Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What's hot and what's not at this season's Party conference?

This Friday is the start of the four day Green Party conference and I thought I'd just drop in a quick note to mention a few of things I've noticed are occurring or, of course, that I'm organising.

First things first, you might like to follow the comings and goings at the group conference blog set up jointly with Red Pepper, Green Dispatches. There's a variety of bloggers taking part including Sian Berry, Rupert Read, Scott Redding, Sue Luxton and others.

There's already a couple of preparatory posts up but things should start hotting up this Friday. This should be a good way for people who aren't attending conference to indulge their curiosity on how this vital part of internal democracy works. Feel free to mention anything you'd especially like covered - although no guarantees.

I'm running two fringes, both of which are open to non-members and are both on Sunday in SOAS.

Firstly at 4pm we have Hands off the People of Iran with Peter Tatchell and Yasmin Mather as speakers. This is in room G52 and as Peter hasn't spoken at a previous conference I'm hoping the turnout will be quite good.

Then at 6 pm in (G3) we have the green bloggers session which, if it's like previous blog fringes, should be fascinating and really useful - although I should make an effort to think about what I'm going to say beforehand this time. This conference has an added bonus though because uber left blogger Sunny Hundal will be speaking so we're likely to have a wide ranging discussion on the uses and abuses we can put the net to.

You may wish to do some preparation for this by re-reading my article on blogging in the latest Green World. It is the bomb, as you might expect.

I'm sure if you flick through the timetable you'll find you're own highlights but personally I'm probably attending the following;

5 pm Friday Cuba Solidarity fringe with Derek Wall
6 pm Friday Ken Livingstone with Darren Johnson and Jenny Jones
Noon Saturday Tony Juniper and Caroline Lucas on the Green New Deal

One interesting development, probably caused by the fact that many people were unable to get their fringes into the timetable, people have shown their ingenuity and spunk by booking their own rooms to hold "unofficial" fringes.

This includes both;

Criticism of Israel can be antisemitic
Saturday 6th September, 6.00pm - 6:50pm
The Plough function room, 27 Museum St, (7 minutes’ walk from SOAS)
Speaker: David Hirsh (Engage)
Chaired by Chris Fox, Colchester Green Party (details)

Anti-Zionism. A Jewish Perspective.
Friday 5th September, 7pm
Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS
With
Simon Lynn (Editor of Jewish Socialist Magazine)
Tony Greenstein (Palestine Solidarity Campaign)
Chair: Dr Joseph Healy (Co-Convenor Green Left)

I'd be curious to see how they both go - although I'm unlikely to be able to attend both, or maybe even one of them, due to other commitments.

However, there is a serious danger here of the two hardcore wings of the Israel debate rather alienating everyone else so it could well be appropriate that they are both held outside the official timetable. I was certainly pleased to see that there was no Israel motion on this agenda to revisit discussions we've already had - although there are two motions on anti-semitism neither of which appear to have gained much support and quite possibly will fall off the end of the agenda (coming 15th and 16th in the members prioritisation ballot).

However, probably the most news worth thing happening at conference is that of the election of the new leader and deputy leader which will be announced on Saturday, to much cheering, green flag waving and tissues held to eyes no doubt.

Anyway, I'm rambling. If you're coming to conference be sure to say hello to me, pop along to one of "my" fringes or just give a cheery wave when you spot me across a crowded room.

27 comments:

Raphael said...

Jim

It is not "the Israel debate", the motions as you note are about antisemitism.

The fact is that Green Left has decided to respond to a motion on antisemitism with an anti-Zionist fringe.

Furthermore, Green Left uses an antisemitic cartoonist to accuse fellow Green Party members who are trying to take action against antisemitism of bad faith.

http://greensstoptheboycott.wordpress.com/2008/09/03/green-left-responds-to-a-motion-on-antisemitism-with-an-anti-zionist-fringe-advertised-with-an-antisemitic-cartoon/

Raphael

Anonymous said...

