By Yves Engler
Annamie Paul and her supporters are right to cite racism as a driving factor in her leadership crisis. But the Green leader’s supporters have misplaced the source of responsibility. It is Paul’s inability to view colonized peoples, notably Palestinians, as deserving of equal rights that is the source of her current troubles.
As the first Black woman federal party leader with MPs in the House of Commons, Paul has undoubtedly faced discrimination during her eight-month tenure. But Paul’s leadership of the Greens is in crisis due to her anti-Palestinian racism amidst a rebellion against Israel’s ethnic cleansing and violence.
As Israel bombed Gaza last month Paul released a horribly anti-Palestinian statement. It ran counter to the party’s democratically decided policy, which “supports only non-violent responses to violence and oppression, including economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” to force Israel to comply with international law.
Unlike Paul all three Green MPs echoed the explosion of righteous outrage, criticizing Israeli “apartheid” and “ethnic cleansing”. Then Green MP Jenica Atwin also explicitly disagreed with Paul’s statement. Subsequently, Paul’s senior adviser Noah Zatzman publicly denounced “appalling anti-Semitism” and “virulent anti-Jewish behavior” by Green MPs and other politicians. “We will not accept an apology after you realize what you’ve done,” he posted to Facebook. “We will work to defeat you.”
In subsequent interviews and posts Zatzman doubled down on his smears and threats against Green MPs and activists. As her senior adviser attacked much of the party, Paul remained mum regarding Zatzman’s statements. In fact, she responded to questions related to the divisions in the party by talking about anti-Semitism and despite the issue playing itself out in front of millions she has yet to distance herself from Zatzman’s wild statements.
Paul’s anti-Palestinianism is not new. When Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East surveyed the nine Green leadership candidates on their Middle East policy Paul received bottom marks.
And Palestinians aren’t the only colonized and racialized people that she has had a hard time seeing as deserving of equal rights. Paul backed the wealthy, Christian extremist and white supremacist coup against Bolivia’s first everindigenous President Evo Morales. As the Green’s International Affairs Critic, Paul released a statement that began by noting “a post-election audit conducted by the Organisation of American States (OAS) Electoral Observer Mission concluded that those elections were marred by serious irregularities and that the results should be annulled. Evo Morales has announced his resignation as President of Bolivia.” But Morales was forced out by soldiers and the OAS’ claims have been exposed as fraudulent.
Months later Paul stuck to her position by stating that her husband worked for the first indigenous Vice President of Bolivia, Victor Hugo Cárdenas, who became a controversial minister in the unelected post-Morales coup government. Paul’s husband, Mark Freeman, helped establish the New York based liberal imperialist International Center for Transitional Justice, which is largely funded by the Dutch Foreign Ministry, Swedish government and UN.
As leader of the Greens Paul has stoked Sinophobia as well. In February she called on Ottawa to push to move the 2022 Olympics from China and instead hold the games in the US and Canada (on unceded Indigenous lands in BC). She also called for sanctions against China.
As Green MP Paul Manly, environmentalist David Suzuki and other prominent individuals signed a statement critical of Canadian policy in Haiti, Paul has stayed quiet about Canadian imperialism in a country that delivered a major blow to racial slavery. Nor has she spoken out about Canadian mining companies pillaging African resources.
Paul previously worked as an advisor in the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court in the Hague. She worked at the ICC at a time when the court was widely derided by Africans for only pursuing individuals from that continent, prompting stories like “Is the International Criminal Court Racist?” and “The ICC’s problem is not overt racism, it is Eurocentricism”.
Paul was posted to the ICC as part of her work for Canada’s lead purveyor of racist imperialism. She joined Global Affairs Canada out of university, working for years in Canada’s Mission to the European Union.
Her resume demonstrates rock solid support for the status quo in Canada and around the world. The problem is most Green Party members do not want the status quo. There are enough political parties working to maintain the privileges of the few against the needs of the many. Most Green Party members want serious change, not only to combat various ecological crisis, but also to create a more just world, where everyone everywhere has equal rights.
Yes, Paul should confront all forms of racism as Green party leader, including racism against Palestinians. But so far she has failed miserably on that important issue.
Yves Engler is a political activist from Montreal and the author of eleven books.