Antisemitism in the Green Party ‘best kept under the surface’

Hugh Muir

Hugh Muir gets it right in his Guardian Politics Diary:

” And some year for the Green party as members meet in Birmingham for the annual conference. The party, still bright and relatively new, has yet to succumb to the dead hand of sophistry and spin. And yet they realise that some things are best kept under the surface. One such is the claim that too often a sympathy for the plight of Palestinians spills over into full-blown antisemitism. These claims have been made before. That’s why the party sought to address them by setting up an antisemitism working group. But good intentions, we understand, were not enough, and thus it apparently became necessary to remove the chair and disband the committee. We have a problem, say worried members. No we don’t, says the leadership; and if we do we’ll deal with it. It’s under the surface for now but bubbling up fast.”

32 Responses to “Antisemitism in the Green Party ‘best kept under the surface’”

  1. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    I’m so glad this has been picked up. I don’t need to add anything else; as is said antisemitism is a pushed-under-the-carpet problem.

  2. Absolute Observer Says:

    Hardly under the surface.

  3. Raphael Says:

    What is above the surface is the tip of the iceberg.

  4. modernityblog Says:

    What is the background to the Green Party’s antisemitism working group?

    Anyone know?

    I can’t seem to find much on the web about them.

  5. David Hirsh Says:

    Greens Engage
    of course.

  6. Gidi Says:

    Who is not anti-semtic? Everyone is. Zionism dictates that Anti-semitism is apriori. All Jews must gather in Israel to protect themselves. (last sentences deleted by moderator)

  7. Raphael Says:

    Greens Engage provide the general background. The specific background to the working group is within the immersed part of the iceberg: not in the public domain for the moment.

  8. modernityblog Says:


    Thanks, we are often told how the Greens represent a new form of politics, I do hope that there is some transparency concerning this matter, that it comes into the public domain soon enough and that it is not brushed under the carpet as the old politics might dictate.

  9. Absolute Observer Says:

    Raphael and Mira,
    I know that being bullied by members of an organisation is unpleasant. it is even more unpleasant when those who you expect to do something about it themselves not only deny the reality but then join in the bullying.
    You guys are going to be the subject of some really horrible stuff. But, well done for going public; and good luck in the ensuing months.

    If it is any help, here is a couple of quotes from the racists in the US rallying around their irrational hatred of Muslims and Islam. I think many on Engage will recognise the language…..

    “Until the American Muslim community find it in their hearts to separate themselves from their evil, radical counterparts, to condemn those who want to destroy our civilisation and will fight against them, we are not obligated to open our society to any of them.”

    “And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf [of the proposed New York Islamic centre] there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood,” Peretz wrote. “So, yes, I wonder whether I need honour these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.”

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Thank you AO, saving that for a rainy day.

    • Brian Robinson Says:

      “[Carl] Paladino, the Tea Party-backed candidate whom New York Republicans nominated for governor on Tuesday, crushed his [Republican] establishment opponent – a former congressman with a somewhat moderate reputation – by two to one. This was after a campaign in which he went round the state with a pit bull at his side, tried to bury his opponent in demagogic rhetoric about the proposed Manhattan Islamic centre, and likened the Democratic and Orthodox Jewish speaker of the state’s lower legislative chamber to Hitler.

      Within the Tea Party movement, a group that has about as many Jews as an average al-Qaida meeting, such antisemitism was not judged a terribly great offence. In other respects, though, Paladino is an unlikely vanguardist in this revolution against the state: he’s a multimillionaire real-estate mogul who makes at least $10m a year leasing office space to various state agencies. (The government is good for some things after all, I guess.) … ”

      The US Republicans have created a Frankenstein monster | Michael Tomasky | Comment is free | The Guardian

  10. Brian Robinson Says:

    I asked a longstanding friend, a member of the Green Party, experienced union man, about this. He didn’t think it was really a problem, his view being that there are “a handful — less than five” in the Party who have objected to the GP policy of increased support for Palestinians. He thinks “possibly two” of these objectors have called the policy antisemitism.

    I’ve read the Green Engage account of this and followed up all the links, and there’s no doubt that there is indeed a problem. The Party conference is coming up very soon — it’s likely that the topic will come up. Incidentally I saw on the GE site — — that Lucas shared a platform “with Hamas rep in the UK, [and] also with Hamas leader in Gaza”. Perhaps this is all old history now?

    GP needs to clear the air here.

  11. modernityblog Says:


    To be fair, Dr. Read didn’t deal with the matter in a reasoned way, as you might expect from a potential professional politician and a Reader of Philosophy.