I had a look at the Link and have googled other cartoons by the cartoonist. I don't see them as anti-semitic, but then I have no emotional attachment to Israel.
I do think the inclusion of the cartoon was provocative, but as soon as people take a stand against the Israeli state, there will always be those who accuse them of anti-semitism, whether there is foundation for this or not.
I am busy sorting nominations for a bye election here, so won't be at conference, I admit to being quite happy to miss what is likely to be an acrimonious debate!

Nick
Bristol

scott redding said...

Your Green World article is the bomb, but spell my name right!

Raphael said...

Nick

"as soon as people take a stand against the Israeli state, there will always be those who accuse them of anti-semitism" ***

Can you back this up with some evidence please?

Then we can see who are "those" and why they make such accusations, we can understand what you mean by "as soon as people take a stand against the Israeli state", etc.

Criticism of Israel policies is rather common place, is often perfectly justified, e.g. when it comes to the settlements in the WB which are an obstacle on the peace process and an humiliation for the Palestinians, and, contrary to what you are saying, and to what has become unquestioned common sense, is rarely deemed antisemitic.

Facts and figures, please, Nick

Raphael

*** this is the typical "Livingstone formulation"; read "aAntizionism and antisemitism: decoding the relationship" to understand the critical role it plays in these debates

http://z-word.com/on-zionism/antisemitism-and-anti-zionism/anti-zionism-and-antisemitism%253A-decoding-the-relationship.html?page=2

Gordon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Green Gordon said...

(oops, wrong blogger identity)

Jim, I can't make it, so give my regards to the blogging fringe. I'm more interested in reading blogs than writing in them, but if I was there I'd like to make a brief mention of GreenFeed and how it can complement Green Home (Jim Killock pointed out to me that the libdems have a similar arrangement of one unedited blog portal and one 'featured posts with editorial comment' page, so I hope this'll get a mention.

Cheers,
Gordon

Jim Jay said...

R - actually these anti-semitism motions clearly are part of the Israel debate. But thankfully we have no motion on the table actually directly discussing Israel this time as I know for a fact quite a lot of members feel weary of the fractiousness of this particular debate.

Nick - I'm willing to believe that the cartoonist themself is anti-semitic (without the time to research it) but it does not make the cartoon anti-semitic. I think there has been a deliberate blurring of the edges here to condemn someone for reprinting a cartoon and make people feel defensive about everything they do.

As you say it's a provocative cartoon and not particularly my cup of tea but anyone who's read the debates will have seen there are those who attack anyone who criticises Israel as anti-semitic - these are not the majority but they are very vocal.

As Melanie Philips is on my mind she'll serve as an obvious example of someone who can't tell the difference between opposing Israel and opposing Jews.

Scott - I've corrected your name - I think Imight have done this before as well. Once I've got a mis-spelling in my head I just can't get rid of it - sorry.

Derek Wall said...

joint Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and Green Left fringe tonight.

look out for Oscar Burghland Blanco, his father lead the indigenous uprising in Peru in the 1960s and the indigenous who he works with have just had a very succeful campaign of direct action to save the Amazon

Thursday 4th September, 7pm to 9pm
'Greening Latin America'
Bolivar Hall: Embassy Of Venezuela
54 Grafton Way
W1 5AJ

Chair: Joseph Healy, Green Party of England and Wales International Secretary
Speakers:
Roberto Perez, Cuban permaculturalist who launches his British tour .
Dr Diana Raby, Lecturer at the Institute of Latin American Studies (University of Liverpool)
Oscar Berglund Blanco, son of Hugo Blanco editor of Lucha Indigena.
Dr Derek Wall, Green Party Principal Speaker

Richard said...

Hi Nick

"there will always be those who accuse them of anti-semitism, whether there is foundation for this or not."

Who are these people ?
How often do they do this ?
Are they Jewish communal organisations ?

Are they Israelis ?

WHo do they represent ?

How strong is their influence ?

I take it that you have many examples so can we have some please ?

Jim Jay said...

Richard - I've already given the example of Melanie Philips... but also alot of what happens on Engage, for example, relies on blurring the distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-semitism.

That's plenty of examples to be going on with.

Derek - I was disappointed to see Diana Raby speaking on that platform. Having read a couple of her books I find the hero worshipping quite distasteful.

