Tag Archives: Ben White

Just another anti-Zionist at Amnesty? [Updated]

As the Jerusalem Post reported last week, an employee of Amnesty International in London has attracted much criticism for a tweet that, disguised as a joke, suggested that three Jewish members of the British parliament supported a massive bombing campaign of Gaza.

The offensive tweet was soon deleted, and as of this writing, the Amnesty employee in question, Kristyan Benedict, has refrained from posting new tweets; Amnesty also has reportedly “distanced itself from the tweet and said the matter has been referred to its internal, and confidential, processes.”

While it is certainly welcome that Amnesty seems to be taking this incident serious, it is also clear that Benedict has a long record of rhetoric and conduct that reflects a deep hostility to Israel. Indeed, media reports on this incident note that “Benedict’s Twitter feed is a litany of [one-sided] criticism of Israel” and that there have been previous incidents that caused controversy and resulted in disciplinary action.

Benedict’s recent tweets offer a large choice of examples that illustrate his hostility to Israel, and his re-tweet of the view of an American-Syrian activist who claimed that “Assad and the IDF fear nonviolent resistance more than anything” on November 20 provides just one indication of this deep-seated resentment.

Unsurprisingly, Benedict also has a long record of organizing Amnesty events that provide a platform for anti-Israel activists like Ben White.  One should imagine that it was inconceivable that Amnesty would repeatedly promote an activist who started his “career” by declaring that he could understand why some people are antisemitic and who has single-mindedly devoted all his adult life to delegitimizing Israel – an activity that most antisemites will enthusiastically applaud – but unfortunately, one would be wrong.

Inevitably, Amnesty has often been criticized for the “ideological bias and double standards” that are all too often revealed in the organization’s work on Israel. Kristyan Benedict seems to have been doing his share to maintain Amnesty’s well-deserved reputation of a bias against Israel, and apparently, Amnesty sees no problem with employing a person who seems to believe that the world would be a better place if there was one Jewish state less.

A study conducted a few years ago indicated that “anti-Israel sentiment consistently predicts the probability that an individual is anti-Semitic, with the likelihood of measured anti-Semitism increasing with the extent of anti-Israel sentiment observed.” Needless to say, there is a heated debate about related questions and, in particular, the overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Unwittingly, Benedict’s “joke” about three British-Jewish MPs supposedly rooting for a massive bombing campaign on Gaza provides yet another example supporting the argument that anti-Zionists face a slippery slope. As somebody working for a human rights organization on Israel, Benedict could be expected to know that a person can be a Jew without being religious. Yet, responding to criticism of his tweeted “joke,” Benedict pretended that it was just “coincidental” that he had named three Jewish MPs since he focused on “views not religion.”

In other words, for Amnesty International staff member Kristyan Benedict, it’s OK when Jews identify as a religious group, but when they identify as a people – as Jews have since antiquity – and claim a right to self-determination and a right to self-defense, malicious ridicule and libel is in order.

I think it’s fair to assume that Amnesty wouldn’t tolerate comparable views about the Palestinians whose sense of peoplehood is barely 100 years old.

As Hillel Halkin noted in a review of Shlomo Sand’s bizarre ruminations on the “Invention of the Jewish People:”

“Once upon a time, antisemitism consisted of the belief that the Jews were an incorrigible and pernicious people who could never be absorbed by other peoples. Today, it is trendy to hold that they are a non-people masquerading as a people in order to justify stealing another people’s homeland.”

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog.

UPDATE:

Yesterday, it was widely reported that a Dutch television program had broadcast a “satirical” clip – which was made very skillfully and looked entirely authentic – showing Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu welcoming Hilary Clinton in Jerusalem and announcing, while she is politely listening,

“One of the things we are trying to do [in Gaza] is maximize the number of civilians casualties […] We prefer that. I know that you understand this, but if not: this is something I don’t have to explain to Americans, President Obama, you, and the international community.”

Jewish leaders and organizations have expressed concern about the clip and Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League noted that “those who are misinformed, or those who already hostile to Israel, will believe that this video is real.”

Foxman has a point – and Ben White, the activist repeatedly promoted by Amnesty, demonstrated one more time that he is among those “who are misinformed” and “already hostile to Israel.”

So far, 14 people have re-tweeted this tweet which, after all, fits nicely with the kind of anti-Israel propaganda White is relentlessly churning out — sometimes supported and promoted by Amnesty International.

UPDATE 2:

Shortly after I posted the update above, Ben White claimed in a tweet to me that he “really didn’t think it [i.e. the Dutch clip] was real.”

In response, I noted that he had not only failed to indicate in any way that he realized it was meant as a parody, but that the clip could actually be understood as a parody of himself and his supporters: after all, White has by now spent almost a decade frantically promoting Palestinian propaganda about supposed Israeli atrocities and the idea that Israel is evil incarnate. There is precious little difference between the image of Israel promoted by White and the tasteless “parody” broadcast on Dutch TV.

Unsurprisingly, the only response White could think of was to block me from following his Twitter account – which I hadn’t followed anyway.

