Category Archives: apartheid analogy

UCCF blogger gives Carte Blanche to ‘Israeli Apartheid Guide’

The Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) blogger Daniel Blanche reviews Ben White’s new book at Shiny Ginger Thoughts:

So, my friend Ben wrote a book. As a result of writing this book, and of the other work he does, my friend Ben was denounced as an antisemite and a holocaust denier. To reassure you, he is certainly neither of those things. But he has written a controversial book.

Ben White was not ‘denounced as an antisemite and a holocaust denier’ as a result of writing this book. Back in 2002, White wrote that he does not consider himself an antisemite, but he understands why some are. In 2006, White argued that Ahmadinejad wasn’t really denying the Holocaust when he called the Holocaust a ‘myth’. Following widespread public criticism of White’s book, White condemned Holocaust denial and antisemitism, although in his book, White recommended the writings of French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

I finished reading this a couple of days ago, but I need to put some thinking time in before I reviewed it. I can see why people are angry about it. I can see why it has attracted a lot of negative press. But I think you should read it. I really do.

Ben takes us through three broad sections. The first relates the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It tells the story of the rise of Israel, and the subsequent displacement of the Palestinian people. It is a powerful story, powerfully told, using quotations from early Israeli leaders and interviews with Palestinians affected.

These quotations, however, include doctored quotations, such as the fake quote that Ben Gurion said “We must expel the Arabs and take their places”, when he actually said ““We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their places.”

What comes across most clearly is the awareness that the Zionist project would require the eviction of the Palestinian people if it was to succeed – and great lengths were gone to in order to ensure that it did succeed. At the end of the section, I was angry. Very angry.

The second section has to do with the current apparatus of Israeli apartheid.

Here Blanche casually uses the term ‘Israeli apartheid’ as if it were a factual description. Yet the term is historically, morally and intellectually flawed. The South African anti-Zionism movement and its use of the apartheid analogy has itself been critiqued in detail.

Ben talks us through the situation on the ground for Arabs within Israel and those in the OPT, again drawing on a wide range of sources. It is painful reading. When I got to the end of this section, I felt more or less despair. How could anything change such a system?

This ‘wide range of sources’ includes Ilan Pappe, Uri Davis, Charles D Smith, Tom Segev, Tanya Reinhart, Jeff Halper, Hussein and McKay, and Maxime Rodinson. White’s use of sources is successfully critiqued here. One wonders how much attention Blanche has really paid to White’s historiography?

And so the third section, which outlined action that I could take, was great. Ben refuses to allow us to walk away because the situation is too complex, or the solutions too distant. We must do something; I must do something. Ask me in a few months what I’ve done – I know that I am too prone to laziness, and am likely to let this challenge pass me by.

What does White challenge Blanche to do? Boycott Israel, divest from Israeli companies and ‘international companies that are profiting from doing business with apartheid’, campaign for EU and international sanctions against Israel. White’s calls for boycotts have influenced churchmen as high profile as Brian McLaren. For many, such calls appear to be an extension of his Israeli Apartheid Gospel, deeply rooted in what seems to many as racist theology. One wonders whether Blanche subscribes to the same theology, namely that Jews cannot have a state because God doesn’t like them anymore?

After the final section is an excellent FAQ, which helped to answer some questions I had about the topic, and should probably be made available online if at all possible. It would by itself lend a lot of clarity to discussions of the issue.

Ben has been criticised for writing a one-sided story. It does come across as one-sided. But then, it seems pretty clear that the reality of the situation is also one-sided.

So the children of Sderot, for example, have been invented as Zionist propaganda?

The book does acknowledge Palestinian violence, and perhaps is not as clear in denouncing it as some would like. But the picture here is of an occupied people fighting against their occupiers – is that really so clear cut, so obviously morally wrong? I suspect that only those who have never experienced the situation could say so.

Does Blanche differentiate between Palestinian violence which is self-defense, violence which is directed against soldiers, and violence expressed as suicide bombs in Israeli cafes, restaurants and nightclubs? The difference should indeed be clear cut and obvious for all.

Ben has also been criticised for quoting innacurately. I don’t know whether that’s true or not; Ben has defended himself here. But it doesn’t ultimately matter all that much.

Well, isn’t this a revealing paragraph? Blanche claims that it does not matter whether White has been quoting inaccurately in his book. I would suggest that Blanche, who argues that there is a difference between ‘fact’ and ‘value’, reconsider some facts about this book and how it was promoted and launched.