The fact that her whole analysis relies upon having strong leaders who through personal brilliance create wonderful new societies is starkly at odds with those who look towards social movements as something more than a pawn in a great game.

Richard said...

Jim "Richard - I've already given the example of Melanie Philips... but also alot of what happens on Engage, for example, relies on blurring the distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-semitism.

That's plenty of examples to be going on on with."

Hi Jim

Firstly Nick said : "there will always be those who accuse them of anti-semitism, whether there is foundation for this or not."

So you give Engage as an example. Do you think Engage "accuse people of antisemitism whether there is foundation or not" ? Do you really mean this ?

Jim you haven't given plenty of examples. You've given two and one is totaly false.

Jim , if you truly believe this about Engage then would you like to debate this with me through a series of emails and we can host it on Engage ?

Seriously Jim , you're so wrong , take a look at the articles on Engage which support Palestinian rights , etc.

I hope you will back up what you say , retract it. Will be good if you will debate with me.

Jim Jay said...

First. I didn't say everything that happens on Engage is like that - I said that "alot of what happens on Engage, for example, relies on blurring the distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-semitism" which is completely true.

Note I haven't said they throw around unjust acusations (although that can happen) nor have I said that this is Engage's only or main characteristic.

It doesn't mean engage never has anything interesting or valid to say - I've found it useful sometimes, but mostly not.

Second. I'm not obliged to give loads of examples, nor is anyone else. This discussion should not be about you and what you want which is a complete distraction.

You've implied these people don't exist which they clearly do. The fact you can imply they don't and *demand* examples means either you're uninformed, dogmatic or just dishonest - or a combination of the above.

The reason why I'm completely uninterested in engaging in some dubious email exercise with you on this is a) I'm very busy, b) I don't trust you (although I'll remain open to changing my mind on this) c) I'm sick of the way this debate is conducted.

For the record I believe that there is anti-semitism in the palestine solidarity movement and that it is down to those within that movement to do what they can to combat it.

It is also clear that sometimes those who support the palestinian cause are attacked, in a quite unjustifiable blanket fashion, as having anti-semitic motives - which I think is a cynical ploy to undermine those who wish to see those suffering under a great injustice given support and solidarity.

Richard said...

Thanks for your reply Jim

You say "alot of what happens on Engage, for example, relies on blurring the distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-semitism" which is completely true."

So i asked you for examples because i don't believe your accusation is correct. Surely it's resasonable to ask for examples ?

You then give a reason for not giving examples. : " I'm not obliged to give loads of examples, nor is anyone else. This discussion should not be about you and what you want which is a complete distraction."

But it's not about me , it's about antisemitism. It is about you though. It's about you making an incorrect accusation. The reason you don't give examples is because you are unable to do so.

You then say " You've implied these people don't exist which they clearly do. The fact you can imply they don't and *demand* examples means either you're uninformed, dogmatic or just dishonest - or a combination of the above."

I haven't implied these people don't exist. However they are a small number of people - they don't represent anybody , they don't represent the Jewish communal organisations , they don't represent anybody but themselves. Yet you imply that it is a common occurance.


Your next part is really friendly (looks like i've hit a soar point.

You say :

" The reason why I'm completely uninterested in engaging in some dubious email exercise with you on this is a) I'm very busy, b) I don't trust you (although I'll remain open to changing my mind on this) c) I'm sick of the way this debate is conducted."

You're busy - that's understandable , no rush.

You don't trust me - why ? I was trusted enough to speak on antisemitism at The Assoc of Green Councilliors Conference in Norwich. Raphael will vouch for me. Why don't you trust me ?

So you're sick of how the debate is being conducted. I'm sorry Jim , it's about engaging. If you say something then surely people should be able to debate with you , surely they have a right to challenge what you say.

Jim , from what i've read before , i understand that you take antisemitism seriously. But you really need to be careful before making sweeping generalisations and accusations that you are unable to back up.

Looks like you're a bit annoyed which was not my intention. But rather than getting angry and defensive , perhaps you need to be more careful with what you say.

As i say , i know you're busy but perhaps a debate wil help to clarify the situation.

