If you did not know that the Green Party of Canada was about a lot more than the environment, well, you should now.
That a party born out of a goal to eliminate fossil fuels and nuclear power is tearing itself apart over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict says something about the self-delusion of the activists seeking to oust leader Annamie Paul on the eve of a federal election.
The eco-socialist wing of the party has never accepted Ms. Paul, a convert to Judaism whose views on both foreign and domestic policy are too measured and mainstream to satisfy those who live to end capitalism and demonize Israel. That no Canadian government is ever going to do either, much less as the result of any righteous Green Party resolution, does not deter them from waging their pointless ideological wars.
Last month, when she was still one of only three Green MPs, Jenica Atwin took issue with Ms. Paul’s admittedly tepid statement on the conflict then raging between Israel and Hamas in which she called for “peaceful, inclusive” dialogue. “I stand with Palestine! There are no two sides to this conflict, only human rights abuses!” Ms. Atwin tweeted, appending her post with the hashtag “#EndApartheid.”
Ms. Paul did not rebuke her MP. But neither did she call out her own senior adviser when, on Facebook, Noah Zatzman attacked the “appalling antisemitism” of certain progressives, including “sadly Green MPs,” whom he vowed to work to defeat in the next election. It did not take a genius to figure out that Mr. Zatzman was threatening Ms. Atwin and Paul Manly, who was barred from running for the federal New Democrats in 2015, reportedly because of his anti-Israel views.
That Ms. Atwin last week crossed the floor to the Liberals, only to subsequently repudiate her comments about Israel, speaks either to her willingness to put her own political ambition before her principles or a recognition that her earlier tweet was simply sophomoric. Either way, she does not come out of this looking as either principled or serious, just opportunistic.
No matter. Ms. Paul did a terrible job managing – or rather, not managing – this conflict. Her leadership is now hanging by a thread. The Green Party’s federal council voted 5-4 on Tuesday night to suspend a process that could lead to a non-confidence vote against her if Ms. Paul agrees to publicly repudiate Mr. Zatzman’s comments. Regardless, it is hard to see how she can survive for long as leader.
Ms. Paul narrowly beat the eco-socialist Dimitri Lascaris on the eighth ballot in October’s leadership vote. The Green establishment, led by former leader Elizabeth May, had sought to prevent the eco-socialists from taking control of the party Ms. May had fashioned as a principled but pragmatic alternative to the Liberals and NDP.
During the race, Ms. Paul, who is Black, faced racist attacks, but mostly antisemitic ones. “It became pretty ugly,” she told the Times of Israel in March. “It started out as innuendo, with veiled suggestions and attacks against me as a Zionist. And then because neither we nor others responded to it, people became more emboldened and more explicit. I was accused of the usual tropes, including being in the pocket of foreign agents, being embedded in a political party to further the goals of those foreign agents, and the usual things related to money.”
Among those now mobilizing to oust Ms. Paul is Alex Tyrrell, the leader of the Quebec Green Party, who last week tweeted: “Ms. Atwin was pushed out by leader Annamie Paul who continues to defend the murderous actions of the State of Israel at the expense of social justice, human rights and the advancement of her own party.”
Where do you even start in attempting to unpack such a statement?
Ms. Atwin’s breakthrough 2019 victory in Fredericton, the first federal Green elected east of British Columbia, had a lot to do with the recent success of the New Brunswick Green Party led by David Coon and its Prince Edward Island counterpart led by Peter Bevan-Baker. Both come off as kindly gentleman farmers who preach the gospel of conservation and consensus-building. They are the antithesis of eco-socialists such as Mr. Lascaris and Mr. Tyrrell, for whom ideology trumps electability.
In the circumstances, it is not clear anyone – not even Ms. May, who may be eyeing a return to her old job – could save the federal Greens now.
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