Citizen Action Monitor

Green Party: Deep divide exposed as opposing factions face off on Facebook over BDS policy

Green’s for BDS resolution face off against Green’s for Elizabeth May.

No 1814 Posted by fw, November 6, 2016

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.                           —George Bernard Shaw

“…no one is proposing to turn the Green Party into a ‘protest movement.’ The policy of which you complain is perfectly consonant with Canadian government policy and international law. It is nothing more than a call to hold Israel, a chronic and severe violator of international law, accountable.”Dimitri Lascaris

The above passage is from a Nov. 2, 2016 Facebook comment by Dimitri Lascaris made in response to two BDS-related posts which had recently appeared on the pages of a Facebook Group named “Canadians in Support of Elizabeth May.” These posts expressed opposition to the BDS policy and the process whereby that policy was adopted.

This was not the first time Dimitri has attempted to clarify the meaning of the BDS policy that he wrote, and was adopted at the party’s August convention:

1/ At a BDS Town Hall gathering in September, Dimitri explained at length why his resolution “does NOT amount to an endorsement of the BDS movement.”  On that occasion, I wrote the following in a repost titled: Dimitri Lascaris attempts to clarify what his Green Party BDS resolution does/does not mean

Just to be clear, I support the Green Party’s BDS resolution authored by Dimitri Lascaris. I just don’t think that the text itself is sufficiently clear. In my opinion, it creates confusion largely because it fails to provide explicit examples of the kinds of actions that could conceivably flow from the resolution’s three clauses…. What’s missing are concrete examples of the BDS support actions that could conceivably contribute to ‘Israel’s implementation of a permanent ban on further settlement construction…. So, Mr. Lascaris, what action, if any, will the party leader and party members engage in to realize this goal? Or is “support” to be so benign as to amount to little more than tacit complicity, effectively giving Israel carte blanche to carry on its ongoing “incremental genocide” of Palestinians. I hope it is not that. Please clarify, Mr. Lascaris — What do you mean?’”

2/ Consider as well, Green Party member Jeff Wheeldon’s article, As a Green, Why I Don’t Want My Party Embracing BDS Movement. One can reasonably ask if Jeff’s concerns are based on a misinterpretation of the meaning of an ambiguous BDS resolution? Ironically, his article opened the floodgates of reader comments, pro and con, forcing Jeff to clarify what he “really meant”. In a critique of Jeff’s piece, my wife and I took our own shot at interpreting the meaning of both the Green’s BDS resolution and Jeff’s critique: Rebuttal of Jeff Wheeldon’s critique of the argument for adoption of BDS as a Green Party policy.

3/ Clarity. We need clarity. As philosopher Jeff Noonan put it in his post, Anti-BDS-BS

There are easy ways to oppose social problems and then there are real ways to oppose social problems…. When oppressed people organize a movement and call for international supporters to adopt its demands, then real allies adopt those demands and do what they can in their own contexts to ensure their realization…. In the case of the Palestinians, Canadian politicians who pontificate in the abstract about statehood but denounce all means of getting there do not support self-determination…. the truth of principles is practice, and in terms of practice, that means supporting the Palestinian movement for self-determination, which none of them do.

Is the meaning of the Green’s BDS resolution even relevant anymore?

Even if Mr. Lascaris did translate his abstract BDS resolution into concrete “terms of practice”, it may not save the Green’s BDS resolution from being irrelevant. As one informed analyst pointed out, even European leaders failed in their 2015 attempt to hold Israel to account for occupation violations. Moreover, he writes, it is “highly unlikely the EU will ever impose the level of pressure necessary to change Benjamin Netanyahu’s calculus.” Another expert notes that Israel and its enablers successfully blunt even the mildest criticism of abuse of Palestinians.

So, if Netanyahu isn’t listening to senior EU officials, and if the Israeli propaganda machine blunts criticism, what practical impact can the GPC’s BDS resolution hope to have?

In answer to my question, perhaps the meaning of the Green’s resolution is to be found in the very act of adopting it.

Returning to Dimitri’s Nov. 2, 2016 Facebook response to two BDS-related posts, below is a repost of the piece. Alternatively, click on the following linked title to read it on Facebook.

