Guardian ‘Editor’s Pick’: Ben White’s ahistorical babblings

The decision by Guardian editors to run last weekend’s Hamas promoting and whitewashing ‘Gaza-fest’ (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here)  has been the subject of much criticism from this site and many others as well as commentators below the line on the Guardian website itself.  

If, by any remote chance, one entertained the idea that someone at the Guardian might take notice of that wave of criticism and even perhaps try to understand the basis for it, then the fact that the Guardian apparently couldn’t care less is made abundantly clear by its decision to continue the barrage with an ‘Editor’s pick’ by Ben White on June 11th.

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Among the ranks of Western anti-Israel campaigners Ben White is one of the more unpleasant, if not downright anti-Semitic, ‘one-staters’ around, with fingers in almost any and every Israel-delegitimising pie going. Be it Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), scurrilous accusations of apartheid and ethnic cleansing or replacement theology (to mention but a few), Ben White is inevitably to be found trumpeting the cause and coincidentally advancing his career choice as a self-defined  ‘expert’ on the subject of the Middle East. 

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The trouble is, of course, that he is nothing of the kind. White’s ‘expertise’ is based not upon a serious wish to acquire and disseminate knowledge, but upon the need to make a point and advance a cause. He is a paid propagandist – nothing more. 

And so, in this latest article, and under the pretence of writing about the Oslo Accords (to which the Palestinians were full and willing signatories, of course, although that fact seems to have escaped the writer’s ‘expertise’), White seeks to advance the ridiculous concept of ‘Israeli colonialism’. 

“The 1993 accords turned the Palestinian struggle from one of resisting Israeli colonialism into occupation management.”

“The Oslo accords, signed in 1993, established a paradigm where the Palestinian struggle for return and decolonisation was turned into a facade of sovereignty, piecemeal concessions and occupation management.”

“Palestinians are confronted by physical obstacles to unified resistance and strategising, in the form of Israel’s colonies, checkpoints, road networks and the wall.” 

“Multiple strands of activism are at play, some of which are aimed at directly, or indirectly, challenging the obstacles to resisting Israeli colonialism.”

[Emphasis added]

Ben White does not use these words by chance. A prerequisite for the use of the terms ‘colonialism’ and ‘colonies’ is the establishment of the historical fact that a group of people of specific nationality set out to establish themselves in a new country or area and that they are fully or partially subject to the mother country. 

And that is precisely what he would have his readers believe: that Israelis ‘colonized’ someone else’s country. If he can manage to persuade his readers of that, then White can tap into the whole Pandora’s box of Western post-colonial guilt and paint Israelis as unreformed reactionaries stuck in an outmoded mindset and – more importantly – he can frame Palestinian ‘resistance’ as the brave and noble actions of a downtrodden people who, like his modern, progressive Western readers, reject colonialism. 

But of course the fact is that there was no ‘someone else’s country’ to begin with. The geographical areas to which White refers went from being part of the Ottoman Empire to part of the Mandate for Palestine administered by Britain. For a brief period of 19 years they were occupied by Jordan after it attacked the new Israeli state in 1948 – an occupation never recognized or endorsed by the international community – and in 1988 Jordan relinquished all claims to the area. 

White’s revision of the Oslo Accords into something which happened to the Palestinian people (rather than a process in which their representatives were full partners) confirms his tendency to infanticise them. The fact that White fails to point out that the process of Israeli withdrawal from Judea & Samaria and the transition to full Palestinian self-rule, to which the Oslo Accords were designed to lead, was subsequently halted by the decision of the Palestinian leadership to launch a terror war in 2000 is equally indicative of his type of puerile ‘black and white’ thinking. What White describes as ‘consequences of Oslo’ are in fact the results of the fact that the process of coming to a permanent arrangement was stopped dead in its tracks by a Palestinian leadership unable and unwilling to make peace. 

Today, however, the vast majority of Palestinians live either under the rule of Hamas in Gaza or that of the Palestinian Authority in Areas A and B and whilst their situation may certainly leave a lot to be desired, it appears not to have crossed Ben White’s mind that his wish for a ‘Palestinian Spring’ uprising (which he seems to hope would be directed both against the Palestinian Authority and Israel) may so far have been unfulfilled not because of his misconstrued ‘consequences’ of Oslo, but because the majority of ordinary battle-weary Palestinians perhaps do not want one.  

It is not difficult for the likes of Ben White to advocate ‘revolution’ from the comfort of his far-away armchair. It is convenient to promote and glorify ‘resistance’ and ‘struggle’ when you will not be the one doing the dying. And it is easy to urge ‘mobilisation’ when you have serially ignored enough history and facts to be able to reduce a very complex and nuanced situation into an over-simplified pastiche of ‘colonialists against indigenous population’ or ‘right against wrong’. 