    When questioned further on the matter Dr. Read doesn’t come out of it too well, he states:

    “I think that the influence of ‘the Israel lobby’ in this country as in many others is nefarious. Presumably you disagree with me on that point. ”

    The comment’s box deals with his shoddy thinking, and did he ever FORMALLY apologise as requested by Raphael Levy:

    “Can we have please a formal reply of both the Chair and Equality Coordinator stating their views of this incident and outlining the Green Party response, both in the short and long-term?”

    I’ll bet he didn’t, did he?

    As Absolute Observer  commented:

    “So, if understand Rupert Read right he seems to be arguing that,
    1. Holocaust denial = antisemitism
    2. Belief in an international “nefarious” “Zionist” Lobby that is able to make many foreign governments do its bidding = not antisemitism.”

    Please do re-read that thread it shows Dr. Read’s failure to engage with the issues, as Saul remarked:

    “In other words, Rupert Read has evaded any and all attempt to discuss the matter through whilst, at the same time, falsely alleging that he has been called names.

    This, for Rupert Read passes, for “openness and a willingness” to “engage”.


    Weggis, I would expect a bit more from the Greens.

  12. Weggis Says:


    The first comment on the post you link to reads:

    Rupert Read Says:
    November 20, 2009 at 11:01 am
    Oh dear. Sorry, folks. This was an honest mistake. I didn’t know that Atzmon was a fellow-traveller with Holocaust-deniers; I had never heard of him before. I just came across the interesting piece he wrote on de-Zionisation, and retweeted it without comment.
    I have now deleted the tweet.

    I’d say that’s an apology and a withdrawal. The rest of the thread is another matter.

    Raphael’s comment to which you refer was directed at the Chair and Equality Co-ordinator, not Rupert.

    What we are dealing with here is the embedded psyche within an organisation. It is not specific to any individual(s) so singling them out in this way is, to my mind, not helpful.

    That Rupert has the disadvantage of being a Reader of Philosophy and is prone to using such language is no reason to persecute him. He may not be perfect but he is not the problem. He is a symptom.

    • Mira Vogel Says:

      Weggis, I think you may be stripping RR of more capacity for autonomous thought than he’d be happy with… Basically I’m not for holding grudges but there has to be some accounting. An organisation is only as right as its individuals. You hope that an organisation will provide an ultimate safety net against individual members getting it that wrong, but that doesn’t mean that an organisation is more responsible than its individuals – just differently responsible.

  13. Brian Robinson Says:

    I think I need a textbox headed “New Readers begin Here” .. i.e. it’s a bit like switching on the TV in the middle of a film (although I have read the relevant bits on Green Engage, I’m still not sure what’s going on).

    But I wanted to pick up on the “racists in the US rallying around their irrational hatred of Muslims and Islam” (AO, above). Yes indeed there certainly are racists in America and elsewhere and much of what we’re currently seeing over the proposed Islamic Cultural Center is ugly and frightening. (I personally find Pamela Geller quite appalling.)

    And of course most of this rhetoric is shockingly reminiscent of Weimar Republic language (substitute ‘Muslims’ for example — “Die Juden sind unser Unglück!”). So I agree that it’s appropriate to talk here of ‘hatred’.

    But I also believe there’s a problem with the word ‘islamophobic’ (and related words). It ought not to have anything to do ethnicity, with individual Muslims, or groups of Muslims. ‘Islam’ the religion, the body of thought, is a system or collection of ideas claiming to describe the world and prescribing how people should live in it. As a philosophy, a weltanschauung, it is or should be as open to discussion, criticism, modification, acceptance or rejection as any other such set of ideas and prescriptions (such as Judaism, Christianity, Marxism, Psychoanalysis and so on).

    ‘Islamophobia’ is not therefore comparable to, or some kind of parallel counterpart to ‘antisemitism’ (although I fear that the way the word has increasingly been used is making it so). Given the meaning of the word ‘antisemitism’, it is irrational (at the least) to be antisemitic.

    But I don’t believe I would be thinking irrationally if I were to say for example that I’m islamophobic, *as long as* by that term I meant only that I fear and want to guard against any theocratic encroachments upon the settled secular, liberal order, and as long as I advocated challenging any such threat by wholly non-violent means.

    I think of the banner I photographed Peter Tatchell carrying a few years ago at the Rally for Free Expression in Trafalgar Square — — “Love Muslims – Loathe Religious Tyranny”

    Also if we’re talking about America and some of its frightened, perplexed, currently disorientated people, I want to add that Imam Rauf doesn’t seem to be quite the uncomplicated person many liberals claim they see. I don’t want to link to the latest Pat Condell videos on the subject in case it compromises Engage (I’m ambivalent on Condell, although I always find him fun) nor do I want to take Condell’s word on Rauf, but he makes some serious allegations about the imam and if they’re true, you can see why some of the paranoia might not be quite so pathological as it first appears. I want to check this from other sources, but Condell claims that Rauf supports sharia, supports the Iranian theocracy, wont condemnn terrorism, “not even”, says Condell, “the exploitation of children as suicide bombers” and “he blames usa for 9/11”.

