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Canada’s Green Party president Paul Estrin gets attention for blogging criticism of Gaza and praise for Israel

Renee Ghert-Zand is a reporter and feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Green Party of Canada president Paul Estrin resigned following backlash caused by a pro-Israel blog post he wrote and published on the party's website. (Courtesy)
Green Party of Canada president Paul Estrin resigned following backlash caused by a pro-Israel blog post he wrote and published on the party's website. (Courtesy)

A pro-Israel blog post written last week by Paul Estrin, president of the Green Party of Canada, has caught the attention of Canadians and others as it has been widely shared on social media.

The essay, published on the Green Party of Canada’s website, is titled, “Why Gaza Makes Me Sad.” In a departure from the party’s widely perceived leftist and pro-Palestinian stance, Estrin’s words are supportive of Israel and critical of Palestinians and their leadership.

In his blog post, Estrin places the blame for the current escalation between Israel and Gaza squarely on Hamas. He also emphasizes that the Gazans themselves allowed Hamas to take control.

“Since August 2005, Gazans have been in control of their own destiny. Some might say otherwise, yet Gazans have their own government and they are their own people: If their neighbors, Egypt and Israel, close their borders to Gaza, one must look to a Gaza run by a terrorist organization cum government that teaches and propagates hate, death and destruction to understand why,” he writes.

“The Gazan government has had ample opportunity over these past years, nearly a decade, to alter its ways, change its mantra of death to the Jews, and become respectable caretakers of the people in their charge. They have not,” he continues.

Estrin, who chairs the party’s board of directors and administration, usually leaves the public pronouncements on positions and policies to Elizabeth May, a Member of Parliament, and the Green Party of Canada’s political leader.

Estrin’s blog post has angered some of his Green Party of Canada members, and on Monday, May distanced herself from Estrin’s expressed views, emphasizing that he does not speak for the party.

“His views are contrary to Green Party of Canada position. We support peace. We condemn violence,” she wrote on Twitter.

The party’s official platform states that it supports a two-state solution and believes that Canada should not take sides in the longstanding, complicated Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Canada’s role in the Middle East should be to reduce tensions, find working solutions and uphold international humanitarian law, not to take sides in this chronic conflict. We must work towards a mutually acceptable compromise that will achieve a lasting peace between, and among, the Israelis and Palestinians,” the platform states.

A press release issued by the party at its national convention earlier this month called on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to “put an immediate end to the escalating violence in the Gaza Strip and Israel.”

The idea of not taking sides against Hamas did not sit well with Estrin as Israel entered its fourth week of fighting the terrorist organization in Operation Protective Edge.

‘People need a rounder understanding of the situation’

“At this point, I thought it would behoove me to speak up to members of our party and to the Canadian public. People need a rounder understanding of the situation,” Estrin tells The Times of Israel.

He is concerned about what he sees as a prevailing anti-Israel focus among his party’s 12,000 official members and Canadians in general. He has noticed a lack of knowledge about the conflict and its history on the part of those who are quick to defend the Palestinians and point fingers at the Israelis.

“The Green Party internationally has six core principals, one of which is non-violence. When we consider the violence going on, we need to look at Hamas and not just Israel,” he says.

Estrin, who is 35 and lives in Quebec City, feels qualified to speak up as a Jewish person with a long-term, keen personal and academic interests in the conflict. He has been to Israel twice to volunteer on a kibbutz, learn Hebrew, and study at a yeshiva.

“I’m not coming out of nowhere,” he says.

‘The Gazan government has been emboldened to continue on its terrorist course’

In the blog, Estrin challenges the support given by citizens of countries around the world to the Palestinian leadership in Gaza, whom he claims is indifferent to the injury and death of their own civilian population.

“And yet, these are the same people who are embraced and loved by the international community, with marches on Parliament Hill in Canada’s capital, and in cities throughout the world, holding banners and chanting about the destruction of the State of Israel and of death to the Jews,” Estrin writes.

Calling the “noble” actions of international activists “grossly misplaced,” Estrin fears that the Gazan government has been emboldened to continue on its terrorist course, and that Israel could consequently (and justifiably) be forced to take more extreme measures against it.

Estrin admits that, although he disagrees with many policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government, he is pleased that it supports Israel’s right to defend itself.

He is also quick to point out that the Green Party of Canada is not as leftist and pro-Palestinian as the Green Party in other countries.

“We are centrists with most of our policies. It’s true that some of our policies scream ‘leftist,’ but others do not,” he says.

Estrin, who has held out hope for peace ever since the Oslo Accords were signed by Israel and the PLO two decades ago, is pleased that people who would usually never read a blog post from the Green Party are taking the time to consider what he has written.

“People can still march for Gaza, but they should do it for the Palestinian civilians there, and not for Hamas,” he says.

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