Middle East conflict divides Canada’s Green Party

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The recent conflict in Israel and Gaza has increased anti-Semitism here in Canada and has even split the federal Green Party.

When asked on Monday whether reports of sharp divisions in her party over Israel and Palestine worried her, Leader Annamie Paul referred instead to “difficult talks”.

“The Greens are a non-violence party and we believe in dialogue,” said Paul. “It is possible to have disagreements and still respect one another.”

She went on to say that anti-Semitism has no place in politics.

“I ask for solidarity to condemn anti-Semitism, because silence encourages hatred.”

The rift that Paul was set to comment on was demonstrated in a series of tweets, Facebook posts and breaking news with two Green MPs, Jenica Atwin and Paul Manly.

Earlier this month, Atwin tweeted that she was “working with Palestine to condemn the unthinkable air strikes in Gaza” and calling for an “end to apartheid.”

Manly tweeted during the Israel-Gaza conflict: “Last month Human Rights Watch labeled the Israeli occupation as apartheid. What is happening in East Jerusalem right now is ethnic cleansing. “

These and other comments have sparked divisions within the party, Noah Zatzman told iPolitics.

Zatzman is Paul’s senior advisor, and both are Jews. He said they were both victims of anti-Semitic harassment, which increased during the Middle East conflict and because of the tweets that followed.

On Monday, Dimitri Lascaris, who ran against Annamie Paul for leadership of the party last year, posted a note to Annamie Paul on the Facebook page of the Canadian Green Party: Silence is not leadership. In it, he called on Paul to either condemn Zatzman or “to back up her claim of anti-Semitism with credible evidence (of which there is none)”.

Lascaris continued: If Paul believes Zatzman’s claims are false, “she should support our Green MPs by removing Zatzman from the Fuehrer’s office.”

Zatzman said the Green Party was a grassroots organization that supported Paul, not Lascaris, and the party did not punish anyone who voiced their opinion.

“The Greens have no exclusions (and) no penalties,” Zatzman said.

“I think they don’t want me to do it well because (Annamie) Paul isn’t doing it well and then they (Lascaris and his supporters) can do a leadership review,” Zatzman said, adding it would Lascaris give the opportunity to run again.

When Paul was asked on Monday if she had turned to Lascaris and if she believed he would run for the Greens in Quebec in the next federal election, Paul didn’t answer directly. Instead, she said she spoke to all of the candidates from the 2020 leadership race.

“I hope this gives you my intent and the relationship (with these candidates),” she said.

Correction: After this story was published, Manly’s office reached out to say that he did not support Dimitri Lascaris, publicly or privately, in his quest to become chairman of the Greens, nor did Atwin

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