The Green Party, it is well known, throbs with love for the planet, the trees and every thing that creepeth upon the earth. On the other hand, it has always seemed a little iffy about human beings, as if they were a kind of acne on the face of Gaia.
More particularly, while the party is the first to proselytize for what we used to call the brotherhood of man, a sizable number of its members seem to hold decidedly unphiladelphic attitudes toward their fellow humans. Certain types of them, I mean.
For instance, Jews. While the government of Israel is as valid a subject of criticism as any other, more than a few Greens have displayed an obsession with the Jewish state that verges on the paranoid, repeatedly singling out Israel for attacks out of all proportion to its faults, as if the Middle East’s only functioning democracy were not just morally equivalent with the bestial dictatorships that surround it, but worse.
But whatever misgivings the Greens may have about people, or certain peoples, they are as nothing compared with the special loathing they reserve for each other. For all the party’s cuddly image, the Greens have lately shown a talent for infighting that would put the Borgias to shame.
It all started with last month’s outbreak of fighting in the Middle East: Hamas’s rocket attacks on Israel, and Israel’s counterattacks on Hamas’s strongholds in Gaza. The party leader, Annamie Paul, issued a statement that followed the usual cautious formula for party leaders in this country, denouncing with an even hand both Hamas’s deliberate killing of civilians and Israel’s failure to avoid killing them.
For the majority of her caucus of three, this was too much to bear. Fredericton MP Jenica Atwin tweeted that there were “no two sides to this conflict, only human rights abuses” by Israel. “I stand with Palestine and condemn the unthinkable airstrikes in Gaza,“ she wrote. “End Apartheid!” Another, Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly, claimed Israel was pursuing a policy of “ethnic cleansing.”
That elicited a response from a senior adviser to Ms. Paul, Noah Zatzman, that could mildly be described as menacing. In a Facebook post, he vowed to unseat the MPs and “bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!!”
Political staffers do not, as a rule, publicly threaten to defenestrate members of their own party, with or without the multiple exclamation points. Nevertheless, Ms. Paul refused to distance herself from her adviser, even as party members petitioned for his dismissal.
Unable to abide either the heavy hand of the leader or the policy behind it, Ms. Atwin decamped last week for, of all places, the Liberal Party. Within days she had issued a statement recanting her previous views, and supporting the same even-handed position that had moved her to leave the Greens.
“Palestinians are suffering,” she wrote. “Israelis are also suffering as well as their loved ones in Canada and around the world. No one wins with war.” This was, I need hardly add, entirely of her own volition.
As for the Liberals, having earlier in the week recruited an MP who was too hostile to Israel even for the Greens, the party closed the week by announcing it would convene an emergency summit on antisemitism. This, too, was entirely a coincidence.
Meanwhile, back on Planet Green, the party’s governing body, the federal council, met Tuesday night to decide whether to demand Ms. Paul’s resignation, less than a year after she was elected leader. At length it was decided to let her stay, on the condition that she hold a news conference and release a statement where she “would repudiate Noah Zatzman’s attacks and explicitly support the GPC caucus.”
Usually parties demand the caucus support the leader. Only the Greens would require the leader to support the caucus. That would be, at last count, Mr. Manly, and former party leader Elizabeth May.
At any rate, rather than “bowing down” or “being brought to heel,” as she put it, Ms. Paul counterattacked, calling her critics within the party “racist” and “sexist.” It is not impossible that this could be the case, even within the exquisitely sensitive preserve of the Green Party. Well before this latest controversy, supporters of Ms. Paul, who is Black and Jewish, were complaining of a double standard in the party’s treatment of her.
“It’s very hard not to see this process through the lens of race, gender and religion,” Sean Yo, an organizer for Ms. Paul, told the Toronto Star in April. “I want to be very clear that I’m not trying to paint this organization as overtly racist. I am saying that there’s been prolonged, profound challenges in Annamie being effective in this role ... and I observe that the leadership level of this organization is primarily white.”
But it’s also the case that accusations of racism and sexism sting the most, and are therefore most effective, when deployed against those most anxious to avoid such labels. Which may explain why the hotbeds of racism and sexism today, to judge by the frequency with which such charges are levelled, are not the construction sites and football locker rooms of the nation, but the university faculty lounges and womyn’s publishing collectives.
This is not over by any means. Ms. Paul could still face a non-confidence vote at the next meeting of the federal council, on July 21. Ms. May was last seen talking up an attempt to persuade Ms. Atwin to return to the party, even as other party members were talking about recruiting her to replace Ms. Paul. Canada’s nicest party is looking nastier all the time.
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