Power Suits 17 March 2021
UK Member of Parliament Caroline Lucas intervened at a biannual conference to stop her Green Party from passing a motion against a misleading definition of anti-Semitism, activists say.
Green activists have accused her of “filibustering” and “cheating,” which she denies.
Although the party leadership is in favor, the Green Party of England and Wales has so far not endorsed the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “working definition” of anti-Semitism due to grassroots opposition.
The motion, at the party conference online on 7 March, would have committed the Greens to actively campaigning against the bogus definition, which has been pushed by Israel and its lobby for years.
Unlike most parties in the UK, which hold their policymaking conferences once a year, the Greens hold theirs every six months.
Motion D07, “Anti-Semitism, Palestine and Free Speech,” was co-sponsored by the party’s home affairs spokesperson Shahrar Ali. Ali says it received support in an indicative straw poll at a “packed” workshop earlier in the conference.
Video shows that 62 percent of 142 participants voted in favor of the motion.
But the motion itself was not voted on in the 7 March plenary, after Lucas successfully delayed the debate by 12 minutes, video of the conference shows.
In a response to The Electronic Intifada, Lucas denied “filibustering or acting in an undemocratic way.”
She said it was “disappointing that some are choosing to play politics with such an important issue” and defended her actions, saying “I understand fears that the IHRA definition might be misused to restrict free speech but the definition is very clear.”
“Oppose adoption of the IHRA definition”
The motion had asked the conference to “reaffirm its support for free speech on Israel and Palestine and for the Green Party to campaign against adoption” of the IHRA definition and in support of BDS, the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
If successful, the motion would have instructed the party’s campaigns team and elected representatives “to oppose adoption of the IHRA definition with examples, and campaign to protect free speech across our public institutions and universities.”
As a result of Lucas’ intervention, activists say, the plenary session was delayed resulting in it running out of time and Motion D07 being bumped off the schedule.
“There’s filibustering, but this was just plain cheating,” a senior Green Party source told The Electronic Intifada.
Lucas, who is the only Green MP in the British parliament and formerly the party leader, had co-sponsored a second, rival, motion in favor of the IHRA definition, along with the party’s co-leaders, Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley.
Berry has previously met with pro-Israel lobbyists to declare her support for the definition.
But Lucas’ pro-IHRA motion received little support from conference participants. It was initially ruled out of order by party officials. It was later put back on the agenda, but in a slot much further down than D07, which meant it was unlikely to be debated and voted on.
Footage of the online conference viewed by The Electronic Intifada, shows that Lucas asked the conference to not only move her motion back up the agenda, but to debate it before the anti-IHRA motion.
Party officials responded that the conference had already voted to rule her motion out of order. They also said that Lucas’ intervention was against the party’s standing orders.
“Can I move to suspend standing orders then?” asked Lucas. “If we have to suspend conference – I mean suspend standing orders, then we should,” she continued – perhaps a telling slip.
Her request was rebuffed by officials as being contrary to the rules.
But her intervention lasted 12 minutes. Activists said this was enough to push the anti-IHRA motion off the agenda till later in the conference.
The footage shows that the remaining plenary session turned out to be enough time for debate and voting on D06 only – a motion unrelated to Palestine or anti-Semitism.
Activists say they would have had time to get to D07 – the motion reaffirming free speech and support for Palestinian rights – if not for Lucas’ intervention.
Lucas’ motion claimed the IHRA definition was “a helpful set of guidelines” which is “considered by the mainstream Jewish community to be the gold standard definition,” which, if passed, would be “for the party’s internal use.”
The motion didn’t define what is meant by “mainstream Jewish community,” but broadly supported left-wing Jewish organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace and Jewish Voice for Labour both oppose the IHRA definition.
Every Green member should be equal
Activists were disappointed that Lucas used her privileged status as the party’s only MP to successfully scupper the anti-IHRA motion.
“This was our chance, and she knew that,” a Green Party source who had been in favor of the motion told The Electronic intifada. “Her actions were incredibly undemocratic.”
Posting on Twitter, the anti-IHRA motion’s co-sponsor Shahrar Ali called her intervention “breathtaking” and wrote he was deeply concerned about party democracy.He posted that “in our party every member is equal not some members are allowed to overturn democracy because they haven’t got their way.”
The IHRA definition has been widely criticized by Palestinian, Black, Asian, Jewish and free speech groups.
As the anti-IHRA motion noted, there has been “relentless pressure upon public and educational institutions to adopt” the definition.
