerable debate about this in the Green Party and the Executive Committee recently adopted a position that notes the IHRA definition and the importance of not conflating criticism of Israel with genuine anti-Jewish racism. It also stressed its commitment to working across the Green Party to advance understanding of and protect against antisemitism, drawing where helpful on the IHRA definition, at the same time as protecting freedom of speech and promoting Green Party policy on Israel and Palestine.’
This is what is called having your cake and eating it or supporting two fundamentally contradictory things. You can support the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism or you can support freedom of speech. What you cannot do is support both. CL told me that:
I have taken on the various concerns raised with me about the IHRA definition and have noted the position of Green MEPs. If you are aware of any more helpful definitions, particularly when it comes to illustrative examples, I’d be interested to see them and raise with the Green Party for our ongoing work. My support for the IHRA definition is on record because I signed an Early Day Motion. At the moment I am not able to remove my name but shall enquire whether that’s possible if I am re-elected to Parliament on June 8.
What CL was saying was that she wanted to withdraw her support for the IHRA EDM but that she wasn’t allowed to do so. She added that:
‘Please be assured that, as a passionate and long standing advocate of Palestinian rights, I reject any idea that support for Palestine equates with antisemitism and share your concern about any attempts to prevent activities or silence voices designed to highlight the ongoing occupation of Palestine and the Israeli authorities’ complicity in human rights and other abuses.’
Of course I did know of another definition of anti-Semitism. It is the Oxford English Dictionary Definition of anti-Semitism which unlike the IHRA doesn’t take over 500. It states that ‘Anti-Semitism is hostility to or discrimination against Jews.’ 6 words.
I wrote back on 31 May 2017 stating that:
Reading between the lines I am taking it that you have now had second thoughts about the IHRA definition. That is extremely welcome. You may not know it but the University College Union at its annual conference last week voted to reject the IHRA definition as lecturers know how this definition is being misused on campuses.
I agree that we must always be vigilant concerning anti-Semitism. Only last week members of PSC in Brighton were amongst those who picketed an attempt by the Front Nationale to hold a meeting at the King & Queen pub. It is the supporters of Israel who are aligning themselves with the far-Right.’
‘You asked me whether there are any more helpful definitions of anti-Semitism. I do not understand this quest for definitions of anti-Semitism. Racism is hatred of the other and it takes the form of discrimination, violence, abuse and stereotyping…. This obsession with defining anti-Semitism only comes about because of the desire to find a definition which includes opposition to Israel and Zionism…. I don’t need a definition to know when someone is being anti-Semitic! But you can’t be racist against a state and that is what the IHRA is about…’
When my dad joined 100,000 others in stopping Oswald Moseley’s British Union of Fascists marching through the East End in 1936 he didn’t need a definition of anti-Semitism to know what it was.
On 16th October 2018 CL wrote to me again.
You make lots of arguments but for me this essentially comes down to one key point, namely that I disagree with you as to whether the IHRA definition prevents criticism of the Israeli government and its actions by automatically labelling it antisemitism.
I don’t agree that the definition means criticism of Israel is automatically antisemitic. Rather, it makes clear that there has to be some kind of manifestation of hatred towards Jews for that to be the case. I recognise the definition is being used to try to shut down criticism and debate in some contexts, but I think that’s a misuse of the definition and will continue to say as much. I therefore advocate its adoption – with the very helpful clarifying amendments from the cross party Home Affairs Select Committee on this specific point.
My response on 17 October 2018 was that:
I don’t doubt that you support the Palestinians but unfortunately you support a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’ whose sole purpose it is to equate that support with hatred against Jews….
It is as if 42 years ago you had criticised the South Africa government for its policies of shooting the inhabitants of Soweto but drawn the line at criticising Apartheid.
You accept that the definition is being used to shut down criticism of Israel but then you say that this is a misuse of it. I disagree. Such ‘misuse’ is inherent in the definition itself. When Stephen Sedley, the Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge says, that:
Endeavours to conflate the two (anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism) by characterising everything other than anodyne criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic are not new. What is new is the adoption… of a definition of anti-Semitism which endorses the conflation.
Is he wrong? Why? Hugh Tomlinson QC stated that
‘there is likely to be lack of consistency in its application and a potential chilling effect on public bodies which, in the absence of definitional clarity, may seek to sanction or prohibit any conduct which has been labelled by third parties as antisemitic without applying any clear criterion of assessment.