Anonymous said...

So, a cartoon that shows an alliance between the US and Israel silecing the free speech is not antisemitic?

Let's take a closer look.
1. is its replication of the often stated (but rarely evidenced) claim that those who mention Palestine is not only accused of antisemitism, but is, actually and in reality, silenced by the accusation of antisemitism.
Apparently,of all the words in the antiracist vocabulary, only "antisemitism" is deemed to carry this much (magical) power. Its attachment to previous myths is self-evident.
2. It implies a complete identity of interests between Israel and the US. (One hand knowing what the other is doing). Again, mythologising political relations and that gains its potency through the further myth of the "Israel Lobby".
3. The silencing by the gag of "antisemitism" implies also that the claim of antisemitism is not only false, but also a weapon in the hands of "Zionists" (thereby linking Zionists and Jews who raise the issue whether ZIonists or not). It reiterates the power (and the blurring of) Zionist and Jew.
4. It discredits any authentic claim to antisemitism around the question of Plaestine (a point noted by yourself that exists)
5. In a classic formulation of antisemitism, the claim Zionists/Jews silence others is, as the above point notes, nothing other than a call to "silence" the "silencers". What begins as an accusation of Zionists/Jews of silencing others is, at the same time, a call to silence Zionists and Jews wherever and whenever they raise the issue. Related to this point, of course, is the idea that a claim of antisemitism can never, never be legitimate.

One other point.
The debate is about antisemitism and not Israel. They are not two sides of the same coin. Those who peddle in antisemitism have always, since day one, claimed that antisemitism is a (legitimate) reponse to Jewish acts or actions. It is not.
After all, antisemitism can exist without Jews, and often does so.

Anonymous said...

And one final reflection.

The fantasy that antisemitism silences criticism of Israel is a complete inversion of reality.
As this debate (and those on hundreds of blogs and other media) shows, the one claim of racism (antisemitism) that is deemed most effective in its purported aim of silencing is the one that is least effective.

(And, in this way, if no other, the cartoon most resembles the myth of a Jewish power and its inversion of empirical reality)

Raphael said...

Jim

There is a very reasonable interpretation of the cartoon as being antisemitic (see anonymous); in addition the cartoonist himself is notoriously antisemitic. What is the meaning of this cartoon in an advertising of anti-Zionist fringe?

More importantly, as pointed by anonymous above, a debate about antisemitism is not a debate about Israel.

It has become so because Green Left has responded to a moderate and carefully drafted motion on antisemitism with a fringe on anti-Zionism. Why??? Why could it not just support the motion? Or propose amendments to it, in order to improve it? Why a carefully drafted motion against
racism is controversial in the Green Party?

Raphael

Jim Jay said...

Anon - I'll thank you to post under a consistent name in future.

The cartoon says that Israel and the US use the charge of anti-semitism to silence critics. If you think it's *wrong* in that analysis then fine - but it can only be anti-semitic if we ignore the fact that Israel and Jews are not the same and therefore opposing Israel is not anti-semitism.

As to the motions - of course motions on anti-semitism are not de facto about Israel - but these ones are.

C15 explicitly mentions it in the synopsis summarising the motion and C16 mentions both Palestine and Israel in the very first sentence of the motion.

I think to pretend these are somehow at arms length from the Israel/Palestine debate doesn't bear even a moment's scrutiny.

For those who wish to see for themselves page 22 of this document

Aaron said...

On a completely unrelated note.. how awesome is our new Green Party homepage?!

Jim Jay said...

Wow!!!!

Double wow!!!

How damn cool - who did this?

Hats off

scott redding said...

Thanks for the spelling change.

I went to the old website, to download a copy of the timetable, and by the time I finished printing the PDF, the new one was up!

I think the conference needs to be far more prominent on the front page of the website.

ModernityBlog said...