Because the reason people are so angry at this book is because it makes the one critique of Israeli policy that is worth making, and that goes to the heart of the issue. Israel defines itself as a Jewish state. In other words, it defines itself in ethno-religious terms. Only Jews can be Israeli nationals; all Jews are welcome in Israel. Imagine if someone suggested that Britain should define itself in terms of a particular ethnic identity! Oh, wait, that would be the BNP – and we don’t like them, right?

By Blanche’s definition, the 57 states which identify as Islamic along ethno-religious lines would also be racist, BNP-like states. Yet Israel is one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world, with approximately 1 in 6 citizens being Arabs, and Jewish citizens from all corners of the globe, including Ethiopia, Morocco, India and Iraq. One wonders why the Jewish character of the state of Israel is more offensive to Blanche and White than the Islamic character of the 57 Muslim states?

Ultimately, Ben argues that Israel/Palestine must be a place where Jews and Palestinians are equal under the law, and a state which exists for the good of all its citizens. This is much more radical than the two-state solution, much more difficult to move towards than even that mirage. But anything else enshrines racism as a successful nation building strategy.

The world really doesn’t want to go there.

Any serious attempt at anti-racism in Israel/Palestine has to tackle the expressedly racist and genocidal aims of the likes of Hamas and Hezbollah, drawn from religious jihadist ideas, and deny them a platform. Ben White has, ironically, attempted to downplay the jihadist nature of Hezbollah, and praised Christians who are involved in Islamic ‘resistance’ against Israelis. The ruling party in Gaza, Hamas, incidentally, remains a Nazi organisation.

I would assume that if there were a person preaching a similar worldview against Palestinians as Ben White does against Israelis, Blanche would condemn him forcefully, wouldn’t he?

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Dr Harry Hagopian recommends Ben White book at Ekklesia

According to his website, Dr Harry Hagopian ‘is a qualified lawyer who holds a Doctorate in Public International Law and an LL.M in Alternative Dispute (Conflict) Resolution. He is also the Middle East Consultant for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in England & Wales, as well as Ecumenical, Legal and Political Consultant to the Armenian Apostolic Church.’

Harry works closely with the Vatican, Lambeth Palace, Majlis El-Hassan and the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies in Jordan, Minority Rights Group International in England, as well as with think tanks, universities and institutes across Europe and North America.’

Dr Hagopian is well-respected and listened to by many influential people. It is therefore disconcerting that Dr Hagopian should choose to write in an article on Israeli-Palestine at Ekklesia in which he cites Ben White’s new book:

The British journalist Ben White writes in his new book Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, that the problems of occupation and violence are deeply rooted in the essence of Zionism and Israeli policies of colonisation in Palestine.

But why of all books has Hagopian chosen to recommend Ben White’s book to understand ‘the essence of Zionism’?

In order to introduce readers to ‘the essence of Zionism’, one of the sources Ben White draws on and recommends is Holocaust-denier Roger Garaudy.

White’s Israeli Apartheid Guide contains false quotes, poor historiography and what appears to many as an endorsement of racist theology.

White’s sensitivity towards Jews (and in one instance towards Palestinians) has been repeatedly called into question, not least due to his writing: ‘I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are‘, and his claim that the arrest of antisemites plotting to blow up a synagogue was a ‘threat to our freedoms‘.

In his Ekklesia article, Dr Hagopian invokes the memory of Dr Martin Luther King Jr:

. If Martin Luther King, Jr, were able to stand up and deliver another sermon at the Riverside Drive Church today, he would surely call it Beyond Occupation!

If using the name of Dr Martin Luther King is designed to conjure up images of the civil rights struggle and the need to combat racism, then it is important to remember that Dr King would be equally concerned about anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish racism as he would about anti-Palestinian and anti-Arab racism.

With this in mind, one wonders why Christians who invoke King’s memory would in the next breath recommend a writer who espouses such appalling untruths about Israel and ascribes the very worst motives to the Jewish desire for a homeland.

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War on Want a.k.a. War on Israel

Carol Gould writes about War on Want’s disgraceful ban on Jonathan Hoffman:

I will pause here and say it was a blessing in disguise that I delayed by a week or so writing up this story. It has now become an international issue because Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, has made it known to the British Charity Commission that he wants War on Want investigated for breach of its guidelines[…]

Read on.

