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Federal Green Party leader Annamie Paul officially opens her campaign office in Toronto Centre on July 22, 2021.Cole Burston/The Canadian Press

Robert Conquest, the British historian of the Soviet Union, once enumerated a few clever, informal laws of politics. You may recognize his widely quoted Third Law, which states: “The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.”

And now, let’s meet an unlikely confirmation of the late Mr. Conquest’s rule: not the Politburo, but the Green Party of Canada. For the past two months, the Greens have been unravelling in a way that could hardly be messier or weirder if it was orchestrated by a group of OPEC moles sent to sabotage the country’s self-appointed environmental party.

The latest grenade lobbed into its own foxhole is a lawsuit the party filed in Ontario Superior Court on Wednesday, trying to overturn an arbitrator’s decision that had stopped it from holding a non-confidence vote in Leader Annamie Paul. If that sounds like an awful lot of court intrigue for a party that is supposed to represent the country’s eco-conscience, that’s because it is.

Annamie Paul says ‘small group’ of party execs behind court case against Green leader

Even worse, the Greens are self-destructing just before a near-certain federal election campaign that will play out against the backdrop of extreme weather likely made worse by climate change – a prime opportunity for the party to talk about what is supposed to be its favourite topic. Instead, it looks like Paul and Co. will be taking to the hustings under a banner reading: “The Left’s Most Dysfunctional Party.” The cabal couldn’t have drawn it up any better.

But wait! It gets worse! The party – the Green Party, remember – isn’t self-immolating over the details of a carbon tax or an electric car mandate, but because of some tweets about the Middle East.

Let’s review how we got here (with merciful brevity): In early May, amidst the latest eruption in the Israel-Palestine conflict – we told you this was weird – Ms. Paul released a fairly anodyne statement calling for de-escalation and dialogue between the two sides, as party leaders do.

This outraged New Brunswick Green MP Jenica Atwin – a key member of the caucus, as the party’s first federal representative from outside of British Columbia – who called Ms. Paul’s position “totally inadequate” and wrote on Twitter, “I stand with Palestine! There are no two sides to this conflict, only human-rights abuses! #EndApartheid.”

These kinds of college-dorm bun fights are nothing new for the Greens, who have always been torn between their identity as a rah-rah social movement and a hard-nosed political party. But Elizabeth May, who ran the shop from 2006 to 2019, was generally forceful enough to keep the focus trained on, you know, the environment.

Ms. Paul, however, only became leader last October and has yet to cement her authority, or get a feel for the internecine battlefields. So when her then-adviser Noah Zatzman vowed on Facebook to “defeat” Green MPs who were guilty of “appalling anti-Semitism,” it set off a crisis. The party’s federal council eventually passed a motion calling on Ms. Paul to repudiate Mr. Zatzman, which she refused to do. Ms. Atwin blew the whole thing open by crossing the floor to join the Liberals, reducing the Green contingent in Parliament from three to two.

Believe it or not, this is the ostensible reason the party’s executive scheduled a non-confidence vote on Ms. Paul’s leadership, and why the party and its associated fund are going to court to push through this attempted ouster: a social media fight about Israel.

The spectacle of a party going to war with itself over an issue that has nothing to do with its reason for existing, and which it has no hopes of ever influencing in any way, is beyond bizarre. Imagine watching Scott Moe’s Saskatchewan Party implode over the cod fishery, or the Parti Québécois defenestrate a leader because of something someone said about Flin Flon.

Yes, left-leaning movements have of late developed a habit of becoming irrationally obsessed with Israel. The Greens are hardly alone in this, but the party would do well to remember itself, and its core issue, especially at this dangerous moment for the planet. The Green heartland of B.C. is experiencing unprecedented summer heat and numerous forest fires, a deadly reminder of life under global warming. But when the village of Lytton was in flames, Ms. Paul and her in-house antagonists were squabbling over the Temple Mount.

Score one for Robert Conquest.

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