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Green Party: Open Letter to Caroline Lucas

NOVANEWS

Open Letter to Caroline Lucas – You can’t run with the Palestinian hare and hunt with the Zionist hounds – You are either with the Oppressed or the Oppressor

Why are you supporting the IHRA, a definition of ‘anti-Semitism’, whose sole purpose it is to Chill Free Speech and Sanitise Apartheid?

An alliance of 31 countries dedicated to using the Holocaust to legitimise Zionism

 

Dear Caroline,

During last year’s General Election you wrote to me explaining that:

‘it’s vital that we do more to tackle antisemitism and this was my motivation in backing the IHRA definition.’

You went on to explain ‘the importance of not conflating criticism of Israel with genuine anti-Jewish racism’ and in the same breath spoke about ‘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 probably as good an example of cognitive dissonance as it gets. You went on to ask me ‘If you are aware of any more helpful definitions, particularly when it comes to illustrative examples, I’d be interested to see them’ whilst explaining that you wished to withdraw your support from an Early Day Motion supporting the IHRA but ‘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.’

 
Caroline Lucas hoists the Green Flag of Surrender on Antisemitism

You concluded by assuring me 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

Despite your obvious confusion I was pleased that you were willing to withdraw your support for the IHRA. One should always welcome the sinner who sees the light and repenteth on the road to Damascus. Unfortunately it appears that you have reverted to your sinful past.

 
Caroline Lucas in her more radical days before being an MP

I was tempted to ask you why it was necessary “to do more to tackle anti-Semitism” when it barely exists in this country. I’m not aware of any Jewish Windrush-style deportations or Jewish deaths in custody or the Stop and Search of Jews in Golders Green or indeed violence against Jews as Jews. Jews are living in a golden age. The assumption that anti-Semitism is increasing is one of those taken for granted establishment myths that become true by virtue of repetition.

 
The merchants of smear descend on the Green Party

I understand that the Green Party is due to debate the IHRA at its conference this weekend and you are backing an Executive motion supporting the IHRA. On 13th August you issued a statement expressing your support for the IHRA at the same time as reiterating your support for the Palestinians.  This is like someone who murders his parents whilst professing his love for them.

The whole purpose of the IHRA is to conflate anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. I doubt if there is a single Palestine solidarity activist in the country who hasn’t been accused of ‘anti-Semitism’. Likewise there isn’t a single Jewish supporter of the Palestinians, be they anti-Zionist or non-Zionist, who hasn’t been called a ‘traitor’ ‘self-hater’ or ‘kapos’.

 
Ghetto walls in Warsaw Ghetto

Your decision to support the IHRA, in all its McCarthyist glory, is shameful. It suggests that the Green Party’s commitment to civil liberties and human rights is skin deep. The IHRA has nothing whatsoever to do with combating anti-Semitism. That is why the anti-Semitic regimes of Hungary and Poland, both of which are part of the 31 country International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, endorse the definition. In your statement you say that you support the IHRA because ‘on balance… the definition provides an instructive framework that can help with the vital work of education, understanding and campaigning’

I don’t know what an ‘instructive framework’ is and I suspect neither do you. Perhaps Professor David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism also misunderstands when he says that the core definition,“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred towards Jews.”  is‘bewilderingly imprecise.’ Perhaps you know something he doesn’t?

Sir Stephen Sedley, the Jewish former Court of Appeal Judge, in his article Defining Anti-Semitism, when commenting on the Opinion of Hugh Tomlinson QC that the IHRA was unclear and confusing’ suggested instead that it was ‘calculatedly misleading’.

Renowned human rights lawyer, Geoffrey Robertson QC described the IHRA as not fit for purpose.’ One wonders what it is about the IHRA definition that you have discovered that eminent human rights lawyers, academics and the most radical judge the Court of Appeal has ever had missed out on?

Both Robertson and Sedley pointed out a curious thing about the IHRA. Far from educating people as to what anti-Semitism is, the IHRA actually does the opposite because it raises the bar, defining anti-Semitism as ‘hatred’ rather than ‘hostility’.