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Israel is not Apartheid

A simple letter in the Belfast Telegraph worth reading:

David Morrison’s comparison between sport in Israel and apartheid South Africa (Writeback July 20) was shown up by events at the Oval on Wednesday night when Glentoran took on Israeli side Maccabi Haifa.

The Israeli team was multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-racial.

I spoke to a young black Ethiopian member of the Maccabi Haifa squad at half-time. He assured me of his full Israeli citizenship, that he was enjoying life in Israel, and excited about his sporting future there. Apartheid South Africa? Somehow, I don’t think so.

Andrew J Shaw

Belfast

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The Theology Behind the ‘Israeli Apartheid’ Gospel

Petra Marquardt-Bigman has an excellent post at her ‘Warped Mirror’ blog about Ben White and his new book, which she terms as the “Israeli apartheid gospel.” How true that really is. Whilst current reviewers of Ben White’s book have looked at fake quotes, dubious sources, and the ethics of recommending Holocaust deniers to beginners, one subject left mostly untouched is the theology which Ben White employs.

It is rumoured that Ben White is writing a book on ‘justice and mission’ for YTC Press, to be published at a later date. Ben White has revealed his interest in theology through a public letter published on the 60th anniversary of the birth of the state of Israel, which you can read here. White and his fellow blogger Philip Rizk end the letter thus:

We therefore urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that “will produce lasting peace and security” (Isaiah 32:17). Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.
“Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4)

In April 2008, Ben White published on The Guardian‘s Comment Is Free, tellingly titled ‘The Other Evangelicals.’ Having mentioned the predominance of Christian Zionists and pro-Israel evangelicals amongst American Christians, White writes about those ‘other evangelicals’. White reassures us that ‘already by the mid-1980s there were signs of dissent,’ hailing the creation of the group Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding, and celebrating the ‘alternative theology’ on Israel:

In the 1990s, Don Wagner (one of the key figures behind EMEU) published Anxious for Armageddon, and the British author and scholar Colin Chapman wrote Whose Promised Land?, a title later reissued during the second intifada and considered a go-to text for western Christians seeking to get to grips with the conflict for the first time.

More recently, US evangelical scholar Gary Burge has written Whose Land? Whose Promise?, which again combines theology with the experiences of Christian Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Another crucial British contribution has come from Stephen Sizer, who in three years has written two critical studies, Christian Zionism and Zion’s Christian Soldiers?

To many people, the names listed here by White do not conjure up images of Martin Luther King Jrs or William Wilberforces, but instead men who are feeding negative stereotypes about Jews into Christian minds whilst claiming to inform them about the Middle East conflict.

Take Colin Chapman. Many have criticised Chapman’s 1983 book Whose Promised Land? for, in their view, pushing an anti-Jewish and anti-Judaic form of Christian theology. For Chapman, Jewish statehood in itself presents a problem, rather than necessarily the actions of said Jewish state, writing in his book:

What is the whole enterprise of settling Jews in the land and setting up a Jewish state doing to the soul of Judaism? Did God really intend that they should be ‘a peculiar people’ for ever and ever? Is there no alternative to the choice between traditional orthodox Judaism, assimilation and Zionism? Is there no other way by which the Jews can live securely among the nations without ceasing to be Jews?

Ben White also recommends Stephen Sizer, whose political opposition to Israel is at least supported by his theological ideas about Israel being a ‘rejected vineyard,’ as you can hear in this sermon. Sizer has also said he ‘fears another exile’ for Jews in Israel. His book Christian Zionism alleges Israeli complicity in 9/11.

According to Sizer, Palestine must be liberated from the Jews,  He has forwarded emails from Holocaust deniers and Christian antisemites, given interviews to and promoted the work of those on the American Far Right, and shared a platform with various Islamists and antisemites.

It is extremely revealing that for Ben White, the alternative to the Christian Zionists, and the apocalyptic overtures associated with Tim LaHaye and John Hagee, are the Christian anti-Zionists. In other words, the best option for Christians who want peace and justice in the Middle East is to take the polar opposite position to John Hagee. If John Hagee’s a Zionist, then the alternative is anti-Zionism.

Yet if Christian Zionism encourages the idea that the Jewish state should be as strong as possible  due to God’s covenant with Israel, Christian anti-Zionism encourages the idea that no Jewish state should exist because God has broken his covenant with Israel.