But let us not forget that the bottom line is that the health of Ben White’s bank account (and that of many an ‘activist’ like him) depends upon the fact that ‘resistance’ and ‘revolution’ will not be allowed to mature into the type of pragmatic compromise and statesmanship actually needed in order to reach solutions with which all the peoples of the Middle East can live. 

As for the Guardian’s decision to continue to promote – and even showcase – the ahistorical propaganda of a known and professional purveyor of malicious fabrications about Israel and flirter with Holocaust revisionism  – well that comes as no surprise. 

When editors clearly cannot comprehend that giving a platform to members of a racist terror group which aspires to genocide is problematic then obviously it cannot be expected of them to display the judgment capacities necessary in order to further prevent their paper from becoming a laughing-stock. 



23 replies »

  1. FFS. I seem to remember White’s previous polemic likewise being treated to “Editor’s Pick” status – retaining the latter over a week after it was published.

    In addition to the many offences of his you list above, there was also his vocal involvement in getting Benny Morris disinvited from some university event. You can agree or disagree with Morris’s views – but he’s neither extremist nor offensive.

    I don’t seem to recall White campaigning to get Muslim hate preachers disinvited from similar events.

    • So, still so “institutional” antisemitism, anti-Jewish bias and bigotry in the Guardian?
      I think even YOU are starting to come to grips with that abhorrent establishment, we know as the “Guardian”.

    • But pretzel the fact the Guardian’s editors promote the rants of an outright Jew-hater and a friend of Holocaust deniers doesn’t mean that they support antisemitism. They are promoting it to show their balanced and unbiased editorial policy and we musn’t think for a second that maybe – God forbid! – they have some problems with the Jewish people and nationhood..

  2. Ben White is just saying what the crowds in Egypt were saying when they accused Mubarak of having oppressed them because he was serving his Zionist and American masters. And of course in Egypt and everywhere else in the Middle East, people agree on one thing: they don’t want peace with the Jewish state. The Ben White piece and its promotion as Editor’s pick is just another occasion for the Guardian to profess their heartfelt sympathy with these views.

    • The Guardian displays its editorial bias in every move it makes with regard to the ME. Have you seen the caption to the photo that accompanies White’s article?

      “A Palestinian man waves his national flag in front of the separation wall between Israel and Palestine.”

      This is either a very, very short wall (that doesn’t even reach the man’s knees) or the “separation wall” has been cunningly disguised as a coil of barbed wire in front of a beautiful, cloud-speckled sky.

  3. Ben overlooks the fact that not only has there not been an Arab Spring in the Palestinian territories, but even the BBC and the Guardian were hard-pressed to find it occurring among the Arab citizens of Israel. This is very difficult to comprehend given that they live under the rule of the Evil Zionists (TM). I’m sure Ben has some thoughful analysis to offer on this curious matter.

    Another small niggle that Ben might like to address is this: given that the Zionists have cornered the market in all things Evil, I am at a loss to understand why the Palestiians are so keen to return to live in Israel. It couldn’t be that their plan doesn’t actually include an Israel, could it? That *peace* is a bit of a misnomer – in which case Ben should come clean and admit that he’s advocating a blood bath. And as the article points out, one he’ll be courageous enough to support – from a very safe distance.

  4. One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but judging by his picture, Ben White looks a bit … well … how can I put this? …. Aryan.

  5. After reading the comments above one is left with the clear impression that their posters have not read White’s article. Certainly no attempt is made to deal with his (actually rather balanced) arguments; instead we have the usual CifWatch ad hominem smears and abuse.

    White tries to explain the absence of a ‘Palestinian spring’, and in doing so is critical of Hamas and the PA as well as of Israel. Nowhere does he “advocate ‘revolution’”, and to suggest that he is motivated by the “health of (his) bank account” is as silly as to suggest that Adam Levick, for example, is similarly motivated.

    • Sencar – while I totally back up Hadar’s views of White’s background and the framing of his article, and in their context there are some comments White makes that set my teeeth on edge, I have to say that I agree with White’s basic point – that there is too much interest in maintaining the status quo from ALL parties other than the ordinary people in Israel and the various Palestinian enclaves (although he fails to mention the undeniable and crucial influence of the wider Arab world in the maintenance of that status quo) to drive either the peace process or some sort of mass civil uprising.

      He is right that Fatah and Hamas are brutal suppressors of opposition, but so are Assad, and so were Mubarak, Saleh, Gaddafi etc… and that did not stop those uprisings.