It said that the examples in its text “systematically conflate opposition to Israeli policies with anti-Semitism, threatening to undermine many years of practical solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
The motion added that “unjustified allegations of anti-Semitism also set back the fight against anti-Semitism itself” and pose “a serious threat to academic freedom, wider freedom of expression and the unjustified attacks upon Green candidates and spokespersons.”
Ali himself has in the past been attacked with false anti-Semitism smears.
In her statement, Caroline Lucas said: “I brought a procedural motion proposing that the two motions about the IHRA definition on anti-Semitism be debated at the same time, because I judged them to be mutually exclusive, one in favor, the other against.”
“I wanted conference to have the opportunity to express their view on whether to take the motions together,” Lucas added.
“I have long been outspoken against the illegal occupation of Palestine and what is increasingly being acknowledged as the apartheid actions of the Israeli authorities,” Lucas asserted.
The Green MP said she would “continue to actively resist any attempts to shut down free speech.”
However, she added that the deeply flawed IHRA definition which has routinely been used as a pretext to muzzle criticism of Israel “has the support of the Jewish Greens liberation group and I maintain that it is an important tool.”
Correction: This article initially stated that 115 people had voted in the workshop’s indicative straw poll and that 60 percent of them had voted in favor of the motion against the IHRA definition. The correct figures are 142 voting and 62 percent. This has been corrected in the text above.
Just use anti-Jew or anti-Jewish and be done with it.
Permalink Sam replied on
We certainly need a new definition of "anti-Semitism" now, when half the Israeli Jews hate the other half, the greatest suffering from world anti-Semitic behavior comes from the Israeli Jews' hatred of their fellow Semitic Palestinian brethren, and when such truths as this are considered "anti-Semitic."
- - -
Why not use the term "anti-Jew," or anti-Jewish" instead of "anti-Semite" or "anti-Semitism"? Isn't that what you really want to convey, and no more? Why all this weird, indirect terminology, especially when a very large faction the Ashkenazi consider themselves White, while giving a token bow to their ancient Semite roots?
Thank you Sam...I have been
Permalink Annik Piriou replied on
Thank you Sam...I have been raging along the same lines. It's all such nonsense! I have a problem with the actions of the present Israeli Government and the way they disregard the human rights of the Palestinian people who lived in that area until the influx of European people of Jewish descent came and claimed their land for themselves.
Jewish Greens liberation group
Permalink Ben Samuel replied on
Caroline Dear leader says the ihra definition has the support of the Jewish Greens liberation group. That is not accurate. As a member of Jewish Greens I would ask electronic intefada to give Jewish Greens members the right of reply.
Permalink Asa Winstanley replied on
Hi Ben. That’s a good idea. Please email us using firstname.lastname@example.org with a short pitch (one or two paras) for an op-ed by you or one of your Jewish Green colleagues on this topic (I’d suggest 800-1000 words).
Lucas sabotage of Green Party democracy
Permalink Frances Kay replied on
What a pity. Thousands of ex-Labour members are willing to vote Green, but this behaviour is exactly what has driven hundreds of thousands of members out of the Labour Party. An opportunity for mass engagement with Green ideals has now been lost. I certainly won't vote Green until this is put right.
I think it's important to
Permalink Stuart replied on
I think it's important to recognise that despite Lucas's filibustering, it otherwise worked pretty well. The leadership was unable to get their motion further up the paper, unable to get it passed, unable to get it set as policy. In Labour Starmer just changed the voting rules to get himself a permanent majority on the NEC, and passed out without membership intervention.
Permalink Frank Dallas replied on
The IHRA definition is clear? It has one failing: it defines nothing. It is hesitant and wishy-washy in its essence, deliberately so: by defining nothing it can include everything. Its appended examples explicitly drag criticism of the Israeli State into the sphere of anti-Semitism. Sam (above) is right. A proper definition would state simply: "Abstract, irrational hatred of Jews because they are Jews is racism." Nothing else is required. Lucas is an educated woman. She wrote a doctoral thesis on English literature. She was not motivated by a genuine belief that the IHRA definition is clear, but by cowardice. She fears the Israeli lobby will come after her like it came after Corbyn, she is in terror of being labelled anti-Semitic, she knows the Israeli lobby is utterly dishonest and capable of the most egregious viciousness, she knows they set out to destroy Corbyn and the media backed them, she knows thousands of members were suspended and expelled from Labour on false pretences, she knows if she refuses the IHRA definition the followers of Herzl will come after her and her party and they will be torn apart, because the media will ensure the truth is never told. She has acted out of sheer cowardice. This is the moment when she has been tested and she has failed. She has shown herself to be no better than the liars and manipulators in Labour who sought to destroy their own party rather than admit that Israel is a racist State. What price a Green party which is willing to roll over before the B o D and the rest of the pro-Israel establishment which treats the Palestinians as less than human? What price a Green party which can't even defend the equal worth of every human life? Lucas has joined the ranks of the political careerists. She has set her own career and the well-being of her party before the lives of some of the most persecuted people on the planet. Shame. While she is leader, the Greens are not worth voting for.