This would also explain why, whilst Christian Zionists are proud of Jewish influence in politics, Christian anti-Zionists appear deeply fearful and cynical about the ‘Jewish lobby’ or ‘the Zionist lobby’. Sizer has complained about the Jewish lobby before, whilst Chapman appears positively paranoid about Jewish power, writing in Whose Promised Land?:

“Six million Jews in the USA have an influence that is out of all proportion to their numbers in the total population of 281 million. Through wealth, education, skill and single-mindedness over many years they have gained positions of power in government, business and the media. It is widely recognised, for example, that no one could ever win the presidential race without the votes and the financial support of substantial sections of the Jewish community.”

In ‘Israeli Apartheid’: A Beginners’ Guide, Ben White cites Chapman’s book Whose Holy City? in order to cite claims about East Jerusalem, yet Chapman as a source is far from authoritative. White’s book comes with glowing recommendations from other prominent Christians, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who likewise believes the Jewish lobby is ‘powerful, very powerful’ in America, and Garth Hewitt, the Anglican canon who came up with the idea to re-write Christmas carols as anti-Zionist hymns – a spiritual accompaniement to the ‘Israeli Apartheid’ Gospel if ever there was one.

Additionally, there is a commendation from Nur Masalha, prompting one observer to write:

[Ben White’s] latest book/pamphlet, aimed at a mass market, attempts to spread a gospel of Zionism as an essentially predatory evil, with Zionist Jews as predatory colonial dispossessors/crucifiers of innocent Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

Nur Masalha’s commendation is interesting because he was highly influenced by his mentor, Michael Prior, who concocted a Palestinian Christian (and, by extension, Muslim) liberation theology, which held Modern Zionist, Palestinian or Israeli Jews had expelled Palestinian Christians and Muslims, just like the ancient Israelites expelled the Canaanites. And there was more than a nasty hint that they were crucifying (Palestinian) Christ, all over again.

It was a deadly concuction of ancient genocide and cosmically criminal crucifixion conflated with modern ethnic cleansing. I am not saying White expresses (at least, not overtly), but it is interesting, as I said, that on Amazon, Nur Masalha’s is the first and most glowing commendation.

In raising awareness of his ‘Israeli Apartheid’ Gospel, White is positively evangelistic. Here he is preaching faith-with-action in the Church Times in early 2009:

More than ever, Christian leaders and Churches need to stand up and be counted. This could mean many things: pilgrimages that show solid arity with Palestinians; targeted boycotts of Israeli products; writing to MPs; inviting Palestinian speakers; twinning; film screenings; selling Palestinian-made goods.

This, White has reasoned elsewhere, is popular struggle, which:

‘”like violent resistance, is not an end in and of itself; it is a method, a strategy. It is the end goal, decolonization and liberation from occupation and Zionist apartheid, that is ferociously opposed by the self-declared international guardians of the “peace process” and their friends in the Palestinian elite. The rest is just smoke and mirrors.”

Indeed, whilst White encourages anti-Israel boycotts in the West, he writes glowingly of Palestinian Christians who have taken part in violent activities against Israel.

Ben White wrote an article in the Al Aqsa journal (edited by Islamist antisemite Ismail Patel, who shares with Ben White an apparent admiration for French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy), entitled ‘Palestinian-Christian/Muslim Relations: Myths, Propaganda and Realities.’

What is most interesting is that White frames Muslim-Christian co-operation amongst Palestinians by focusing on their response to Zionism, writing:

‘I will look at how Christian and Muslim Palestinians have traditionally lived and worked alongside each other, with a focus on their united front against the Zionist movement.’

White informs readers that:

‘From the Arab Revolt in 1936, to the flourishing of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in the mid-1960s, Christian Palestinians played a significant role in the resistance to Israel.’

White even quotes the founder of the Islamic Jihad movement as having said:

‘in our movement we accept the participation of our Christian brothers in our struggle without them having to change their religious beliefs.’

White, seeking to break down ‘Zionist propaganda’ that Palestinian Muslims persecute Palestinian Christians, even lays the blame with Israel for inter-Palestinian honour killings, writing:

‘Israel’s territorial fragmentation of Palestine has always threatened to affect Palestinian society on a wider-level and indeed, there are worrying signs that the “sociocide” being practised by Israel has gradually pressurized Palestinian society to breaking point. One such indication is the increase in so-called ‘honour killings’ in recent years, a phenomenon that has sometimes been presented as part of a Muslim-Christian conflict within Palestine.’

