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October 5, 2020 3:54 pm

Black Jewish Woman Beats Pro-BDS Candidate to Make History as New Leader of Canadian Green Party

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Annamie Paul is the first Black woman to lead a major political party in Canada. Photo: BIPP Hub.

A female lawyer who is Black and Jewish made Canadian history this past weekend after being elected to lead the country’s Green Party in the face of a strong challenge from a veteran anti-Israel activist.

Annamie Paul — the 47-year-old daughter of immigrants from the Caribbean who converted to Judaism in 2000 — became the first Black permanent leader of a major federal political party in Canada following Saturday’s vote to replace Elizabeth May, who led the Greens for 14 years.

The mother of two teenage sons, Paul converted to Judaism prior to marrying her Jewish partner, human rights lawyer Mark Freeman.

In a recent interview with Canada’s Jewish Independent, Paul said she had chosen the Green Party — which won three parliamentary seats in the 2019 general election — because “we don’t have time to fool around with the climate emergency.”

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Paul won the vote despite a sustained challenge from Dimitri Lascaris, an anti-Israel activist from the left of the Green Party.

Since 2016, Lascaris has unsuccessfully advocated for the Green Party to endorse the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign that seeks to isolate Israel from the international community. Lascaris has also been accused of deploying antisemitic tropes on behalf of the Palestinians, for example tweeting in 2019, “When will the Palestinian people stop paying for the unspeakable atrocities of Germany against the Jewish people?” and openly questioning whether pro-Israel Jewish parliamentarians were more loyal to Israel than to Canada.

Paul said that in the run-up to the election, she had been targeted with antisemitic abuse on social media.

“You almost can’t believe what you’re seeing,” she told the Jewish Independent. “There are very explicit comments questioning my loyalty to Canada because I am Jewish. There are those who have suggested that I am seeking to infiltrate the party on behalf of Zionist elements.”

Paul said she had been dismayed by the lack of condemnation of such postings.

“The comments were whispers at first, innuendo, and now they’ve become very explicit,” she noted. “If people are allowed to make these comments unchecked, it really emboldens them and that’s definitely what I’ve noticed over the last week or two.”

In the same interview, Paul emphasized that while the Green Party was opposed to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it rejected BDS and supported Israel’s right to exist.

“I don’t feel that there’s anything these days that you can say in terms of that conflict where you’re not going to attract criticism that you were too soft or you were too hard,” Paul remarked. “It’s very difficult.”

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