You asked me about any other helpful definitions of anti-Semitism. Could I suggest the Oxford English Dictionary definition‘Anti-Semitism is hostility to or prejudice against Jews.’ Or perhaps Oxford academic Brian Klug’s definition, in his Kristallnacht memorial lecture at the Berlin Jewish Museum in 2014:

antisemitism is a form of hostility to Jews as Jews, where Jews are perceived as something other than what they are

The OED defines anti-Semitism in terms of ‘hostility’whereas the IHRA defines it in terms of ‘hatred’. The two are not the same. If someone says ‘I don’t want my daughter to marry a Jew although I’ve got nothing against them’ then according to the IHRA they are not anti-Semitic.You go on to say that

The legitimate concerns about free speech can be powerfully addressed by our continuing as a Party to champion… the rights of the Palestinian people to peace, freedom and justice…. The definition… explicitly allow for this and make clear that criticising Israel or its policies, for example, is only antisemitic if it’s deliberately manifesting or inciting hatred.’

You are wrong on all counts. It’s like saying you can oppose poverty whilst supporting austerity  If you conflate support for the Palestinians with anti-Semitism, and 7 of the 11 IHRA examples of ‘anti-Semitism’ include the Israeli state, then you cannot help but undermine support for the Palestinians.

It is simply untrue to say that the definition only forbids criticism of Israel that manifests or incites hatred. Have you read it? The IHRA says that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.’ In other word criticism of Israel that is unlike that of other countries is anti-Semitic.

As Sedley put it ‘characterising everything other than anodyne criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic are not new.’Israel is unlike any other state in the world but according to the IHRA if you say this then you are anti-Semitic. Perhaps you can tell me which other state in the world, apart from Burma, demolishes the homes and villages of one section of the populace in order to replace them with settlers from the dominant racial group?


Eric Pickles – former Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, supported the alliance of the Tories in the European Parliament with antisemitic parties such as Poland’s Law & Justice Party

In most states citizenship is the legal embodiment of nationality however Israel is the state of the Jewish nation, wherever they reside, which means it excludes 20% of its citizens from this definition. Perhaps you know of another state where this is true because according to the IHRA merely pointing this out is anti-Semitic?

One of the IHRA’s 11 examples of anti-Semitism states that ‘Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.’ I strain to understand why opposing the right of the ‘Jewish people’ itself a contentious formulation, is an example of hatred and therefore anti-Semitic. Is it racist to oppose Scottish or Welsh self-determination? And what is the connection between Israel as a racist state and anti-Semitism? I find it difficult to believe that you find this non-sequitur educative!

You say that you will ‘continue to use my voice to speak out against the abuses of the Israeli authorities, to demand that the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis are upheld’.  Not only do you equate the oppressed and oppressor, Palestinians and Israelis (you mean Israeli Jews!) Palestinian oppression is a political not a human rights problem. Just as Apartheid in South Africa was at its core a political question.

Most states in the world are racist but very few have racism at the very core of their identity. Racism is the DNA of the Israeli state.  It is a Jewish i.e. a Jewish Supremacist state.

To give but one example. At the moment there 5 yearly local elections are being held in Israel. In Tel Aviv Likud, the party of government are campaigning on the slogan ‘It’s either us or them’. The them are the Arab minority of Jaffa and the African refugees of South Tel Aviv. It is a campaign to racially purify Tel Aviv and Jaffa, to make it a ‘Hebrew city’.In what other state in the world would a governing party be campaigning to ‘cleanse’ a city of its minority populations? Yet to point this out is ‘anti-Semitic’ according to the IHRA definition that you have embraced.

You suggest that although ‘The IHRA definition isn’t perfect (but) it’s a working definition.’ I hate to tell you this but it has been a working definition for 13 years!

You also state that ‘letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is distracting from the actions all political parties need to take to show real leadership on antisemitism.’  This is fatuous, puerile. Words devoid of all meaning. There is nothing good about a definition of anti-Semitism that anti-Semites can sign up to but which defines anti-racists and anti-imperialists as anti-Semites.