Is that also wrong? Geoffrey Robertson QC argued that
the looseness of the definition is liable to chill legitimate criticisms of the state of Israel and coverage of human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Stephen Sedley went further stating that the IHRA
‘fails the first test of any definition: it is indefinite.’
I am leaving to one side the incoherence of a definition which says that Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel are anti-Semitic. If Israel is the fulfilment of Jewish self-determination, i.e. the Jews are a nation, then it is obviously correct to hold them responsible for Israel’s actions. Likewise if Israel is the Jewish national state then why shouldn’t someone accuse Jews of being more loyal to Israel? Is it racist to accuse British people of being more loyal to Britain than France?
The question that puzzles me is why the hell would you want to use a definition of anti-Semitism that is so politically incoherent and which lends itself to the suppression of free speech? What is it about the definition that, despite all these flaws, makes it so attractive?
The only conclusion I can reach is that you are unwilling to go against the Establishment consensus. That you value your position as a member of the British Establishment, albeit its radical green fringe. I am referring to a consensus forged by the State Department in Washington which first adopted the IHRA definition (in its previous EUMC guise). The IHRA is a definition of anti-Semitism which chimes with America’s foreign policy interest in supporting Israel, right or wrong.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that ‘man cannot serve two masters’. I would say that you cannot both support the Palestinians and a definition of anti-Semitism that renders such support anti-Semitic.’
Surprising as it might seem I never received a reply!Tony Greenstein
Les Levidow, a Jewish member of the Green Party wrote on the Green Left Blog:
Since 2016 a systematic campaign has been weaponizing alleged antisemitism in order to protect the racist Israeli regime from criticism, especially from the global campaign of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). This has been conflated with antisemitism through the so-called ‘IHRA definition of antisemitism’, which serves a racist agenda. The GP leadership has colluded with this agenda in several ways – by concealing official support for the BDS campaign, promoting the IHRA definition within the GP and abusing its disciplinary procedure to retaliate against a prominent critic. A pro-Palestine re-orientation will depend on members holding the leadership accountable for its collusion and pushing it instead to promote BDS as anti-racist.
The 2005 Palestinian call for BDS has been the focus of the global movement of Palestine solidarity. Its many supporters include the GP. It has voted for ‘active participation’ in the BDS campaign, e.g. conference motions in spring 2008 and autumn 2014. BDS was featured in the Green Party GP’s magazine and was promoted by its former Leader Natalie Bennett. Some members established a BDS Facebook page.
Yet the GP’s pro-BDS policy has nearly disappeared. It is absent from the International Policy webpage, hidden in the autumn 2014 motion on Israel’s Ground Invasion, and absent from 2019 election statements, which have been deceptive in this regard. Meanwhile the leadership has been accommodating the pro-Israel lobby which has been falsely accusing Israel’s critics of antisemitism.
Since 2017 the GP leadership has been promoting the IHRA definition. Moreover, a prominent member has sponsored a complaint from a racist pro-Israel campaign group against another member who led opposition to the IHRA definition. By undermining the Green Party’s pro-Palestine policies, the leadership has provoked internal unease and revolt. GP
Not coincidentally, the smear campaign escalated shortly after the Labour Party elected a new Left-wing, anti-imperialist leadership in 2015. Pro-Israel activists trawled members’ social media posts going back several years, including anti-Israel comments.
Weaponizing alleged antisemitism is psychological warfare protecting the UK’s alliance with the Israeli regime. This agenda generates fear that a unitary ‘Jewish community’ faces an ‘existential threat’ from pro-Palestine policies and politicians. The UK government encourages and exploits this fear to justify the UK’s pro-Israel policies as necessary for ‘social cohesion’.
Green Party autumn 2018 conference: members revolt against pro-IHRA leadership
After the Tory government adopted the IHRA full definition in December 2016, many politicians did likewise. Having slandered Ken Livingstone as antisemitic, John Mann MP sponsored an EDM supporting the IHRA definition; signatories included Caroline Lucas MP. When local authorities voted for motions supporting the IHRA definition, they were supported by GP politicians such as Caroline Russell and Sian Berry (co-Leader).
