Ben White and the Guardian promoting BDS again

Ben White

On September 11th, the Guardian’s Science section published an article by Dr Steve Caplan – associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center – addressing the counter-productivity of boycotts against Israeli academics. 

The next day, and – rather bizarrely – in a sub-section entitled “controversies in science”, the Guardian published a riposte to Dr Caplan’s article by Ben White entitled “Why a boycott of Israeli academics is fully justified”. 

One would not, of course, have expected anything else, from either White himself or from the Guardian which, a decade ago – at the height of the second Intifada – was the first newspaper to publish a letter openly calling for academic boycott of Israel. 

Much of White’s ‘argument’ seems to concentrate upon the claim that Israeli academics do not do enough, in his view, to protest ‘the occupation’. My fellow tax-payers footing the bill for the salaries of Israeli academics hired to teach and research are probably quite relieved to hear that the majority of them are concentrating on doing their jobs rather than outsourcing their skills to a campaign of delegitimisation. 

Towards the end of his polemic, White turns to promoting PACBI – co-founded by Qatar-born, Egypt-raised, US-educated Tel Aviv University doctoral student Omar Barghouti. 

“Finally, it is revealing that Caplan also omits to mention that it is occupied and colonised Palestinians who are asking for a boycott as one tactic in a campaign for basic rights.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was launched in 2004, and helped to start the BDS campaign the year after. PACBI urges a boycott to be applied in ways such as refraining from “collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions”. It is nothing to do with, as Caplan incorrectly claims, “excluding someone because of his or her government’s views”.”

Of course White does not tell his readers how many Palestinians the unelected PACBI represents with its call for boycott, because he cannot – but one somehow doubts that the 80,000 Palestinians from Areas A & B (and their dependents) who already work in Israel, or any of those hoping to secure one of the 5,000 new work permits just announced, could be counted among its supporters. 

Additionally, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians (and their loved ones) treated every year in Israeli hospitals, along with the thousands of Palestinian doctors who attend conferences and/or intern in Israel might not be enthusiastic about the idea of Israeli academics from the medical world being cut off from their peers around the globe. 

And of course ordinary Palestinians have long voted with their feet on the boycott issue by shopping and working at Israeli businesses such as the Rami Levy supermarket chain: recently the target of angry statements from the BDS crowd. 

“Owner Rami Levy admits that there is a lot of ideology involved in the supermarket. “We have three stores in Judea and Samaria,” he said, “and Palestinians and Jews work together in them. If I can contribute to Jews and Arabs being able to live here together, all the better.” “

Co-existence in the Rami Levy supermarket in Shaar Binyamin (Photo: Atta Awisat)

Ben White and PACBI are among the fossilised minority who oppose co-existence and normalization in the Middle East. In fact, in 2010 PACBI produced a document rejecting any kind of normalization with Israelis, which it defines as follows:

““participating in any project, initiative or activity whether locally or internationally, that is designed to bring together-whether directly or indirectly- Palestinian and/or Arab youth with Israelis (whether individuals or institutions) and is not explicitly designed to resist or expose the occupation and all forms of discrimination and oppression inflicted upon the Palestinian people.”” 

PACBI’s outright rejection of bridge-building between Israelis and Palestinians is of course not surprising when one considers that its BDS campaign is merely a tactic used to try to achieve a bigger goal

“PACBI leads the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel, but of course its real aim is not merely to persuade musicians to refuse to appear in Tel Aviv or to encourage people not to buy Israeli goods.  The bottom line of all the PACBI rhetoric is that with its uncompromising demand for the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees to places west of the ‘green line’, it aspires to eliminate Israel as the Jewish state in precisely the same manner as Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad do.  Members of PACBI, including the suited academics at Birzeit, may not be building bombs, firing rockets or strapping on suicide belts, but their ultimate aims are identical to those who do.”

But not only is the Ben White/PACBI –driven BDS campaign of incitement detrimental to the hope of peace in the Middle East; it is also counterproductive to the current intense campaign by the British government to inject some vitality into its country’s flailing, recession-hit economy by seeking joint R&D projects with Israeli universities and companies. 

Speaking at Bar Ilan University in January of this year, FCO Minister Alistair Burt said:

“We need Israel’s acumen and intelligence; its ability to work at the highest intellectual and technological level to help the world solve its problems, from the economy to climate and environmental change – and its readiness to use its gifts in higher education and intellectual property to help the world progress. Everyone knows that Israeli R&D is world-beating. Israeli inventions are helping to drive the global economy. (…)

One key development in 2011 was the start of a partnership between Britain and Israel in tech.    We believe it is a partnership that could help both sides – the amazing quality of Israeli R&D can help British growth..”

The Minister also urged Israeli students to consider studying in the UK, and of course such students do have the potential to provide valuable income to cash-strapped British universities. But with Ben White-endorsed initiatives such as the upcoming UK Student Palestine Conference being far from infrequent events in British institutions of higher education, and Israeli students currently being courted intensely by many other countries too, it is obvious that in this field too, Ben White and the BDS campaigners are doing little to help Britain’s image. 

