I find it impossible to understand how Elizabeth May, the humanitarian I’ve come to admire so greatly, would stake her leadership of the Green Party not on a “Green” issue, which would be understandable, but in support of an Israeli government whose policies violate principles of basic humanity. How ironic, how awful it is to contemplate that the person who established The Green Party as a political force for such good in this country is apparently about to preside at its funeral. —Rafe Mair in a correspondence with Elizabeth May posted on The Common Sense Canadian.
I go to Rafe’s website often to read what is called “common sense” but is—usually—keenly perceptive insights into building a just, equitable, sustainable, and meaningfully democratic Canada/world. Indeed most of Rafe’s correspondence with Elizabeth May on the recent Green Party of Canada vote to support the BDS movement is impeccably argued rhetoric. In the exchange May throws out a list of desperately assembled diversions in attempting to distract the discussion but Rafe’s persuasive commitment to social justice cuts to the quick: “Having said that, it’s the clear obligation of those who supply money and other support to the state of Israel to make it clear that depriving Palestinians of their own nation, by occupying and destroying their homes, “legally” stealing the land and building houses on it, is not on and will not be accepted, let alone supported.”
Mid way through the exchange Rafe clearly states his enthusiastic support for the recently passed BDS motion of the Green Party of Canada and its potential “to see peaceful but persuasive action bring an end to the apartheid actions of Israel as it did in South Africa.” In noting the on-going Israeli bulldozing of homes and building illegal settlements Rafe wonders aloud about how May could support an Israel that “has violated more different international laws than just about any nation in the world today, including, but not limited to: illegal use of inhumane white phosphorous munitions; violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty; use of collective punishment against civilians; expropriation of property from an occupied territory; claiming sovereignty over land in an occupied territory; extrajudicial executions; torture; deliberate military targeting of emergency medical first response personnel and vehicles; deliberate targeting of civilians; denial of humanitarian aid to a civilian population; use of civilians as human shields by military personnel. Many of these are explicitly war crimes under International Law…” and concludes by congratulating the Green Party of Canada for stepping “to the right side of history.”
But—then—after so perceptively cutting through Elizabeth May’s desperate attempt to derail the motion he calls the right side of history, Rafe comes back to his inconsistent and unfounded assertion that The Green Party of Canada is destroying itself “because it can’t deal with international issues.” Rafe doesn’t elucidate his argument further but the obvious implication is that since the Green Party isn’t a viable party without Elizabeth May—no matter how wrong she may be; no matter how much Rafe may regret it– the party is ”self immolating” by defying their leader.
Interesting that neither May nor Mair note that as Senior Policy Advisor for the Mulroney government she didn’t object when Brian Mulroney brought Canada onboard with the international boycott, divestment, sanctions that led to the collapse of apartheid in South Africa. If anything, Mulroney’s actions to end South African apartheid bolstered his claim that the Progressive Conservatives were, in fact, at least a little bit “progressive” and countered some of the PC’s losses to disaffection over Meech Lake Accord and the western dissatisfaction giving rise to the Reform Party.
Contrary to his otherwise diligent efforts to present well thought, factually based arguments on his blog site, Rafe really goes off the deep end in speculating the imminent demise of the Green Party over its spat with its current leader. The more Israel continues to defy UN resolutions on the rights of Palestinians, to steal more and more land from the Palestinians belligerently bulldozing their homes, businesses and farms, to assassinate unarmed civilians and even children, to defy United Nations on human rights, to bomb hospitals, schools, water and sanitation infrastructure and even well identified United Nations outposts, while withhold essential humanitarian aid and blockading those who would help from entering Palestinian territory; the more Israel continues to defy international law and impose apartheid-styled harassment of the Palestinian people; the more credible and popular the Green Party will become– as the only party in Canada that will stand up and stand out as a party truly committed to a just, sustaining and sustainable Canada/world.
All other Canadian parties play petty politics with the lives and basic human rights of Palestinians under the twisted assumption that whatever Israel does is OK — because Israel does it. Liberals, Conservatives, the NDP all accept the distorted, subliminally assumed rationale that because of the horrible things that Germans did to Jewish people in WWII there should be no restrictions on what the government of Israel, as a Jewish state, does to the Palestinian people.
Finally one party is standing up and turning that logic on its head; because of the horrible events in Nazi Germany and in far too many other places, we must all stand together and seek justice, respect and dignity for all people. Rafe missed the mark; it is not the Green Party that is self immolating; it is their leader that is on the wrong side of history and who is now actively dismantling the reputation she has built up over the years for her commitment to the environment and social justice. It is the status quo parties that—together—have placed themselves so far out on a decaying limb of belligerent indifference to the suffering of the Palestinian people that they are all—together—in danger of being dumped by the living trunk of human compassion that assumes human rights are inherently and necessarily rights for all.
The sad thing, the big loss to Canada and the Green Party, is that Elizabeth May has allowed her belligerent social conservatism on Israel to dismantle her budding reputation as the “Bernie Sanders” of Canadian politics. I have never contributed to the Green Party mostly because of its perceived social conservativism, but I intend to change that shortly. With the NDP so reluctant to set out and step up to being a meaningful voice for progressive values, the Green Party has stepped up—stepped ahead of the sleepy parties– declaring it is ready and willing to become the voice for progressive values in Canada. In the final analysis, I think it is actually a very good thing that the Green Party asserts itself as different from and greater than just the charisma of their environmentally aware socially conservative “leader.”
Thursday, I will take a closer look at the current BDS movement to force change in the apartheid policies and actions of Israel; what it is, what it means, what it hopes to do, how it is similar to the BDS movement—which I am proud to have been a small part of—that brought about a peaceful transition to democracy, human rights and respect for all in what was for far too long apartheid in South Africa.