What amazes me is that you are endorsing the weaponisation of anti-Semitism whose primary purpose is the suppression and chilling of free speech. Even Kenneth Stern, the author of the IHRA, has come to recognise that this is what the IHRA has become.

As Stern acknowledged in testimony to Congress, ‘The definition was not drafted, and was never intended, as a tool to target or chill speech on a college campus… at a conference in 2010 about the impact of the definition, I highlighted this misuse, and the damage it could do.’

 
The IHRA was used to try and remove Rebecca Gould as a lecturer

Whereas the author of the IHRA has become alarmed at how it is being used, you seem either oblivious or indifferent.Among the many examples of how the IHRA has been used, is the case of Professor Rebecca Gould of Bristol University. On the basis of an article she had written in 2011, Sir Eric Pickles, the anti-Semitic former Chair of Conservative Friends of Israel called on Gould to ‘consider her position’. Kenneth Stern described this as ‘chilling and McCarthy-like’ yet you turn a blind eye and simply pretend that the IHRA is about combating anti-Semitism. The group who targeted Professor Gould, demanding that she be sacked for having compared Israel with Nazi Germany, was the far-Right Campaign Against Anti-Semitism. The CAAcomplained that ‘the lecturer is able to continue to teach unimpeded.’  [see Rebecca Gould, Legal Form and Legal Legitimacy: The IHRA Definition of Antisemitism as a Case Study in Censored Speech]

It is therefore baffling that the Green Party, in response to a CAA attack on Shahrar Ali, a candidate for the Green Party leadership, stated that “We have reached out to the Campaign Against Antisemitism to ensure we fully understand their concerns and to respond accordingly.”Perhaps next time the GP thinks of reaching out to this racist group they will bear in mind my criticisms of them inElectronic Intifada.

The obvious question that you and the Green Party have failed to ask is why is there a need for a definition of anti-Semitism at all? You don’t need a definition of fascism to oppose fascists and you don’t need a definition of anti-Semitism to oppose anti-Semitism. If you want one you can adopt the legal test of the reasonable person on the Clapham Omnibus. If asked they would say ‘a person who doesn’t like Jews.’ You don’t need a 500+ word definition unless your purpose is to conflate criticism of Zionism with anti-Semitism.

Your attitude to the IHRA, that it is compatible with freedom of speech is like saying that the right of women to choose to have an abortion is compatible with legislation outlawing abortion.

I am left asking what is the real reason for you changing your position on the IHRA? The only answer is that the British Establishment has adopted the IHRA as a means of defending British foreign policy in the Middle East and Israel’s role as a gendarme of the Middle East.

The weaponisation of anti-Semitism is a device to put a moral shield around British foreign policy in the Middle East. It would appear that for all its posturing, the Green Party is just another pro-capitalist, Establishment party whose aim is to green capitalism.  When the British ruling class has adopted a definition of anti-Semitism that embraces Israel you feel obliged to join in this consensus. [https://www.facebook.com/Mecca2Jerusalem/posts/10157500198740316?comment_id=10160762231130316, @tonygreenstein]

Kind regards

Tony Greenstein

Statement by Caroline Lucas, 13thAugust 2018

The executive has recently reviewed its position and considered a proposal to formally adopt the IHRA definition, both to help in our ongoing commitment to antisemitism, and to sit alongside our policies on Israel/Palestine and free speech.

The Green Party Executive will not be formally adopting the IHRA definition at this timeOne argument was that such a significant decision ought to be taken by the wider membership and in close partnership with our Jewish members in particular. 

My personal position was, on balance, to support adoption because I think the definition provides an instructive framework that can help with the vital work of education, understanding and campaigning. The legitimate concerns about free speech can be powerfully addressed by our continuing as a Party to champion that right and the rights of the Palestinian people to peace, freedom and justice. The definition and associated guidelines explicitly allow for this and make clear that criticising Israel or its policies, for example, is only antisemitic if it’s deliberately manifesting or inciting hatred. 

