(August 18, 2016 / JNS) By Ben Cohen/JNS.org
The far left U.S. Green Party marked a significant milestone in the current campaign cycle when CNN broadcast a town hall debate with its presidential candidate, Jill Stein, and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka. It was a chance for the largely obscure party to build upon the momentum generated by Sen. Bernie Sanders’s bid for the Democratic Party nomination with a progressive platform untainted, as Stein and Baraka emphasized again and again, by the paw prints of corporate lobbyists, special interest groups and dubious foreign governments.
Lacking the kind of media broadcast training that turns our minted politicians into eternally smiling talking heads, Stein and Baraka certainly looked, on the CNN stage, like fairly ordinary people suddenly plunged into the limelight of politics. That should be seen as a plus for them, particularly at a time when political discourse is marked by a distrust of “elites.”
Both Stein and Baraka spoke earnestly and that was matched in their body language. For much of the debate, Baraka wore a scholarly frown, while Stein carried herself with the kindly, caring bedside manner that befits a medical doctor. So, you might think a consummate performance all round, and a great opportunity for a party that has no chance of actually winning the election, as its candidates readily concede, to insert itself into the American debate moving forward.
Except for one confounding note; the Green Party’s self-image is built upon a series of lies, as I will duly explain.
However, to understand how those lies came about, some context is first in order. If “The Green Party” doesn’t sound like an especially American construct, that’s because it isn’t. The notion of an environmentalist political party is a European one, and it was in the countries of western Europe that “Green” parties first emerged, from the ashes of the failed student revolt at the end of the 1960s.
This was particularly true in Germany, whose Green Party lit the path for its imitators elsewhere. There, the failure of mass protest led some left-wingers into the terrorism of the Baader-Meinhof gang, much of it directed against Israeli and Jewish targets. Others got involved in bizarre and sometimes disturbing experiments in communal living. Against those two trajectories, the most sensible option was the political current that birthed the Green Party, which presented environmentalism as an innovative way of opposing capitalist economics, and which also underlined that political change is a process that needs to be led by “social movements,” not just political parties operating in elected parliaments.
But the newfound environmentalism of the 1970s didn’t displace all the old loyalties. The practice of making the Palestinians the supreme cause of global justice warriors only intensified. The ingrained habit of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses committed by post-colonial regimes against their own citizens continued.
The American incarnation of the Green Party is no different. Precisely for that reason, we have to interpret Stein’s description of her party’s platform as based on the principles of international law, human rights and economic justice as an outright lie.
Unfortunately, because of CNN’s softball approach to the two candidates, viewers weren’t given a chance to see where the party’s real loyalties lie. For one thing, Baraka was allowed to get away with his appalling description of Pres. Obama as an “Uncle Tom” still intact. For another, the party’s support for the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel went unmentioned.
The reality is that Stein, Baraka, and their fellow activists are giving unconditional support to a campaign that seeks to destroy the state of Israel outright. BDS isn’t about peace; it’s about dismantling the national sovereignty of a member state of the United Nations. So much for international law, then.
As for human rights, it’s instructive that this debate took place at the same time as warplanes deployed by both Russia – from an airbase in Iran – and the Bashar al Assad regime in Damascus struck mercilessly in the Aleppo region of Syria. Surely the sight of thousands of dead and traumatized children should lead us to charge both Assad and Russian dictator Vladimir Putin with war crimes?
Not according to Stein. Here’s what she had to say on the subject on a recent visit to, where else, Moscow: “The Obama Administration’s obsession with toppling the government in Damascus is fundamentally inconsistent with winning the fight against Islamic State (ISIS)… This isn’t a clever foreign policy, it’s disastrous militarism.” Leave aside the minor lie – Obama has actually kowtowed to the Russians over Syria and should be given due credit – and focus on the major one: namely, the spectacle of someone who describes herself as a human rights advocate supporting the survival of one of the most vicious regimes the Middle East has ever seen.
On the CNN debate, Stein spoke in favor of an arms embargo on the entire Middle East. Though she didn’t say so explicitly, the main focus here is upon Israel, and European Green parties have long been enthusiastic supporters of preventing the Jewish state from defending itself. But her proposal would also impact our Muslim allies in the region, like the Kurds and the secular and nationalist elements of the Syrian opposition.
This icy indifference to the suffering of millions of Arabs oppressed by an Arab dictator, along with the dogmatic insistence that outrages, perpetuated by Islamist terrorists like Al Qaeda and ISIS are solely a reaction to rampant western colonialism, tells us only that the U.S. Green Party stands with the dictators, the fanatics and the bullies. Even the call for economic justice is laughable; Stein herself had no problem with paying homage to Putin in Moscow, even though he surrounds himself with oligarchs and gangsters. And neither she nor Baraka had anything to say about Iran, where economic justice is about as meaningful a concept as the rights of women or the right to form an independent labor union.
I haven’t even mentioned Baraka’s shady collaborations with 9/11 conspiracy theorists or Holocaust deniers, though, which serves merely to confirm the extremist foundations of Green Party politics. The overriding point is this: in the politically turbulent years that indubitably lie ahead of this election, the Green Party will position itself as an alternative for Americans who care about democracy, the environment, access to higher education and a reformed criminal justice system. Those are decent goals, and they are irreconcilable with the monumental violence and injustice that come with supporting dictatorships that have bombed an entire nation back into the stone age. For that reason, and many others, the Green Party is a fraud.
Ben Cohen, senior editor of TheTower.org & The Tower Magazine, writes a weekly column for JNS.org on Jewish affairs and Middle Eastern politics. His writings have been published in Commentary, the New York Post, Haaretz, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications. He is the author of “Some of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014).