That self-focused extremists such as Ben White and PACBI care almost as little for the UK economy as they do for the Palestinian people should come as no surprise. That the Guardian continues to provide a willing platform to such unrepresentative fringe voices indicates that it too is part of the problem called BDS which seeks to stall co-operation, collaboration and peaceful co-existence – not only in the Middle East. 

Categories: BDS, Guardian

Tagged as: , , , , ,

45 replies »

  1. The co-existence photograph above sets an intriguing puzzle. Which is which, which is Israeli & which is Palestinian?

    I believe I know the answer.

    • On second thoughts he is his own worst enemy since he is clearly a hypocrite. And undermines his argument that Israel is racist.

  2. Surely it would have been more fitting for another scientist to respond to Kaplan.

    But instead the G. wheels out professional polemicist Ben White.

    And posting the article under “Controversies in science” makes the matter even more farcical.

  3. ‘Surely it would have been more fitting for another scientist to respond to Kaplan’.

    I expect they probably couldn’t find a genuine academic who supports a boycott. After all, real scholars are committed to the flow of information and ideas between academic institutions across the globe.

    • That’s exactly the perfectly reasonable point Kaplan was making.

      What does he get for his trouble? Despite making clear his criticism of the Netanyahu govt.? White accuses him of “Israel advocacy”!

  4. I actually rather enjoy the current cycle of news involving BDS, which goes something like this: first, a BDS acolyte (like Ben White) either lies to make BDS seem noble/admirable/successful or responds to the truths about what BDS is really like from someone who opposes BDS and its rancid order on facctual grounds reversed but it 100% contains these two elements). Then the commenters show up, with the BDS brigade bringing in a combination of lies (the most recent thread included the falsified David Ben Gurion/Arabs quote) or misinformation (citing Benny Morris as THEIR guy without quite noticing he now has a fact-based view of 1948 and beyond), and the honest anti-BDSers pointing out said lies and misinformation. After that, BDS totes the article & comments as a victory, anti-BDS totes the widespread actual ties between Israel and govts/people on all continents in the areas of education-health care-technology-arts and culture-etc. And last but not least, CiF pats itself on the head for following the leads of the worst of their pseudo-progressive hard Left forces, while the real world soldiers on without them.

  5. I really hate to say this, but Ben White’s pictures, had he lived in the 1930’s would have been ideal for Aryan poster material. It makes me shudder just to look at him.

  6. Of course a rogue, terrorist state should be subject to boycott. Israel has sunk as low as most other middle eastern states.

    • Alex, I don’t believe you know anything about other middle eastern states when you make ridiculous comments like that. But I’ll give you a chance: Tell me about some of the worst, most atrocious things going on in most other middle eastern states – things that are appalling to all liberals worldwide. See, my bet is you can’t do it because you don’t know shit about other middle east nations.

      • MK, can you please clarify how the atrocities committed in several Middle-Eastern countries as we speak give the Government of Israel the right to occupy the territory of its neighbor and to build settlements over it in violation of international law?

          • That’s why Israel is at peace with both Egypt and Jordan, and is not at war with Lebanon – Tsahal does not / no longer occupies their land.

            However Tsahal does occupy the Palestinian territory and Israeli settlers do build settlements all over it in violation of international law.

          • Fritz, can you please clarify how the atrocities committed in several Middle-Eastern countries as we speak give the Government of Israel the right to occupy the territory of its neighbor and to build settlements over it in violation of international law?

              • Maybe out to lunch?
                Maybe couldn’t care?
                Maybe had to do some real paid work?

                Take your pick.
                Either way, this time i agree with you.
                It doesn’t and you are correct in the sense that a solution to the disputed territories must be found.
                Trouble is, it needs to be coming from both sides.

                Do you find that Jews should be removed from Judea and Semaria, as per the PA request?
                Don’t you find this racist?

                Don’t you find Alex’ assertion troubling, in its inaccuracy?

                Do tell…

                • Itsik, PLEASE ANSWER: can you clarify how the atrocities committed in several Middle-Eastern countries as we speak give the Government of Israel the right to occupy the territory of its neighbor and to build settlements over it in violation of international law?

            • Gnat, can you explain to us all how all violence is justified because of 100 mythical Jewish financiers of a film produced by a man who has lied about being Israeli?

              Of course, I’m being facetious, as I don’t expect you to contribute anything of import. Except, of course, your wry and sly wit regarding how Israel is evil and that you, in particular, are brilliant, yada yada yada.

              Ben White and you. Two dipshits who can’t quite figure out that you know absolutlely nothing.

            • Whose territory? The Osman`s one?
              Which international law? The Osman Empire ceased to exist. The British mandate ceased to exist. Now there is israel and no man`s territory accordding to international law. Some of this territory is private property of Arabs, of religious foundations, of Israelians and the rest was Osman state property. The only state around is Israel, differently abled one.
              If the Arabs who are calling themselves Palestinians want a state with own territory they should immediately negotiate peace. If not, ..