Jim, you wrote:

"...as having anti-semitic motives... "

I don't think that people are motivated as such by that, very unlikely

perhaps the odd crank (very rare), but not the vast majority, rather the consequences of certain actions and ideas do bring into play anti-Jewish racism, it helps it along, that's the issue as I see it

again, I don't think that the motives of people come into it, but where it leads

which is slightly different

think of it like sexism, are people motivated by sexism? not necessarily, but that could be the result of certain actions or discourse

that's why certain behaviour only helps advance anti-Jewish racism, even if it is unintended

Anonymous said...

"The cartoon says that Israel and the US use the charge of anti-semitism to silence critics. If you think it's *wrong* in that analysis then fine - but it can only be anti-semitic if we ignore the fact that Israel and Jews are not the same and therefore opposing Israel is not anti-semitism."

Two points,
1 As I noted,
"The silencing by the gag of "antisemitism" implies also that the claim of antisemitism is not only false, but also a weapon in the hands of "Zionists" (thereby linking Zionists and Jews who raise the issue whether ZIonists or not). It reiterates the power (and the blurring of) Zionist and Jew." (See, for example, the debates around Atzmon. See, also, the debates on the green list.)


Many Jews who are not only not Zionists but are anti-Zionists have tried to raise the issue of antisemitism, but to no avail. The have been denounced as "Zionists".

Therefore, it is the cartoon and other "anti-zionists" and not me that links the Zionists and Jews.


2. The two hands in the cartoon (one marked with the Israeli flag, one marked with the US) are, of course, part of the same body. That body is, be definition, an amalgam of Israel and the US. It is as if the two are the same. As I also noted, such imagery, feeds into the mythology of "Zionist America" (without the hyphen and so without any (political) mediation).



It is also the case that the cartoon only contains its visual and "political" impact because of the tradition with which it connects. Adding the two blue bands around the star of David (i.e. the Israeli flag) merely acts as a means to transfer the ideological content of antisemitic notions of "Jewish power" to the Jewish state and its alleged dominance over another State.

3. And, finally, the very idea that Zionists and Jews consistently raise antisemitism to silence others is, as I have indicated, itself a slur on both.
As someone else raised on this blog, and I mentioned myself, the accusation is raised often but little evidence is given in support of such claims.

Considering the levity of the accusation, - Zionists/Jews silence "free speech" and its tapping into antisemitic rhetoric -one would expect at least some serious empirically-sound evidence.

At the moment, it has as much status as an "urban myth", the story that happened to a "friend of a friend" that "everyone seems to just know".

I choose to post "anonymous" for numerous reasons.

Chris Fox said...

It is true my motion mentions Israel, (and also Palestine in an amendment), but it is not intended to be a motion *about* Israel or Palestine. Rather it seeks to give some guidance about what form of debate is acceptable, including when discussing Middle East policy.

There has been concern expressed about toleration of antisemitism in the contributions to the debate on Israel and in the implementation of policy. My understanding is that the complaints have not been motivated by the view that any critism of Israel is antisemtic. Rather they have been concerns about the way in which people conduct themselves when contributing to debates and implementating policy.

There appear to be repeated suggestions that any expression of concern about antisemitism should be dismissed by effectively characterising it as merely some kind of bullying by a "tiny minority" whose real agenda is to gag debate on Israel. I think such claims are misleading, and in themselves also highly problematic.

Some appear to suggest that mere membership of the Green Party grants immunity for accusations of discrimination. This is the spirit in which the second motion was proposed. I also find this highly problematic.

To try and get a bit of balance here, it is worth noting that claims of racism are also thrown against those party members who criticise Israel but are willing to acknowledge its right to exist. Why in these cases does nobody jump up and down about unreasonable and repeated accusations from a tiny minority of extremists who are attempting to delegitimise discussion about recognising Israel?

I have supported critism of Israel, but have never been accussed of being antisemitic. I have however effectively been accused of being a racist Zionist apologist for merely daring to suggest that perhaps party members ought to be able to engage with the idea of recognising the existence of the state of Israel.

To summarise, some in the party have implied that it is racist merely to discuss the possibility of recognising the existence of the state of Israel. It is for this reason that the motion mentions Israel.

Anonymous said...