The impression gained by these articles is that Ben White defines his form of Christianity as a response to Zionism. Just as the virtue and earnestness of American evangelicals can be judged according to their opposition to Zionism, as we saw in White’s piece from The Guardian, so too can the legitimate Palestinian credentials of Palestinian Christians can be judged by their participation in ‘resistance’ against Zionism.

We see here how the ‘Israeli Apartheid’ Gospel inspires Christians in the West to be free of Zionism and colonalism, whilst inspiring Palestinian Christians to be authentically Palestinian. For Ben White, to be Palestinian is to ‘resist’ Zionism (consider, lest we forget, what White has to say about Palestinians who pursue peace with Israel).

Perhaps the most ironic aspect of the Israeli Apartheid Gospel is that, for those who genuinely believe in it, it needs Israel to survive.

Without Israel, what would become of Palestinian-Christian/Muslim relations, previously held together by a united fight against Zionism? And how else could Western Christians prove their commitment to peace and justice without Israel to boycott?

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Ben White recommends Roger Garaudy essay in ‘Israeli Apartheid Guide’

Ben White writes on Liberal Conspiracy:

‘A favourite tactic of die-hard defenders of Israel is to smear critics of the country’s policies through guilt by association, lies, and decontextualised quotations.’

White’s article is analysed by Modernity here. White draws attention to a letter he put together with Philip Rizk on Israel’s 60th birthday, which contained the admirable sentiment:

‘We recognise that today, millions of Israelis and Jews around the world will joyfully mark the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the state of Israel (Yom Ha’atzmaut). For many, this landmark powerfully symbolises the Jewish people’s ability to defy the power of hatred so destructively embodied in the Nazi Holocaust.’

The letter is nicely put together and rightly calls for Christians to consider Palestinians as well as Israelis, concluding:

‘We therefore urge all those working for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine to consider that any lasting solution must be built on the foundation of justice, which is rooted in the very character of God. After all, it is justice that “will produce lasting peace and security” (Isaiah 32:17). Let us commit ourselves in prophetic word and practical deed to a courageous settlement whose details will honour both peoples’ shared love for the land, and protect the individual and collective rights of Jews and Palestinians in the Holy Land.’

Distancing himself from an essay written on Counterpunch as a teenager in which he claimed to understand antisemitism, White protests:

‘The article was trying to look at causes for contemporary anti-semitism. Funnily enough, whenever the smear-merchants cite this piece, they miss out one of the reasons I propose, namely the “history of anti-Semitism” in European culture “that has been, and probably still is, embedded in collective consciousness”. I note that “its roots can be traced, at least to some extent, to the shameful teachings of many in the Church”.’

Yet White himself has celebrated those Christians who seem to propagate such shameful teachings. White published an article on Electronic Intifada in praise of the theology of Donald Wagner, Stephen Sizer, Gary Burge and Colin Chapman. Whilst the anti-Zionism of these Christian teachers may be attractive to some who consider themselves left-wing, what is perhaps less well known is the theology which leads to such anti-Zionism. Burge links the Jewish right to a homeland with obedience to Torah. Chapman argued in his 1983 book Whose Promised Land? that, as Jewish people on the whole do not believe that Jesus is Messiah, they have lost all national privileges, including the right to self-determination.

Such Christians oppose Israel theologically, as they see it as the direct result of Jewish nationalism, and therefore disobedience to God (other states and nationalisms are curiously not condemned). You can hear a particularly vitriolic example of this amongst the archives of Stephen Sizer’s sermons: “I am the Vine, You are the branches”.

Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide comes with commendations from Stephen Sizer, Garth Hewitt (who apparently came up with the idea to re-write Christmas carols with anti-Zionist lyrics), Alex Awad, who alongside Sizer shared a platform with Holocaust denier Frederick Tobin to denounce Israel, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who thinks the Jewish lobby in America is “powerful, very powerful.” Whilst Desmond Tutu clearly has a good record on South African human rights, he clearly falls short on Israel/Jews .