Jewish members of the GP sent email messages denouncing those politicians’ actions and encouraged other members to do likewise. The politicians gave scant responses, denying any contradiction with BDS or anti-Israel criticism.
The GP’s internal conflict eventually erupted at the autumn 2018 conference. Prominent politicians endorsed a pro-IHRA motion. It was countered by an anti-IHRA motion, led by Shahrar Ali, who has been a Home Affairs spokesperson, Deputy Leader and frequent candidate of the GP.
The pro-IHRA leadership was unnerved by this revolt. A new procedural motion proposed to remit the original ones, apparently for fear that the pro-IHRA motion would be defeated. Conference voted to remit both.
The pro-Israel Jewish Chronicle reported the outcome as a ‘failure’, implying that the obstacle was antisemitism. It reproduced the title of my Green Left magazine article, ‘Palestine solidarity under racist attack’. My article included a cartoon (below) mocking the racist agenda of false allegations; strangely, this too was reproduced by the Jewish Chronicle
When an anti-IHRA motion was put forward for the subsequent conference, the Standing Orders Committee ruled that the IHRA definition may come up again only if the two contrary motions were reconciled in a single motion – obviously impossible. This ruling protects the pro-IHRA leadership from further debate, defeat and embarrassment. As a substitute for political debate, the leadership has abused the disciplinary procedure, as explained next.
Leadership retaliates against Shahrar Ali, members again push back
In retaliating against Shahrar Ali, the leadership instrumentalised the so-called Campaign Against Antisemitism which has been promoting a racist Islamophobic, anti-Palestinian agenda. The CAA has made false allegations of antisemitism against many of Israel’s critics, especially Labour Party members, including many Muslims and Jews. Indeed, it throws such allegations at Jewish pro-Palestine groups who criticise pro-Israel groups for weaponising alleged antisemitism (as in this article). One Jewish target of its false allegations, Tony Greenstein, led a petition asking the Charities Commission to deregister the CAA as a Right-wing lobby group with no charitable aims.
The CAA also promotes Islamophobic stereotypes, featuring a scary dehumanised image of ‘antisemitic Muslim males’ (2016 report, page 8). They ‘are more likely to sympathise with terrorism, violence and extremism’; those terms are left undefined. In the UK political context, so-called ‘extremism’ encompasses anyone opposing the racist Prevent programme or supporting resistance to the Israeli regime.
Eventually the CAA launched false allegations against a prominent GP member, Shahrar Ali. They cited his denunciation of Israel’s attack on Gaza at a 2009 rally outside the BBC, as well as his speech opposing the Party’s adoption of the IHRA definition at the 2018 Autumn conference. Under pressure from pro-Palestine members, the GP Regional Council (GPRC) refuted the false allegations, followed by a similar 2018 press release.
In 2019 the CAA escalated the attack by sending the GP a formal complaint about allegedly antisemitic comments by Shahrar Ali. The complaint was sponsored by a prominent GP member who has chosen to remain anonymous. The Disciplinary Committee could have simply rejected the complaint on numerous grounds, especially its racist agenda. Instead it initiated an investigation, asking Shahrar Ali for a response to the allegations.
In October 2019 his supporters launched a petition which quickly gained over a hundred signatories from GP members including many elected officers, local candidates and Councillors. It said, ‘To take up this complaint would be to collude in an anti-Palestinian agenda that would also discredit the GP. It is astonishing that the Party could fall for such a tactic, unwittingly or through lack of political courage.’ The petition concluded with these demands:
We call upon the Green Party to withdraw this politically motivated and internally damaging complaint and to work alongside Shahrar Ali to respond, as appropriate, to politically motivated attacks in the best tradition of the Green Party.
The GP must also, as a matter of urgency, instead investigate the hostile environment which misuse and abuse of process risks engendering internally.
Some members of the GP Executive Committee (GPEx) received, circulated or signed the petition. Some proposed that its next meeting discuss the conflict, possibly to suspend the disciplinary procedure against Shahrar Ali. But the meeting declined to add such an agenda item, on the spurious grounds that GPEx does not consider individual cases. The leadership evaded the generic issue of the racist accuser and its false allegations, thus colluding with them.
