Monday, 4 April 2016

Jewish Chronicle in Attack on Green Party London Mayor Candidate

In an interview piece in the Jewish Chronicle last week, writer Sandy Rashty, launches an astonishing attack on Sian Berry, the Green Party candidate for London Mayor. In the preamble to the interview, Rashty states:

“Si├ón Berry has very little chance of being elected London Mayor in May.”

“This week, the bookies rated the Green party candidate's chances at just 150-1, leaving her trailing behind Labour's Sadiq Khan, Zac Goldsmith of the Conservatives, George Galloway of Respect and the Liberal Democrats' Caroline Pidgeon - but a margin above Ukip representative Peter Whittle.”

“This, I suspect, may be music to the ears of much of London's Jewish community and pro-Israel contingent.”

“It's not hard to see why many of her party's policies, and the people promoting them, would alienate prospective voters in the community.”

‘Pro-Isreal contingent’ maybe, but that is not the same as the ‘Jewish community’ in London. Whilst it is true that the Green Party in general struggles to gain electoral traction in pretty much all ethnic communities, in London and elsewhere, I know several Jewish people who are members of the Green Party.

There is also a low shot in this piece by likening Berry’s attitude on the campaigning group ‘Cage’, who fight for the rule of law in the context of the War on Terror, to support for Islamic State (IS), with a dubious mention of approval of ‘Jihadi John’. Much of this type of guilt by association has also been heaped upon Sadiq Khan the Muslim Labour candidate for Mayor. It really is the saddest form of negative campaigning and of course it is all bollocks to boot.

We have become used to this type of attack on anybody who is critical of the Israeli government, with a host of attackers summoned on line to accuse the individual (or group) of antisemitism. Perhaps this post will be attacked in this vein, but criticising the actions of the Israeli government is not antisemitic, it is a legitimate concern for some of the human rights abuses perpetrated by Israel and its armed forces.

Rashty broadens the attack to include the Green Party as a whole, with talk of boycotts and disinvestment in Israel and Israeli goods, and somewhat ludicrously the fact that Berry has never visited Israel.

Sian Berry seems to have acquitted herself pretty well in the interview. She says:

“We take a very principled stand on human rights and international law. It isn't our intention to alienate Jewish people. It is very much a focus on the actions of the Israeli government."

On the Tel Aviv festival which will celebrate bilateral trade and social links between London and Israel for the first time next year, Berry says:

"If that particular festival is causing tension, maybe we would be better off supporting something that is more about bringing people together," she muses. "Celebrating London's massive Jewish community in a different way than supporting trade links with companies".

Quite right. London is a diverse city and we should be celebrating that diversity, not partying for the sake business deals with one particular country. The Jewish community is part of that diversity and has a long and rich history in London. The fact that the British favourite of fish and chips was a fusion of Irish immigrants and their love of the potato and Jewish fishmongers.  

She adds: "I don't know if I would or wouldn't cancel the festival. If you've got a limited budget for cultural events, which we do have, I think the thing to be spending money on in London are the things that bring people together, especially when we have such a divided community."

On the current refuge crisis in the middle east Berry states:

"London is one of the best places to bring people. We have the public services to support a highly diverse community, including language services and specialist social workers.

"We are able to help people in their own language with cultural sensitivity," she adds. "Of course we can find temporary space…"

"I don't like anything that links the refugee crisis with the bombings. People fleeing war are desperate people. There's no link between them and the people committing terrorist atrocities. The people carrying out terrorist atrocities are largely settled in the countries already… trying to draw that link is racist."

On recommending a second preference for Mayor, between the likely top two candidates, Goldmith for the Tories and Khan for Labour, Berry says:

"The Greens are largely a left-wing party and Goldsmith does vote with the government most of the time. Even if he agreed to all our red lines, we might well have a debate, but…"

I hope the London Jewish community can see through this blatant and unjustified attack on the Green Party and its candidates in the London elections in May, and vote on the real issues that affect Londoners, like combating air pollution and the lack of affordable housing.

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