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Why progressive Jews like me can no longer support the Greens

Until the party moves past binary thinking and acknowledges the complexity of the Middle-East, the Greens will continue to lose the Jews who believed in it.
Ittay Flescher
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Jewish student climate strike, 2019

Published: 7 February 2024

Last updated: 21 March 2024

Until the party moves past binary thinking and acknowledges the complexity of the Middle-East, the Greens will continue to lose the Jews who believed in it.

Sometimes we all need to apologise for mistakes, because ultimately to be human is to err. In the past week, Newtown Greens MP Jenny Leong insisted she was not intending to reference a historical antisemitic cartoon depicting Jews as an octopus when she used the term “tentacles” to criticise Jewish groups’ attempts to “influence power”.

While it’s nice that she apologised for “causing offence”, I sometimes wonder how she came to make the comment in the first place.

My relationship with the Greens began in August 2001 after seeing the cruelty shown by the Australian Government to the 438 men lying on the open deck of the MV Tampa containership.

I was so angry at the Howard government and then even more shocked when a few days later, opposition leader Kim Beazley and the ALP gave their full support to what later became known as “the Pacific Solution”. It was at that moment that I knew there was no way I could vote for anyone other than the Greens at the next election three months later, as they were the only ones resolutely against the cruelty of offshore detention.

Yet, as a Jew, I knew the Greens have long had a complicated relationship with Israel, the country where I was born and now live. To help make the Greens more of an option for myself and my Jewish friends who cared about climate change, refugee lives, and a fairer economy, I joined the party and eventually became one of the founding members of the J-Greens.

Like other officially recognised working groups in the party such as the Young Greens, Rural Greens and Multicultural Greens, the purpose of this working group was to give a voice to the values of the Jewish members in the party concerning policy formation on matters that affect us.

I have found the response of some Greens to October 7 deeply troubling, mainly over their inability to empathise with Israelis.

Sadly today, there are few progressive Jews I know in Australia who are not disappointed with the party, myself included. While I never experienced any antisemitism in the party when I was a member, and felt that all the meetings I attended were welcoming places for diverse, multicultural voices, there are today a small number of Greens, including elected MPs such as Jenny Leong, who harbour wild conspiracy theories about my people that are deeply untrue.

We don’t advocate for the repeal of 18C, or the Indigenous Voice in ethnic forums to “influence power.” Jews on the left advocate for what we believe in based on values that speak to us from our ancient holy books, which remind us that “what is hateful to you, do not do unto others.”

Over recent months, I have found the response of some Greens to the October 7 massacre deeply troubling. Much of my distress revolves around their inability to empathise with the suffering of Israelis, as they have done so sincerely with the suffering of Palestinians.

Last month during an interview with 3AW, Greens MP for Richmond Gabrielle De Vietri refused to answer the question “Does Israel have a right to exist?” It was asked by Neil Mitchell ten times. Why was it so hard for her to say yes?

The answer I wanted her to say was this.

“Of course, Israel has the right to exist. This has been clear since the 1947 UN resolution calling for its creation. As Greens, we also believe Palestine has a right to exist and immediately call for Australia to join the other 139 countries that have recognised their statehood. As per Greens policy, we oppose all violations of international law.

there are a small number of Greens, including elected MPs, who harbour wild conspiracy theories that are deeply untrue.

“We strongly condemn the Hamas attacks on October 7, the rape of women, the firing of rockets at civilian population centres and call for an immediate release of all the Israeli hostages. We also condemn the devastating Israeli response that has torn so many lives apart, displaced millions of people and made so much of Gaza unlivable. There is no justification for either.

“Furthermore, we also have the humility to acknowledge that as a minor party in a country on the other side of the ocean, our voices are not the most important at this time. We therefore stand in solidarity with people such Maoz Inon and Ghadir Hani, Israeli and Palestinian peacekeepers who reject the violence of their leaders and call for a political solution that will ensure peace and justice for all.”

Sadly, I can’t think of any Green who would say something like this today. A reason for this is that many Greens are stuck in binary thinking that likely makes them have to choose between A or B. Israel is the oppressor and Palestinians are the oppressed. The Israelis are white and the Palestinians are brown. Israelis are interlopers and the Palestinians are indigenous. Yet none of these binaries are completely true - they are all some of A and some of B.

Ultimately, 14 million people now live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. About half are Arab and the other half are Jewish. Whenever this war is over, the survivors will mourn, the dead will be buried and memorials will be built that will etch in our memories forever the price we pay when we fail to compromise for peace.

After that day, these 14 million people will need to find a way to live here together. I sincerely hope that after the war, the occupation of the West Bank and the siege on Gaza will end. I hope that there will be Palestinian and Israeli elections that will bring new leadership for both peoples.

I joined the Greens believing this was their dream too. I’m not sure that’s the case anymore, which is why so many progressive Jews may no longer support the party in the future.

I still very much believe in many Greens values - preserving our planet, queer rights, a fairer economy for all, better health and education systems, a voice for First Nations and protection of refugees. I will keep believing in these values whether or not I am a member of the Greens.

it has been heartbreaking to see so many of our partners in the climate movement and the arts turn away from us.

For so many Australian Jews on the left, this war has been a heartbreaking experience, seeing so many of our partners in the climate justice movement, the arts, and so many other social causes turn away from us. I hope that after the war, these partnerships will be able to be rebuilt, in the same way I hope Israel and Palestine will be rebuilt on foundations of mutual recognition, justice and peace.

Wong accuses Greens of 'weaponising' conflict after Faruqi grills Labor over UNRWA funding – video (Guardian)
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi begins her questioning of Wong in the Senate by saying the pause of funding to UNRWA comes at a time when Labor 'couldn’t sink any lower on Palestine'. Faruqi refers to 'four months of Israel’s genocide' in Gaza and warns against 'further enabling collective punishment of Palestinians'.

Foreign minister, Penny Wong, accuses the Greens and the Coalition of 'dividing the Australian community and weaponising this horrific conflict … The opposition leader, Mr Dutton, and the Greens are on a unity ticket,' she says, 'which is all about dividing the Australian community and weaponising this horrific conflict. You’re the same'

About the author

Ittay Flescher

Ittay Flescher is the Jerusalem Correspondent for The Jewish Independent. For over twenty years, he has worked as an educator, journalist, and peacebuilder in Melbourne and Jerusalem. He is the co-host of the podcast ‘From the Yarra River and the Mediterranean Sea' and the author of the upcoming book ‘The Holy and the Broken.’ He is also the Education Director at a youth movement that brings together Israeli and Palestinian teenagers who believe in building equality, justice, and peace for all.


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