All About Zion?

This is a guest post from Seismic Shock

As Israeli professor Neve Gordon makes headlines around the world following his call for a wholesale boycott of Israel on CommentIsFree, it is no surprise to see CIF‘s Ben White vigorously defend Gordon.

White blogs about Neve Gordon, highlighting a sentence in The Nation about reaction to Gordon’s article:

‘Mention boycott in a discussion of Israel, and chances are you’ll find yourself the butt of vicious attacks.’

But is Ben White also the ‘butt of vicious attacks’? He has complained about his critics in the past. Writing on Liberal Conspiracy, White protests:

‘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.

I have come to know this latter strategy quite well.’

For Ben White, it’s All About Zion. White sees himself as ‘a critic of the country’s policies’, and his critics in turn are ‘die-hard defenders of Israel’, seemingly obsessed with Zionism.

Yet Ben White is not your average critic of Israel, nor even your average boycotter of Israel. White has even stated ‘I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are.’ There is a strong religious dimension to Ben White’s anti-Zionism. White gives talks in churches and theological colleges, and his writing is praised by vicars, archbishops and other prominent clergymen. His book on Israel has received positive reviews on the Ekklesia website, an evangelical blog, and his letter in the Independent on Israel’s 60th birthday has raised his profile significantly amongst Christians.

He has previously written on CIF in praise of Christian “anti-Zionists” Colin Chapman and Stephen Sizer, who have developed a theology which suggests that the modern state of Israel is an offence to God, as Jews are no longer God’s Chosen People. For example, Sizer thinks that Israel is a rejected vineyard tossed into the flames by God.

Can you imagine The Guardian’s liberal-left Comment Is Free publishing praise of Christians who argue that the Curse of Ham extends to all dark-skinned people, and so black people cannot run their own countries? Or publishing praise of Christians who argue that Ishmael’s descendants are cursed, and therefore don’t have a right to run their own countries? Why did CommentIsFree publish a piece in praise of replacement theology-spouting anti-Zionists?

This is not the only disturbing aspect of Ben White’s writings and blog posts. Take his article from 11 January 2006 from The Palestine Chronicle (written four days before Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s announcement of plans for a Holocaust review conference), in which he argued that Mahmoud Ahmadinjead was not really a Holocaust denier.  Framing his comments in a religious context, White rationalised Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial thus:

‘The news agency goes on though to report that the President described how “some have created a myth on holocaust and hold it even higher than the very belief in religion and prophets because when a person expresses disbelief in God, religion and prophets they do not object to him but they will protest to anyone who would reject the Holocaust”. Again, Ahmadinejad is drawing attention to the extent to which European nations prosecute Holocaust deniers, yet are by and large post-Christian societies with little regard for religion. For a devout believer like the Iranian President, this must seem like a strange situation.’

White also produced this astounding sentence:

‘The Holocaust comes to symbolize the intrinsic anti-Jewish racism of ‘Gentile’ societies, and therefore proving the need for a Jewish state. More disturbingly perhaps, the Holocaust acts as a standard for human depravity set so high, that any treatment of the Palestinians is justifiable, as long as it falls short of what was experienced by the Jews in Nazi Europe.’

But why does White suggest the Holocaust ‘acts as’ or ‘comes to symbolise’ anything? Why does White see Israel’s Holocaust memorial as merely a tool of Zionism, without appreciating that millions of Israelis are simply the descendents of Holocaust survivors, and don’t want the atrocities of Nazi Europe to be forgotten? Or is the Holocaust now All About Zion?

Most offensive is the idea that Israelis gladly mete out cruelty and punishment to Palestinians, and so long as Israel doesn’t actually create gas chambers, Israel will feel it can do what it likes. Does White genuinely believe this? Is White reluctant to show sympathy with the victims of antisemitic violence?

Consider also White’s reaction to the arrest of antisemites in May of this year. White saw the arrest as a ‘fully controlled threat to our freedoms,’ as an FBI agent had infiltrated a group of four men plotting to explode a synagogue in New York. All four plotters now have prison sentences.

So how was this a ‘fully controlled threat to our freedoms’? For Ben White, what are ‘our freedoms’ in this case?

Was this about our freedom to worship in synagogues without fear of terrorist attack, or about our freedom to plot attacks on synagogues so long as we aren’t successful in carrying them out, or don’t actually have explosives?

Did the threat come from the extremists willing to launch terror against innocent Jews, or did the threat come from law enforcement agents seeking to prevent anti-Jewish terrorism?

Once again, amazingly, White appeared to sympathise with those responsible for antisemitism rather than the victims of antisemitism. To add insult to injury, White’s book (intended for ‘beginners’ to Israel/Palestine) contains a recommendation of the writings of French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy.

Now ask yourself whether Ben White’s critics always have Zionism in mind, and whether it always is All About Zion? Perhaps it’s about doing unto others as you would have done to you.

15 replies »

  1. Why doesn’t Ben White tell us how he sees the Holocaust.

    It’s easy to make up stories about evil Jews and how they use their suffering as “an axcuse to exploit and harm others.” This mode of thinking is intrinsically antisemitic and it’s been around for centuries.

    However, by not saying what he thinks the Holocaust was all about he projects his own fears and hatred on the survivors of the Shoah and their children.

  2. Thank you Seismic.

    I have long admired your work and it is a great pleasure to have you as one of our first Guest Posters.

  3. PS. An excellent article.

    What exactly are Ben White’s his credentials? Isn’t he a literature major and a self-declared specialist on Palestine having spent a summer or two volunteering in the Territories? Why all this animosity towards Israel?

  4. One correction a reader has kindly alerted me too. Those planning antisemitic attacks against synagogues who now have prison sentences were based in California, whereas White was commenting on a case of planned antisemitic synagogue attacks in New York – I don’t know how their case has gone so far.

  5. Thanks, my friend was toally convinced by this post, he was not convinced previously that Ben White was as bad as I was telling him he was.

  6. Waiting with bated breath what will be written about the “outrage” of UNRWA textbooks maybe mentioning the holocaust, though who knows, he may just decide that it isn’t important enough to write about.