I especially recognise my own responsibility to continue to use my voice to speak out against the abuses of the Israeli authorities, to demand that the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis are upheld, whilst also firmly committing to work with others to tackle antisemitism.

The IHRA definition isn’t perfect but it’s a working definition and I’m encouraged by initiatives to improve upon it. The Home Affairs Select Committee’s proposed amendments are very helpful in this respect.  I am also mindful that letting the perfect be the enemy of the good is distracting from the actions all political parties need to take to show real leadership on antisemitism. 

In the meantime, we will draw where helpful on the IHRA definition and other guidance. We will continue to show zero tolerance of antisemitism and I would like to personally urge all party members to engage with opportunities for training in antisemitism, including at conference this autumn. I also urge members to be mindful of the impact of their words and behaviour as we continue to debate this important issue as a party. 

One of the flaws of the IHRA definition is a focus on whether someone intends to manifest or incite hatred towards Jewish people, rather than being concerned more with the outcome ie if someone feels they have been a victim of racism, as Macpherson argued in his review into Stephen Lawrence’s death. The Macpherson principle underpins our equality laws and it’s a good guide for each of us as individuals – our right to free speech, including the right to offend and insult someone, should be balanced by a responsibility to think hard about the consequences. 

Taking responsibility for our impact on those around us and the planet which sustains us is a fundamental green value,  and it’s one that must underpin our party’s response to antisemitism, moving forward in a positive and constructive way.

Please note that this is not a formal statement on behalf of the leadership team – because others are involved in internal elections it was felt that would not be appropriate

Thank you,

Caroline Lucas MP

WHY ADOPTION OF THE IHRA EXAMPLES WOULD BE COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE:

THE NEED FOR FULL DEMOCRATIC DEBATE WITHIN THE GREEN PARTY

Statement by Green Left, 23rd August  2018

We oppose the July 2018 GPEX motion on antisemitism (note 1), currently being discussed by GPEX, which accepts the one-sentence IHRA definition of antisemitism plus all the appended examples (note 2).

This would be a major, controversial change of policy.  If GPEX seeks to move s adoption, then the motion should be put to members at the Autumn Conference to allow for full democratic, transparent debate. This should be preceded by on-line discussion to encourage full participation of members and groups, especially Jewish members and those active in the Palestine solidarity movement.   There also should be a procedure giving the opportunity for timely submissions of alternative motions to the current one.

For identifying anti-Semitism, the motion vaguely refers to ‘the overall context’ yet strangely ignores today’s context, namely: a political campaign weaponising anti-Semitism in order to undermine the Labour Party leadership and to promote false allegations. Those attacks must not intimidate the Green Party to adopt a policy that will inhibit our international solidarity work and free speech more generally. The motion has no recognition that antisemitism has declined among UK voters (especially Labour voters).  It gives no explanation for its apparent urgency, no evidence that antisemitism has become a significant problem within the Green Party, and no evidence that our present procedures are inadequate. The motion accommodates and sanitises the current smear campaign

Within the IHRA guidance document are four contentious examples (f, g, h and j) that have been key weapons for false allegations.  They have been widely criticised, especially by Jewish groups (note 3).  To adopt them would be sleepwalking into censorship; these contentious examples would impose unacceptable political constraints on our campaigning and limit free speech on Israel-Palestine.  Although the motion opposes the use of antisemitism as ‘a political football’ (point 7), the wording would further encourage false allegations against our members, potentially undermining our political effectiveness.   The motion would also increase resentment against Jews for trying to restrict criticism of Israel, given that the four contentious examples have been aggressively promoted by pro-Israel lobby groups (see again Note 2).

In the light of the above we propose, in order of preference:

  1. Green Party policy (Note 4) remains unchanged and the proposed motion is taken no further.
  2. Just the IHRA one-sentence definition, without any examples, is adopted following discussion within the Green Party in line with our democratic principles.