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Dimitri Lascaris responds to expressed opposition to the BDS policy, published on Facebook, November 2, 2016

As discussed in this group [“Support the Green Party of Canada’s BDS Resolution”] over the past few days, two BDS-related posts recently appeared in the FB Group entitled “Canadians in Support of Elizabeth May.” These posts expressed opposition to the BDS policy and the process whereby that policy was adopted. These posts appeared in that group despite the fact that that group’s administrator, Skeena Sage Williamson, issued a “moratorium” in September on discussion of the “BDS issue.” Yesterday [Nov 1], I wrote a comment on one of those posts. Within minutes, the administrator deleted my comment and blocked me from the group. Below you can see my full comment, and judge for yourselves whether anything that I wrote merited the deletion of the comment or my exclusion from the group “Canadians in Support of Elizabeth May.”

“With all due respect, your comments are based upon important misconceptions about the Green Party’s rules of procedure, and the history of our policies relating to human rights.

[Dimitri Lascaris Responds]

First, the distinction between Robert’s Rules and the Green Party’s rules of procedure are not nearly as great as you appear to believe. Article III of the Green Party’s Rules of Procedure lays out the process whereby resolutions may be adopted by the members. Importantly, the word “consensus” appears nowhere in Article III. Moreover, clause (m) of Article III of the Rules of Procedure explicitly envisions that, if general agreement regarding a proposed resolution cannot be achieved, then the facilitator may call a vote, in which case the resolution passes if it receives 60% support. Thus, the Green Party’s Rules of Procedure clearly provide that the majority may impose its will on the minority, which clearly is NOT consensus. (You can view the full Rules of Procedure here: https://www.greenparty.ca/…/documents/rules-procedure-full.) At the end of the day, there is no reason to believe that the outcome of the BDS debate at the Ottawa BGM would have been different had we employed the Green Party’s Rules of Procedure instead of Robert’s Rules.

Second, prior to the BGM [Biennial General Meeting], I did in fact make extensive efforts to achieve consensus in regard to the BDS policy. My efforts included a trip to Ottawa from my home in London, Ontario in order to meet with Elizabeth to discuss a possible compromise resolution. I made this trip at my own expense. I also spent many hours on the phone, writing emails and drafting potential compromise language with a view to achieving consensus. However, consensus cannot always be achieved, and in fact that is precisely why the Green Party’s rules of procedure provide for a vote. If consensus was a prerequisite to the adoption of party policies, then it would be very difficult to pass many policies that deserve to be passed. The drafters of the Green Party’s rules of procedure clearly understood this, and therefore they did NOT make consensus a prerequisite to the passage of a resolution.

Third, it may interest you to know that the Robert’s Rules resolution of which you complain (specifically, you criticize the title of that resolution) was submitted by deputy leader Bruce Hyer, who had no involvement in the drafting or submission of the BDS resolution. Bruce’s Robert’s Rules resolution was sponsored by shadow cabinet members who have made clear their opposition to the BDS policy, namely, Kate Storey and Erich Jacoby-Hawkins. I myself had no involvement whatsoever in the drafting or submission of Bruce’s Robert’s Rules resolution. You can see the names of the submitter and the sponsors of the Robert’s Rules resolution here: https://www.greenparty.ca/…/voting/resolutions/g16-c008. In any case, while I agree that the title to Bruce’s resolution could have been clearer, that title is quite neutral, and there is no reason to think that that title deceived people into voting for a resolution that they did not in fact support.

Fourth, although Elizabeth initially expressed reservations about the use of Robert’s Rules, she ultimately voted for the use of Robert’s Rules at the BGM.

Fifth, no one is proposing to turn the Green Party into a ‘protest movement.’ The policy of which you complain is perfectly consonant with Canadian government policy and international law. It is nothing more than a call to hold Israel, a chronic and severe violator of international law, accountable. A human rights policy of this nature does not make us into a protest movement any more than the pro-BDS policies of the U.S. and U.K. green parties have converted those parties into protest movements. Our leader endorsed the Leap Manifesto last year. Did that turn our party into a ‘protest movement’? If not, why not? Similarly, in 2014, our party adopted a policy calling for an arms embargo on Saudi Arabia. Have you ever complained that that policy made us into a ‘protest movement’? And if you did not make that complaint, what is the difference between calling for sanctions on Saudi Arabia, as we did in 2014, and calling for sanctions on Israel, which is essentially what the BDS policy does?

Finally, you state that ‘the best decisions are made when we hear all sides of an issue’. I could not agree more with this statement, which is precisely why it is wrong for Skeena Sage Williamson, the administrator of this FB group, to prohibit discussion of ‘the BDS issue’ in this FB group. If Skeena were truly committed to consensus-building, she would readily allow discussion of that issue in this FB group. In any event, all sides of the debate on BDS were in fact heard at the BGM. Indeed, it is highly doubtful that any resolution was debated as extensively as the BDS resolution was debated at the BGM.

Peace and solidarity, Dimitri”

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