              • Fritz, why will you not answer my question: can you clarify how the atrocities committed in several Middle-Eastern countries as we speak give the Government of Israel the right to occupy the territory of its neighbor and to build settlements over it in violation of international law?

  7. “The Minister also urged Israeli students to consider studying in the UK, and of course such students do have the potential to provide valuable income to cash-strapped British universities.”

    On the flight back from his holiday in Israel, Duvidl found himself sitting next to a young Israeli from Beersheva, who told Duvidl he was going up to Cambridge University (both Ben White’s and Duvidl’s alma mater) to begin studying earth science.

    Clearly this student is unlikely to have even heard of Ben White and his BDS support, let alone allow it to deter him from his chosen subject of study.

    Furthermore, this student will, in all likelihood, continue into a career of helping Israel make the desert bloom as his predecessors did before him and the Palis rejected when they destroyed the Gaza greenhouses left to them by Israel. Boycott that Ben and, when you have cut off your nose to spite your face, start on your ears and lips.

    • In all likelihood, once he’s graduated from Cambridge he will seek a job in Great Britain or the USA because salaries are higher and prospects brighter.

      • Unlike you. You never graduate from Cambridge, never get a high salary und have no prospects at all.

      • Nat,
        Taking the incredible real estate boom in Israel into account , I think you protest too much. I doubt prospects are low when apartments sell for one million dollars plus plus.
        For prospects in Israel I suggest this….

        “Sources inform ”Globes” that Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq:MLNX; TASE:MLNX) chairman and CEO Eyal Waldman is the buyer of the apartment in Tel Aviv’s Meier on Rothschild tower for NIS 19 million, the sale of which was announced by the developers today.
        The 395-square meter apartment with a 25-square meter balcony is on the 31st floor of the building. Waldman’s aides say that he bought the apartment in shell condition. The apartment faces west and occupies half the floor.”

        • Daniel, I doubt that Israeli citizens care much about apartments selling for “one million dollar plus plus” to American or European Jews who will spend two weeks a year in the flat while Israeli citizens cannot afford to pay school fees for their children and have to crowd three kids in one room because the cost of real estate is out of control.

          Israel looks more and more like a third world country, with the average citizen having difficulties making ends meet, while the wealthy buy flats for “one million dollars plus plus”.

          I assume you’re one of these European or American citizens who come and buy luxury condos in downtown Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, while Israeli citizens try to make a living?

        • “chairman and CEO Eyal Waldman is the buyer of the apartment in Tel Aviv’s Meier on Rothschild tower for NIS 19 million”

          While the wealthy buy condos for 19 million NIS a piece, the minimum salary in Israel is 4,100 NIS only.

          Israel’s rich-poor gap is among widest in the West and it’s growing. Israel is slowly turning into a third-world country.

      • Nothing’s certain about this guy, Nat, except that you’re likely to end up holding doors open for him.

    • It has been written here before and elsewhere, that the only things Palestinians are expert at is whingeing, gratuitous violence, sacrificing their children’s futures by teaching them to hate and autorhinectomy (cutting off their noses to spite their faces)

      • Oh, forgot – and growing strawberries for export, if that is, the BDSers don’t prevent them from accepting Israeli help to do so

  8. What we have to remember about BDSers and people like Ben White, who has stated that he, ‘is not an anti Semite but he can understand why some people are’, is that they actually don’t care about helping the Palestinian Arabs. What they care about is harming Jews. Of course, they’ll say Israelis or Zionists, but what they actually mean, is Jews.

    If they really cared about helping Palestinian Arabs, they’d do everything they could to encourage dialogue, working together, trying to build a future.

    What they actually do is encourage the continuation of ‘the struggle’, the ongoing violence that damages Arab and Jew, and they do this because they have no connection or involvement with the region or the people, just a political or simply a racist agenda.

    White is a nobody. We shouldn’t give him this exposure – he’ll fade into obscurity where he belongs soon enough.

  9. The elaborate distortions and painful written contortions (read: lies) this “Ben White” goes to in order to bash Israel (and of course NO boycotts against Iran, Syria, Egypt, etc., etc.!) makes it amply clear where how to characterize HIM:

    Your basic antiSemitic racist asshole.

    Have a nice day Ben.

  10. Note the following:

    Now, what will Ben White and his fellow BDSers do about this?

    Will they urge a boycott of Gaza-grown strawberries because of the Israeli help in exporting them (and they should if they are to remain true to what passes for their “principles”) or will we see them wandering glassy-eyed outside shops which stock Israeli produce?

  11. When that moment comes and Ben White is at death’s door, he’s going to come across the realization that his whole life, washed in hate, has been a complete waste. He will realize that his efforts had only retarded the freedom of millions, and that his screeds, his essays, his entire purpose for living have been futile lies. Not only will Israel still be in existence, but poor Ben White will see a world that has turned its back on his nasty hate mongering bullshit.

    Consequently, when I die, I will know that Israel is still alive, and that Ben White, despite his great efforts to be taken as a serious philosopher and social student, is laughed at and joked about repeatedly.

    To each his own, I guess.