NOTES

 (1)            The July 2018 Motion to GPEX

  1. GPEx is deeply concerned by current levels of antisemitism in our society. We will take action against all anti-Semitism identified internally and externally, and in particular work across the Green Party to advance understanding of and protection against antisemitism.
  2. GPEx adopts the IHRA definition of antisemitism, which is non-legally binding and a working definition. We welcome initiatives to further develop definitions of antisemitism and will regularly review whether they can play a positive role in the Party’s work to tackle antisemitism.
  3. GPEx notes that the contemporary examples given in the guidelines that accompany the definition are not defined as anti-Semitic but are illustrations of what might be antisemitic should the overall context make them so.
  4. GPEx notes the Tomlinson legal opinion of the IHRA definition, particularly that conduct identified in the aforementioned examples, is only antisemitic if it manifests or incites hatred or intolerance towards Jews and that extreme care must be taken when considering some of these examples.
  5. GPEx further notes article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to freedom of expression and reiterates the Green Party’s commitment to protecting freedom of speech and promoting Green Party policy on Israel and Palestine.
  6. GPEx calls on GPRC to develop careful guidance for the Party as to the application of the IHRA definition and to continue to actively monitor the Party’s practices and procedures for responding to allegations of antisemitism.
  1. GPEx rejects any attempts to use antisemitism as a political football.

 [2]   IHRA text and its adoption

As a body representing 31 governments, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) agreed a one-sentence definition of antisemitism in 2016.

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”,

https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/working-definition-antisemitism

Without any official mandate, its website added guidance with numerous examples, most of them about Israel.   The full document with guidance originated in 2004 from the American Jewish Committee, a US pro-Israel lobby group aiming to counter ‘the one-sided treatment of Israel at the United Nations’.  The full document has been widely mis-represented as ‘the internationally agreed definition’ but has not been adopted by any international body.   It has been aggressively promoted by pro-Israel lobby groups, especially in the US and Europe.

In 2016 the full document was adopted by the UK government, which then warned all universities that they must apply the definition and that ‘anti-Semitic comments’ may arise during Israel Apartheid Week 2017.  Several universities denied or cancelled permission to student groups for such events.

 [3] Why the four Israel examples are contentious:  

On 17 July 2018, 30 Jewish organisations in a dozen countries issued a Global Jewish Statement which urges “our governments, municipalities, universities and other institutions to reject the IHRA definition.” The definition, it says, is intentionally worded so that legitimate criticisms of Israel and advocacy for Palestinian rights can be equated with anti-Semitism “as a means to suppress the former.” This conflation, it says, “undermines both the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality and the global struggle against anti-Semitism”.

https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/first-ever-40-jewish-groups-worldwide-oppose-equating-antisemitism-with-criticism-of-israel/

In July the Labour Party published its own interpretation of the examples, to avoid restricting criticism of Israel.  The two documents have been compared here, with an extra explanation of how the contentious examples restrict criticism of Israel, https://mailchi.mp/9cb35ad60217/ihra-and-labour-necs-antisemitism-codes-side-by-side-628989

 [4] GPEx statement adopted May 2017

GPEx is committed to taking action against antisemitism and notes the IHRA working definition of antisemitism and article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on the right to freedom of expression.

Further notes the Tomlinson legal opinion of the IHRA definition, particularly that conduct identified by the IHRA to illustrate antisemitism is only anti-Semitic if it manifests hatred towards Jews.

GPEx will work 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.

GPEx will continue to actively monitor the Party’s practices and procedures for responding to allegations of antisemitism. It will also be mindful of initiatives to develop alternative definitions of antisemitism and regularly review whether they can play a positive role in the Party’s work to tackle anti-semitism.

Letter from Caroline Lucas to Tony Greenstein 31st May 2017

Dear Tony,

Thank you for getting in touch. I think it’s vital that we do more to tackle antisemitism and this was my motivation in backing the IHRA definition. As you know, 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.

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.

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.

Best wishes, Caroline

Posted by Tony Greenstein 

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