The Disciplinary Committee decided instead to take up a subsequent complaint that Shahrar Ali allegedly brought the GP into disrepute for publicly sharing the petition supporting him. Again the complainant chose to remain anonymous. Thus the disciplinary procedure escalated the leadership’s retaliation for Shahrar Ali’s prominent role against the IHRA definition. The complaint inverts reality, namely: that the leadership has been discrediting the GP by colluding with a racist agenda and then bureaucratically persecuting an anti-racist critic, while evading political debate over its shameful role.
General Election 2019: Green Party leadership promotes IHRA definition, while members again push back
In the 2019 General Election, the GP’s pro-Palestine policy was again softened and concealed. The Manifesto’s section on global justice says: ‘Seek resolution in line with international law and the principles of self-determination to long running conflicts, illegal occupations and human rights violations.’ Indeed, that has been a key aim of the GP supporting ‘active participation’ in the BDS campaign –absent from the manifesto.
The leadership further colluded with the Board of Deputies of British Jews and its racist agenda. As political background, the Board has consistently supported Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, especially its Gaza massacres in 2008-09 and 2014. After Israel killed numerous civilians at the Gaza border in 2018, the Board’s statement blamed Hamas; in response, hundreds of Jews denounced the Board for placing no responsibility on Israel.
Jeremy Corbyn criticised Britain’s failure to call for an independent investigation as ‘morally indefensible’. In response, the Board pleaded self-defence by Israel, as grounds to denounce his modest demand for an investigation.
The Board also has led false allegations of antisemitism. This consistently racist pro-Israel agenda indicates its political aims when intervening in the 2019 general election.
The Board sent political parties ‘10 commitments for GE2019’, especially to ‘Adopt, promote and implement the full IHRA Definition of Antisemitism’. An honest response from the GP might have read as follows: ‘Our autumn 2018 conference debated the IHRA definition, ultimately voting to remit both the pro-IHRA and anti-IHRA definitions for future consideration’. Instead its response said, ‘The GP is likely to consider adopting the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism at a policymaking session of its party conference in the future’.
The GP’s response was circulated to Parliamentary candidates as guidance with this encouragement: ‘Candidates who sign the [IHRA] definition are welcome to promote this on social media, as some already have.’ By anticipating its future adoption and omitting BDS, the guidance misled candidates about the GP’s policies and debates. Some candidates expressed unease to other members, thus alerting them to the deception.
Soon dissenters consulted numerous members. Together they drafted more honest responses to several questions from the Board of Deputies. This alternative version deleted the prediction that a future conference would consider the IHRA definition; and it added a link to the GP’s policies strongly criticising Israel. But the leadership’s response was unsatisfactory.
Its strong support for the IHRA definition facilitated yet more ‘antisemitism’ allegations. In November 2019 the CAA announced the results of trawling social media posts. The CAA denounced several Parliamentary candidates of the GP (again Shahrar Ali) for statements contravening the IHRA as grounds to demand their expulsion. As reported in the Jewish Chronicle, several candidates had drawn analogies between Nazi Germany and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, or they suggested that ‘complaints of antisemitism were being used to defend Israel’.
A Green Left statement countered the false allegations against GP candidates. It reiterated previous criticism of the IHRA’s Israel examples as an invalid basis for identifying real antisemitism. By contrast, the GP leadership may have difficulty in defending its candidates while supporting the IHRA definition.
In parallel Palestine Solidarity Campaign had sent all Parliamentary candidates a questionnaire. Of 290 candidate responses across all parties, 138 of them were from the GPEW. This had the highest response rate, giving pro-Palestine answers to nearly all the questions. The questionnaire was not mentioned in the GP’s email briefings to candidates.
Conclusion: hold the leadership accountable
Since 2017 the GP’s leadership has been undermining its pro-Palestine policy. It has been concealing support for BDS and promoting the IHRA definition, a key weapon against BDS. The leadership has colluded with a wider racist agenda, especially from the Board of Deputies and the CAA
Given these higher stakes for the BDS campaign, how will the GP leadership respond? By further colluding with a racist agenda and retaliating against anti-racist critics? Or else by defending its pro-Palestine policies? A pro-Palestine re-orientation will depend on members holding the leadership accountable for its collusion and pushing it instead to promote the GP’s BDS policy.
Les Levidow is a Member of Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW), Camden branch and Member of Steering Group, Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP). He is a member of Camden Green party and a Green Left supporter.
For Email correspondence between Tony Greenstein and Caroline Lucas see here