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Sunday, August 2, 2015

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Why I'm no longer president of the Green Party of Canada

Tags: News gaza Green Party Paul Estrin
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Paul Estrin

My name is Paul Estrin. Until Aug. 5, I was the president of the Green Party of Canada.

On July 25, I published a blog on the party’s website entitled “Why Gaza makes me sad.” My comments were moderate in nature. The essential point I conveyed was that I was, and still am, saddened by what is happening in Gaza. By highlighting Hamas’ cynical tactics, I was trying to show that the conflict is not black and white – a thesis in opposition to what other members of the party seemed to be suggesting. 

Sadly, my moderate article criticizing a violent terrorist group could not be tolerated by a majority of the party membership. The article was eventually removed from the website – there was apparently no room within the party for dialogue – but not before some online commenters issued threats about my personal safety. Those comments concern me a great deal. 

Ultimately, my dissenting view led to me being drummed out of my position. 

Many people have asked me about my resignation. Others are wondering why, given my views, I would have wanted to be president of the Green Party in the first place.

I had initially planned to fight – not simply continue as party president, but stand up for my right to express myself and have an opinion that diverges from other members. I felt this incident was something we could work around.

Unfortunately, those with whom I had worked passionately over the past year and a half informed me I was persona non grata. Despite my work, efforts, achievements – despite all that I have done – because of this one issue I was shown the door, and in a brutal way. 

Yes, it was brutal.

Those who wanted me out – and let me be clear: it was the large majority of those who control the party – made it as simple as possible. They offered me a choice: An “easy” resignation where I would get to walk away relatively unscathed, or a “hard” resignation that would – well, let’s just say it would have been bad. 

The resignation was a very difficult decision for me. Just the idea of leaving, stepping away from something that I had worked so hard for, profoundly disturbs me. 

My blog post was pulled from the party’s website without my permission or knowledge by the party. My actions have been criticized and my right to voice an opinion has been shouted down. For a party that speaks about welcoming diversity, of persons and opinions, and proudly states that it does not employ a party whip to ensure uniformity – for a party that affirms the right of party members to have a voice – it just doesn’t add up.

Some have asked me this hypothetical question: if I had written a blog on what is happening in Gaza from the perspective of those ruling Gaza, would I have been ostracized and forced from my position? The answer seems clear to me, but you can decide for yourself. 

Now, allow me to advance to the second question: Why be president of the Green Party of Canada in the first place? 

I have always been attracted to the idea of doing what I can to make the world a better place. In my youth, that ideal drew me to the environmental and human rights movements. I joined the Green Party, and eventually took on the role of president, because I wanted to prove to myself that I could make a difference. And for a time, I truly believe I did. 

However, I know now that the Green Party was not for me.

As a Jew – and one who has supported and continues to support Israel’s right to exist – I have long been sensitive to, and bothered by, the negative one-sidedness of many with whom I have worked and volunteered. Let me be clear: not everyone associated with the Green Party of Canada is like that. There are incredible people who have spoken up, and continue to speak up, in a balanced and fair way when it comes to Israel. But they are not the majority. 

The truth is that I’d had enough.

My recent experience has elicited comments from many in the Jewish community who tell the same story. They too started out full of hope that they might be able to make a difference when it comes to protecting the environment and furthering human rights. And they too could only stomach so much abuse and unbalance regarding the prevalent approach to Israel for so long before finally leaving. 

Despite this unfortunate episode, I still believe one can be concerned about the environment and human rights and at the same time support the State of Israel. In my mind, that hasn’t changed. What has changed is I am now convinced one simply can’t do so within the confines of the Green Party of Canada. 

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