Permalink Angela Farrant replied on
As someone who until recently was in the Labour Party, and now feels politically homeless I strongly hope the Green Party will not adopt the IHRA definition.
It is long, subjective, and not at all helpful in deciding whether any particular words or actions are (or not) antisemitic.
The wording of the examples is carefully nit-picking (It is antisemitic to say "a" state of Israel is a racist endeavour, which leaves it unclear whether saying "the" state of Israel, the one that forbids marriage between Jews and non Jews within its borders, is a racist endeavour is antisemitism or fair criticism.)
When the examples are used they act like very blunt instruments, and precise nuances of meaning are lost.
What the IHRA definition has been useful for is assisting one wing of the Party to suspend members of the other wing. Suspensions on trumped up charges are very useful for gerrymandering internal elections - timed carefully, they can prevent potential candidates from standing, even if the accused is eventually exonerated by a full investigation.
If the Geeens, as a democratic party which believes in justice and fairness, get anywhere near being a serious contender for Government, the press pack which hunted down Corbyn will be set onto them.
You will certainly be criticised and called antisemitic, if you do not accept the IHRA definition. But if you do accept it, that will make things considerably worse. You will have handed a huge amount of power to certain Jewish organisations. They get a massive say in your disciplinary proceedings, can denounce other Jewish organisations as "fringe" and will unquestionably attempt to exert influence over policy - notably policies relating to Israel and Palestine.
The more you give the more you will be asked to give, so please stick to your principles. Define your anti-racism policies yourseves and stick up for a definition which allows to to treat Jews and Palestinians with equal respect.
IHRA Definition; Impact on Internal Local Labour Party Democracy
Permalink Alan Stanton replied on
Thank you Angela Farrant for an honest description of aspects of the problems faced by some Labour and - it seems - Green Party members and activists.
As a former Labour councillor in Haringey, I recognise the features you describe. Though I think the situation may be far worse than you may imagine - or perhaps have experienced.
It is not only the IHRA definition which is exploited by one faction to attack another. It appears that "trumped-up charges" may now include a wide range of denunciations. These include supposed racism; to having the "wrong" views on Israel/Palestine; to a suggestion of Islamophobia. All these - and perhaps others - may get Labour HQ suspending members. Boasting, or so it seems, of the tally.
A key point here is that someone doesn't have to be antisemitic, racist or anything else. An accusation is enough to get another member suspended for months. Perhaps on the basis of vague complaints from anonymous informants who may have trawled through years of tweets etc. Often taken out of context.
I'd always assumed that Kafka wrote The Trial" as a terrible warning. Not a practice manual.
There appears little or no respect among senior people in the Party for basic aspects of the Law. For example one person I know has had a Subject Access Request repeatedly flouted by the Party for over a year - despite support from the Information Commissioner's Office. (ICO)
If electing an experienced senior lawyer as Leader can't repair even this sort of internal problem, what chance is there for Labour to cure the deeper sicknesses in our society?
A book "How to Rig an Election" (Nic Cheeseman & Brian Klaas) described a practice in one country called "Shaking the Matchbox". Party thugs kept voters in line by reminding them of people whose homes were burned. UK bullies can remind Labour members of those who get suspended for stepping out of line.
Debate & Dissent? Social Democracy? No thanks we're Labour.
The guy who originated the
Permalink Liz Shephard replied on
The guy who originated the IHRA 'definition' is AGAINST its use, according to posts I've seen. Can someone please repost the objections he made to it here?
Let's face it - Caroline Lucas is doing what most Greens do
Permalink Tony Greenstein replied on
The Caroline Lucas I first knew in 2010 when she was first elected is not the person we all know now. She has been absorbed by the Establishment.
She says '“I understand fears that the IHRA definition might be misused to restrict free speech but the definition is very clear.”
This is simply dishonest. The IHRA definition is deliberately obfuscating and unclear. What the hell does the actual 38 word definition mean? No one knows. It certainly isn't about anti-Semitism.
See my Open Letter to Lucas
Permalink .Milo Baggins-Croft replied on
Trotskyite activists like Tony Greenstein represent a breath of fresh air to the Pro-Zionist environment that prevails in London.
Permalink Ray Packham replied on
As a former member of the Labour Party and now a potential Green voter (and member), I will not support a party that accepts the widely condemned IHRA definition of antisemitism.
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