If Ben White can make distinction between South African apartheid and ‘Israeli apartheid’ as he claims, can he not also differentiate between Tutu’s attitudes towards South Africans/South Africa and his attitudes towards Jews/Israel? Doesn’t this weaken his argument? Whilst Ben White denounces Church antisemitism as shameful, he is praised by those within the church who seem to project negative theological stereotypes of Jews and the Jewish nation. When that theology feeds directly into Israel-Palestine, it is legitimate to have concerns about antisemitism. (Imagine, for example, a book on contemporary African history and politics which cited Christian preachers who believe black people shouldn’t be allowed to run countries for theological reasons).

White also refers to a Christian peace organisation based in Leicester, the Leicestershire Holy Land Appeal, on page 99. White last accessed its website in November 2008. By that time, the website had a cartoon competition for English and Palestinian children comparing the Israeli security fence to a dragon.

Writing about Popular Committees Against the Wall, White remarks:

In the village of Budrus, the first Committee was formed in the autumn months of 2003, quickly formulating rules for the organised protests against the Wall.*18 *18 See, for example Aboud village, where the Committee was formed in 2005, http://leicester-holyland.org.uk/18th%20%20November%202005.htm (last accessed 5 November 2008)

From the webpage cited, we read:

‘Sheikh [Taisir] Tamimi and Father [Atallah] Hanna said that the Palestinian People are determined to resist the Wall “which annexes the Palestinian orchards, and separates the people”.’

Hanna is the Greek Orthodox priest forced to step down in 2002 for alleged support of Palestinian suicide bombings against Israelis.

Thus the Christian leaders whom we read about and are referred to in Israeli Apartheid Guide are surely some cause for concern.

White also tackles another objection to his writings:

‘The second claim made against me is that I have defended Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial. This is again based on one article, written in January 2006. The piece was critiquing the mainstream analysis of some recent remarks by Ahmadinejad, and the politicised context in which they were being framed. But I make no bones about it – Ahmadinejad is either a Holocaust denier himself, or cowardly encourages those who are (and probably both). As Dana Goldstein observed earlier this year, Ahmadinejad wraps “his Holocaust-denial in a series of legitimate criticisms of present-day Israeli policy”, a disturbing “mixing of fiction and fact”. Ahmadinejad’s anti-semitism is morally despicable, intellectually vacuous, and of no benefit to the people he purports to be supporting (or rather, exploiting), the Palestinians. He is also, of course, ruthless in his approach to dissent, and has the blood of his own people on his hands (as I noted in both that 2006 article, and more recently, this interview with an Iranian journalist).’

White here provides admirable condemnation of Ahmadinejad, which you won’t find in his original article. As White points out, he wrote the article in January 2006 – the same month that Iran announced plans for a Holocaust review conference (this news, ironically, came 15th January four days after White’s article was published). Days later, Iran’s NEDA Institute approached Robert Faurisson for asssistance with Holocaust denial material.

In Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide, on page 73 White cites the Lawrence of Cyberia blog for a narrative about the Israeli ‘Separation Wall.’ Yet as late as July 2008, Lawrence of Cyberia was still arguing that Ahmadinejad was not a Holocaust denier. Which begs the question, if Ben White is clear about Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial, why trust a blogger who isn’t clear on this as a reliable source?

Finally, and most seriously, Ben White includes a Roger Garaudy essay on Zionism in his ’select bibliography’ (p.162) of Israeli Apartheid Guide. Garaudy was convicted of Holocaust denial in France in 1998 under France’s Gaysott Law.

The essay White recommends is ‘Religious and Historical Precepts of Zionism‘, from Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. VI, No. 2, Winter 1977. There is no Holocaust denial in this essay, in fact Garaudy sees Zionists as having taken their blueprint from Hitler and the Nazis, inverting antisemitism and the Nuremberg laws to create a Jewish state. Garaudy, in the essay that White recommends, cites Koestler (who in 1976 published the theory that Jews are really Khazars) and Israel Shahak’s writings on Zionism.

However, it is no longer 1977, but 2009, and Garaudy’s Holocaust denial should mean that White does not treat Garaudy as a serious author, any more than White would respect Ahmadinejad as a serious commentator in the light of Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and antisemitism. Given that Ben White claims that his book is a “beginner’s guide”, is it really appropriate to present Holocaust deniers as legitimate historians and commentators to newcomers to the Israel-Palestine debate? And given White’s forceful and welcome condemnation of Ahmadinejad’s mixture of ‘fact and fiction’, will there be a similar condemnation of Garaudy’s?