As Jim mentioned earlier Melanie Philips is really good example of someone who always conflates anti-zionism and anti semitism. I certainly wasn't trying to suggest that people here are making that accusation. I would credit the people at "Engage" for not making these accusations, but the same can not be applied to the pro Israel right.
As to the inclsion of the cartoon, I don't see it in itself as anti semitic, but as people have said the cartoonist is an anti semite, On reflection, I accept that it was wrong to include it on the leaflet, not that I have been involved. There was simply no need to provoke and upset people when there is serious discussion here.
Anyway, who went to the two talks mentioned in Jim' original piece, how did they go, any reflections?

Nick
Bristol

Raphael said...

Nick

Mira posted an account of the anti-Zionist fringe here:
http://greensstoptheboycott.wordpress.com/2008/09/06/green-left-conference-fringe-on-anti-zionism-a-jewish-perspective/

As for the "Criticism of Israel can be antisemitic", no account posted yet to my knowledge.

Raphael

Jim Jay said...

This subject was touched on in the fringe I ran with Peter Tatchell on Iran, but I'll not go into depth in a comment...

Just to say I was very pleased that C15 (Chris's motion) was partially passed - the clear section ten - that we do not tolerate anti-semitism was (almost) unanimously agreed - and the other stuff that was carefully constructed - but extraneous to the stated aim of the motion was cut out.

C16 was "reffered back" which means that whilst people did not disagree that we shouldn't be antisemitic (radical!) the motion wasn't up to scratch - which is wasn't - and will have to be redrafted if it is to see conference again - although as C15 was passed it probably doesn't need to be.

If anyone is curious I voted to take C15 in parts and voted against section 1-9 and voted for 10.

I'm consdiering posting on the workshop which was really badly chaired... but I might leave it for now

Chris Fox said...

I am pleased that clause 10 (as amended) was passed, but sad to see clause 1-9 rejected, as they were intended to address some critical live issues of principle, some of which were alluded to by Peter Tatchel in the HOPI workshop.

The conduct of SOC (Standing Orders Committee) with respect to my motion C15 has been critised by many. SOC originally published the wrong version of the motion. They required me to submit a formal amendment to correct this. They then split that amendment into multiple amendments, each of which in principle require separate debates and votes. During the debate, I made a procedural point on this to indicate my support for taking all the amendments together, and stating that the proposers did not contest them.
I am told by somebody in the audience who was timing my talk that this procedural point was actually taken to constitute part of my speech in favour of the motion. This should not have happened according to my understanding of conference procedures and the advice I was given by SOC prior to the debate. As a result, I was not able to address a number of issues that had been raised in the workshop and elsewhere. Subsequent contributors speaking against the motion raised these very issues. According to conference rules, I should have been granted a right of reply. But SOC denied my right of reply (they subsequently told me they were confused about which point we were at in the proceedings).

This means criticisms of my motion have been made which I was not permitted to address in the plenary session prior to the vote on clauses 1-9. SOC also failed to deliver speaker slips to the chair, so that a number of contributors for and against the motion were not permitted to speak. This limited the opportunity for others to address criticisms (some of which appeared to be based on very simple misunderstandings) and introduce more explicit background information that would help explain why all the clauses of this motion were so important.

I know that lots of people did not want this motion put to conference. I was subject to what might be described as bullying and libelous accusations in an attempt to make me withdraw it. Some thought it would undermine the role of conference as a publicity and media event for Caroline Lucas.

Even if it was not their intent, SOC certainly did a good job of sabotaging the debate, which prevented the discussion of antisemitic attacks made against Green Party activists, and the relationship between a certain prominent member and genocidal antisemites.

The motion was not a side-show. The issues and principles are foundational for the Green Party that claims to support equality and human rights. In principle the clauses 1-9 could also have helped defend the party against legal proceedings under the race relations act (which is perhaps not so hypothetical as some might imagine).

Finally, these issues, if left unaddressed, risk undermining the electoral success of the party. (I guess that for the new centralist party this is perhaps the trump card, although it shouldn't be.)

In summary, I agree that passing clause 10 was a positive thing, but would argue that clauses 1-9 were at least as important. It was unfortunate that the justification for their inclusion was excluded from the debate.

Chris (proposer of motion C15)