Antisemitism allegations intended to ‘stifle criticism of Israel,’ says Green Party candidate

Shahrar Ali speaking at a public event.
Afroze Fatima Zaidi

Green Party leadership candidate Shahrar Ali and his supporters have responded to allegations of antisemitism levelled against him. In a statement released on his Facebook page, Ali described the allegations as “disgraceful, discreditable, shocking, negative campaigning” against his party leadership candidacy.

He also called the incident “a really low point in the campaign”, and went on to say:

Those who would stop short of nothing to discredit me simply betray their fear of internal democracy. I did not realise just how necessary my candidacy was.

Allegations of antisemitism

In an article for Left Foot Forward, a spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism claimed Ali’s words at a 2009 pro-Gaza rally were antisemitic, after a YouTube video of his speech resurfaced. Ali was accused of antisemitism when he made reference to Israeli treatment of Palestinians, following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, and claimed: “Just because you observe the niceties of Holocaust Memorial Day, does not mean that you have learned the lessons of history.” Ali then went on to demand a boycott of Israeli goods.

Phil Vabulas, Southwark Green Party co-chair, published the following response on his blog:

It is simple to protest against Israel’s treatment of Palestinians… without mentioning the Holocaust… I don’t think Shahrar was deliberately targeting Jews, in which case I would call for his removal from the party. But I do think this has offended people who he did not intend to offend, and that deserves both an apology and a promise to not do so again.

At the start of his blog post, Vabulas states “I don’t believe that [Ali] is the right person to lead our party”. In response to the allegations of antisemitism, Ali has said in a statement given to the Evening Standard:

The targeting of Green spokespersons with false accusations of anti-Semitism is designed to stifle legitimate criticism of the Israeli government. This form of deceit is especially dangerous as it sets back the cause of tackling all forms of racism… It is imperative that the Green Party continue to speak out on behalf of all the oppressed and to challenge the perpetrators.

Response from the Green Party

Other party members have come out in support of Ali, including Green Party co-founder Clive Lord. Lord said on his blog that Ali’s speech was “angry and strident”, but went on to describe the context in which it was given. “The context was a rally… during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, which had just killed around 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza,” he said.

Green Party peer Jenny Jones tweeted:

Of course @ShahrarAli is not antisemitic. And of course he has criticised Israeli actions against Palestinians. So should we all.

The Green Party said in a statement published in the Evening Standard:

Tackling anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and all forms of racism wherever they exist and by whomever they are perpetrated is core to the Green Party’s aims.

Voting for the Green Party leadership elections closes on 31 August 2018, and candidates are due to carry on campaigning until this date.

Featured image via RogerGLewis/WikiMedia Commons

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