Elizabeth May will stay on as Green Party leader despite her party’s controversial motion supporting the Boycott Divestment Sanction movement which opposes Israeli policy. May said the party will launch a new process to try to reach consensus. It could present a great opportunity for more education on the cause of Palestinian human rights. Read more…
Green Party leader Elizabeth May ended 10 days of intense speculation about her future yesterday by announcing that she would not resign as leader.
“I see there’s been lots of speculation from the Internet about whether I plan to join some other political party. That was never even a consideration “, May told reporters at a press conference on Parliament Hill Monday.“I love my friends in the other parties but I am Green.”
The speculation about her future arose from the fact that at its Party convention in early August, the GPC had adopted a motion supporting BDS, the international movement to boycott Israel. May’s opposition to BDS seemed to be partly motivated by consideration of the impact it would have on the Green Party’s electoral and financial situation, and partly by her personal conviction that BDS would not be helpful toward achieving a peaceful solution.
But other Jewish groups applauded the move. “This is the first time a Canadian political party with representation in the House of Commons has taken a strong and positive position in solidarity with the grassroots Palestinian movement for freedom, justice and equality,” said Tyler Levitan, a spokesman for Independent Jewish Voices Canada.
In Monday’s press conference, May reiterated her strong criticisms of some of Israel’s policies. She said she respected GPC members with opinions on both sides of the issue and again repeated that she does not agree with those who claim BDS is anti-Semitic. But she said she feared the endorsement of BDS by GPC could be misconstrued as anti-Semitic and would lump the party in with a larger group of activists beyond its control. She was “heartbroken” that the motion passed without consensus among members.
In the press conference, May focussed on what she saw as weaknesses in the Green Party’s decisionmaking process. In her view, the party had abandoned its traditional consensus decisionmaking to adopt a more formal process (called Roberts Rules of Order). This led, in her view, to the Party making a decision that, while democratic, was highly divisive.
She said the Party’s federal council has now asked senior party officials “to identify any and all policies adopted that lacked consensus and to prepare proposals to be put to the members at Special Meeting with the goal of achieving consensus.”
New opportunity for education
Quebec Green Party leader Alex Tyrell was one of many GPC activists disappointed by the decision to reverse the decision. “Elizabeth May is wrong. The actions of the state of Israel against the Palestinian people are unacceptable. This is a fact Elizabeth May herself has recognized. The disagreement is with respect to tactics,” he argued, reflecting the feelings of many who had worked hard to see the resolution adopted democratically.
Palestinian human rights activists outside the Green Party were also understandably disappointed that the party had decided to review the decision.
But the Green Party’s new effort to find “consensus” on this issue opens the door to further education on the BDS issue among members. While many party members, and especially many activists, strongly support BDS as a way to pressure Israel to recognize its international obligations to the Palestinians, it seems probable that many more are as yet unaware, unclear or uncomfortable with it.
This new attempt at “consensus building” will give activists an opportunity to explain to the undecideds why they feel the BDS movement is legitimate and necessary.
Its not yet clear what the new “consensus building” process will be, or how long it will take. If the Federal Council wants to close down or sidetrack this discussion quickly, it is hard to see how a consensus could be reached.
However, if the real intent is to develop a broad consensus in the party, then a longer term perspective will have to be adopted. This could open the door to educational sessions, debates, cross Canada tours by invited Palestinian speakers, or even fact-finding tours to visit Israel/Palestine, all with Green Party official approval. It would also give Palestinian human rights supporters the chance to explain the reasons behind the three democratic demands of the BDS movement (ending the occupation, equality inside Israel, and above all, about resolving the desperate situation of the 5 million Palestinian refugees.)
After an initial success, and then an apparent setback, a door is now opening for Palestinian human rights activists to renew their education campaign in the context of the official Green Party consensus building process..
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