    I want to be clear, I condemn the racism, the physical violence and violent rhetoric, but I support reasoned critiques of ideas, religious or otherwise. At the first international conference of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain at Conway Hall almost exactly two years ago, I warmed greatly to the speaker from the floor, just as the conference was ending, who called for the abandonment of the increasingly confused and meaningless term ‘islamophobia’ and related words.

    But maybe it’s too late.

  14. modernityblog Says:


    Please, please, we have all heard political answers, those that are honestly meant and others such as Dr Reed’s answer which is perfunctory.

    I had hoped that the Greens could avoid the tactics and manoeuvres used by the old politicians.

    We’ve all seen this a dozen and one times before and it isn’t good enough of the Greens, when one of your leading members can’t actually argue, can’t actually reason and can’t actually defend what he thinks.

    Ye Gods, Dr. Read is a professional arguer, that’s what he does for a living, yet he can’t muster an argument to defend his views.

    Dr. Read juggles complex ideas and arguments for a living, but still couldn’t defend his views with reason.

    That’s not good enough.

    But you’re right, he made a quick, lazy apology here, and nowhere else…hmm..

  15. Isca Stieglitz Says:

    I just need to add that, although I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye with Rupert which I find very healthy, I have found him to be a fundamentally good bloke.
    I can’t speak for all encounters that folk may have had with him, but I doubt everyone I’ve ever met would say that I’ve never made fundamental gaffs, ever.
    I probably can’t count the times I’ve said or done things which I deeply regret. Especially in the heat of the moment; thoughts I wouldn’t ordinarily countenance.
    I often like to think I’m a reasonable debater and have a hefty background which should make me immune to trite argument; sadly I can’t always live upto my own expectations.
    Just a personal thought to share, rather than proffering excuses.

    • modernityblog Says:


      I’m sure he is a very decent person, but he still seems to have certain strange notions in his head “I think that the influence of ‘the Israel lobby’ in this country as in many others is nefarious.” and Dr. Read can’t justify his view with logic or reason.

      That to me is very worrying, with anyone

      Still more so with a professional philosopher and politician, that these ideas percolated around his head without him being able to justify them, academically or rationally, is rather disconcerting.

      But it could be just a fragile ego, unable to say he was wrong.

      That is a plausible excuse, as supposing that he is suffering from unconscious prejudice, but that doesn’t explain why so many others seem to have the same malaise?

  16. David Hirsh Says:

    The point isn’t whether some individual is bad or not.

    The point is that the Green Party tolerates antisemitism, refuses to educate its members about antiemitism and refuses to think seriously about the problem. Its best known spokesperson supports an exclusion of Israelis, and only Israelis, from the global academic, economic, artistic and sporting community.

    When the issue of antisemitism is raised, Caroline Lucas responds by saying that it is raised in bad faith in order to silence criticism of Israeli human rights abuses.

    The problem is not whether some individual is nice or not. The problem is about normal ways of thinking.

    • Isca Stieglitz Says:

      On the points you’ve both made, I agree.
      There is indeed a very casual, (and causal way), in which a lot of GP and Joe Public use language so ‘easily’ because it seems ‘de riguer’ to them. A ‘fashionable tubthump’. This casualness is in effect institutional in my opinion.
      When I’ve had cause to say, ‘Well I’m a Zionist, what or who do think I am?’, the jaw drops as if I’ve said something ‘blasphemous’, the look of disgust is palpable and yet it demonstrates that they have no intimate concept of what Zionism could/should be to different people.
      I have written to Caroline and await a response.

  17. The Greens And Racism. « ModernityBlog Says:

    […] Here’s Engage’s discussion of the topic. […]

  18. Smoke-filled Rooms, Antisemitism and The Greens. « ModernityBlog Says:

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  19. Institutionalised Antisemitism In The Green Party, A Longstanding Member Resigns. « ModernityBlog Says:

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  20. In the Green Party antisemitism can be affirming | Greens Engage Says:

    […] of which have been defeated or deformed beyond usefulness by anti-Zionists. As The Guardian’s Hugh Muir observed back in 2010, Green officialdom has long opted to brush concerns about antisemitism under the carpet. Below are […]

  21. In the Green Party antisemitism can be affirming | Engage Says:

    […] of which have been defeated or deformed beyond usefulness by anti-Zionists. As The Guardian’s Hugh Muir observed back in 2010, Green officialdom has long opted to brush concerns about antisemitism under the carpet. Below are […]

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