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Ben White complains about censorship on Philip Weiss’ blog

So here’s the story. Jonathan Hoffman is the Vice-President of the Zionist Federation in the UK. Last month he wrote on Harry’s Place of his experiences at Ben White’s book launch in the Houses of Parliament. At the event, Hoffman noted that his friend with a Jewish name had been roundly booed, and he was told that the Nazis ‘should have finished the job.’ In addition, Jonathan Hoffman wrote a review on the American Jewish Committee’s blog Z-Word, in which he took White to task for, among other things, including doctored Ben Gurion quotes and ignoring Nelson Mandela’s own rejection of the Israel-South Africa apartheid analogy.

Ben White had another book launch promoted by War on Want last week. War on Want banned Hoffman from the meeting, which turned out to be a rather depressing affair.

Seemingly affected by the criticism of the negative book review, Ben White posted a response to Hoffman on his blog, and brought it to the attention of ModernityBlog and Z-Word. Z-Word refused to publish his comment, with Ben Cohen explaining:

‘White needs to understand that the ban on Jonathan Hoffman attending the launch of his ridiculous excuse for a book means that he is, as a direct consequence, not welcome here.’

Anti-Zionist blogger Philip Weiss then complained that ‘American Jewish C’tee enjoys slagging off critics, then refusing them a platform to respond.’ Weiss included a comment from Ben White in the main body of the article, complaining:

‘So the ‘range of comments’ includes the claim that I am the ‘reincarnation of Goebbels’, but not my link to a response piece which points out that Z-Word have published untruths about a published work. ‘

Jonathan Hoffman has since published a response to White on Z-Word, noting:

‘Turning to White’s comments on my review, there are several points which he concedes, either explicitly or implicitly.’

But let’s ignore that for now. According to Ben White and Philip Weiss, the AJC refuses its critics ‘a platform to respond.’ You’d think, judging by that, that Ben White’s blog would be an ocean of free speech. Not exactly. You will notice that comments are off.

Ben White received plenty of negative comments for a blog post in which he claimed that the arrest of antisemites in New York threatening to blow up a synagogue was ‘a fully controlled threat to our freedoms.’ Ben White, who claims to understand why some people are antisemites, could not understand why the U.S. government would want to arrest antisemites planning antisemitic terrorist attacks. I took him to task for this on Harry’s Place, prompting people to leave comments on his blog. White refused to answer questions about this, with one commenter asking him to specify the freedoms threatened by these arrests. White didn’t respond.

A few weeks later, on his blog, White criticised a Harry’s Place article on antisemitism at UNISON. (Like the NYC synagogue piece, White was criticising those who falsely cry ‘antisemitism’. One wonders if White is capable of writing about antisemitism without claiming to understand it or denying clear examples of its outworkings.) As you can see by the comments on both Ben White’s blog and Harry’s Place under those articles, White deleted, edited and restored comments from his critics, whilst failing to respond the questions asked of him and his ethics. A few weeks later, White turned off the comments option on his blog pieces.

A commenter at Harry’s Place recently noted:

Getting back on topic…
Ben White is the administrator for the ”Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide” Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=99988957924
Until about 15 minutes ao it was an open group which anybody could join, so I did. I took the liberty of posting links to Jonathan’s article on each of the threads on the site. Within minutes, my posts had been deleted, I had been expelled from the group, and it is now a closed group.
I have requested to join the group and await Ben’s response with interest!

Last week, White had an article at The Guardian’s Comment Is Free (also published in the Tehran Times) in which he argued that the Israeli security fence (or as he prefers “Israel’s separation wall”) should be dismantled (not, interestingly, moved back to the Green Line, as most critics of the fence would prefer). As Modernity noted twice, many critical comments on Ben White’s article were censored for no good reason. We heard no complaint from Ben White.

So to summarise: Ben White has edited, deleted, and then restored comments on his own blog. He has turned comments off for his own blog. If you leave a critical comment on one of his articles on Comment Is Free, it may go into moderation and/or be deleted. And now he is complaining on Philip Weiss’ blog about other people censoring his comments!

Perhaps Philip Weiss was unaware of Ben White’s own censoring of comments, which would explain the Mondoweiss article accusing the AJC of censorship. Otherwise, what point was Weiss really trying to make?

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Filed under apartheid analogy, censorship