      I agree with White most on the influence of the professionalised NGOs. It has long been a complaint of Israel supporters that bodies such as UNWRA do nothing to improve the situation, rather they make it far worse by institutionalising the “refugees” and giving them a permanent status totally out of line with any other refugees in history.

      While White frames these criticisms in an uncomfortable way, it is frankly good to see that the point that this is not good for the Palestinians, any more than the Israelis, is at last filtering through to a wider audienve.

      • Sorry for the typos. “in *that* context”; “so *is* Assad”; “a wider *audience*”!

      • Nice to see an intelligent comment for a change. Not that I agree with all of it of course….

        • Be specific please. Which bits did you not agree with? I’d be happy to discuss them with you.

    • Perhaps we’re all quite well-versed with Mr White’s views, Sencar. My comment, for example, was not smear/ad hominem, even if you would prefer to read it as such. In part it is a question that I have never had answered to my satisfaction.

      I would like to understand why the Palestinians, their supporters and certain of our media paint a particular picture of Israel – a picture designed to illustrate an aggression that borders on brutality, injustice, segregation, the treatment of a particular minority group in a way that affects their human rights – and so on. Edge towards the outer perimeters of the picture and you have those who paint the Israelis as child-killers, white phospherous-users; people so lacking in empathy that they leave the homeless to wallow in camps on the edge of starvation while they steal their resources. A people whose actions are such that the Palestinians are in need of the many initiatives designed to alleviate their various human crises.

      And then many of these same people agitate, advocate and demand the right of up to 5 million Palestinians to live directly under the rule of the (apparently) inherently oppressive – in the name of justice and the longing for their old homes and olive groves! This is bizarre to my mind. And I speak as the daughter-in-law of refugees who, although they certainly missed the country of their birth (Egypt), would not return to live under such circumstances. Who in their right mind would?

      White, along with those who agitate for RoR cannot have this both ways: either the Israelis are slightly left of al-Bashir – in which case agitating for the right of Palestinians to return is cruel and inhumane, or the Israelis are as democratic and *normal* as David Cameron – in which case why has this demonisation of Israel occurred and why does this picture-painting continue?

      The other explanation is that perhaps parties agitiating for Palestinian RoR do not envisage living under Israeli rule: they envisage re-taking the country as their own. This is most unlikely to come about without enormous strife and bloodshed. To agitate and advocate for it is war-mongering and hateful to wish upon people – some of whom these parties claim to care deeply for. To agitate and advocate for it when they, themselves, will not have so much as a hair of their own heads harmed seems to me to be – in addition to war-mongering – either vicarious thrill-seeking or resolution of their own, personal issues and/or beliefs.

  6. Atlas Shrugs has Ben White dressed up in a Nazi uniform.That uniform and Ben White’s facial expressions is poster boy stuff that any Nazi group would love to embrace…….The guy is an opportunistic buffoon,who is riding on the palestinian’s coat tails.

    Ben Whites loves the palestinians no more than he loves us.The writing of articles promoting the palestinian cause is a money making machine that he is milking for all that it is worth.

  7. Ben White is spot on as usual. Colonialism is exactly what’s going on, and it’s good he has the courage to say so, even in spite of those who would tarnish his reputation with libellous accusations of racism, etc.

    • No one needs to tarnish White’s reputation – he does a great job himself, and as to libel, it’s only libellous if untrue.

  8. “Colonialism is exactly what’s going on,”

    Only if you have no comprehension of the word ‘colonialism’, Sanity.

    Perhaps you would like to enlighten us as to the objectives of this colonialist enterprise? There is always a ‘qui bono’ element. To say nothing of an economic rationale. I would like to hear a genuine analysis mind, not the usual baseless splutter.

  9. I started to read White’s piece and was surprised that some of his conclusions were not unreasonable. Then I came across his use of ‘colonial’, and it all started to fall into place.

    Having shown himself up recently with his comment about Howard Jacobson, he is perhaps trying to distance himself from out-and-out racist comments, and so this latest piece in the Guardian is more ‘considered’, with less of a direct, ad hominem attack.

    Nevertheless, White has gone too far to redeem his reputation as someone who, ‘is not antiSemitic himself but can understand why some people are’.

    And I can understand why some people consider Ben White to be a racist bastard.

    Like UNWRA and a whole bunch of NGOs, White uses the Palestinians as a convenient meal ticket and so will encourage the ‘struggle’ to continue.

  10. From Wikipedia: ‘Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony, and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by colonizers from the metropole. Colonialism is a set of unequal relationships between the metropole and the colony and between the colonists and the indigenous population.’

    Pretty clear, isn’t it?