Bigoted Double Standards: Ben White hits rock bottom for BDS

Staunch anti-Israel activist Ben White has been busy recently advocating a boycott of a performance by Israel’s Habima Theatre during the Globe Theatre World Shakespeare Festival in London. As I have noted in a related post, the campaign against Habima is part of the broader BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) efforts that have targeted Israel in order to delegitimize the Jewish state for the sake of “a world without Zionism.”

While it is therefore hardly surprising when BDS activists appeal to antisemitic sentiments, Ben White, who has a BA in English Literature from Cambridge University, has generally tried to present himself as a somewhat more sophisticated advocate of the Palestinian “cause” – at least if the Palestinian cause is defined as requiring nothing more than attacking Israel.

But the mask seemed to slip when Ben White posted the following tweet:

The picture he linked to is from a tweet posted by the San Francisco Voice for Israel (Bay area chapter of StandWithUs):

Ben White has since seen no reason to apologize for this tweet; indeed, people who challenged him got only evasions and childish LOLs in response.

 

The question whether Ben White’s suggestion that “a picture of Howard Jacobson’s face” provides “another reason to support a boycott of Habima” is a clear-cut example of antisemitism has been debated hotly on Harry’s Place, where Joseph W. argues – convincingly, in my view – that

“Ben White appears to be linking Howard Jacobson – an English Jew – and Israeli Jewish Habima actors, by aesthetics and looks. If you are aware of the history of antisemitism, you will know that a great deal of attention was given to the physical appearance of Jews, who were portrayed as people whom one could legitimately hate based on how they look.

[…]

Only a racist and an antisemite, could look upon the face of one Jew, tell others to look upon the face of this Jew, hoping that they would hate it so much, that they would choose to boycott other Jews.”

It is clear that Ben White isn’t much bothered by these arguments, and it’s easy to see why: in the milieu he moves as an activist, accusations of antisemitism are either regarded as “a badge of honour” or easily dismissed with a tweet that includes  #wtf and #lol.

But there is another dimension to this episode that is worth pondering: if pro-Palestinian campaigner and BDS activist Ben White is “doing the right thing” when he suggests that “a picture of Howard Jacobson’s face” provides “another reason to support a boycott of Habima,” then surely anyone willing to stoop to this level could argue that a picture of Yassir Arafat provides “another reason to support” opposition to some Palestinian endeavor.

Anyone willing to stoop to Ben White’s level could then also argue that, given the official Palestinian show of appreciation for disgraced journalist Helen Thomas, a picture of her face provided a reason to oppose certain Palestinian projects. Indeed, since Thomas was honored for “supporting Palestine in the West,” a picture of her face should – according to Ben White’s “reasoning” – provide a perfectly valid reason to oppose Palestinian efforts to make their case in the West.

Ben White may smugly shrug off accusations of antisemitism, but the mask slipped nonetheless, because we all know how he and his fans would react if this kind of stupid and bigoted argument was used by anyone speaking out for Israel: there would be endless tweets with #hasbarafail and #hasbaralol and all the other mindless vitriol that is so popular among the Israel-haters that Ben White so tirelessly tries to mobilize.

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog

Targeting the Jewish State: the kind of culture BDS loves

As part of London’s Globe Theatre World Shakespeare Festival, Israel’s Habima Theatre will perform The Merchant of Venice in Hebrew on Monday and Tuesday of this week. A Palestinian theatre company from Ramallah has already given a performance of Richard II.

Unfortunately, it seems that so-called pro-Palestinian activists didn’t have much time to take pride in the Palestinian performance, because they have been terribly busy with an unsuccessful campaign to pressure the Globe Theatre into cancelling the Habima performance.

This campaign is part of the broader BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) efforts that have targeted Israel for quite some time in the hope to isolate and delegitimize the Jewish state.

While BDS advocates usually like to present themselves as defenders of Palestinian rights who only oppose Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, most of them actually oppose Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

A good example is anti-Israel activist Ben White, about whom I have already repeatedly written (there is also a recently posted list of some of his more openly antisemitic views at Harry’s Place).  In April, White penned a piece published in the New Statesman, where he attempted to explain “Why a cultural boycott of Israel is justified.”

White notes in this piece that “a common objection to cultural boycott (or BDS in general) is some version of ‘Why Israel’s musicians and not China’s?’” His response to this question is simple: “Boycott is a strategy, not a principle.”

So here we have it: BDS happens to be a “strategy” that singles out the Jewish State – supposedly because of the occupation of the West Bank, but in reality, as Ben White’s own writings illustrate so well, because activists like him want “a world without Zionism.”

While White himself may be too sophisticated to shout this out loud, many of his fellow-BDS activists are more outspoken.  Here is London BDS ranting about the upcoming Habima performance:

“Zionism is a murderous, parasitic political doctrine and what the apartheid Zionist state is doing to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank is monstrous. Apartheid Israel is trying to whitewash their crimes by sending cultural representatives to these shores that include the Jerusalem Quartet (disrupted in London and Brighton), The Jerusalem Trio (picketed), the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (performance ‘enhanced’) and now – Habima.

The Palestinian people are undergoing a slow-motion genocide courtesy of Israel. Their land is being stolen, homes bulldozed and movement controlled. Palestinians who peacefully protest are met in force by Zionist soldiers and settlers who don’t hesitate to shoot on sight – and Israelis who maim or kill Palestinians are rarely punished. Not long ago, Palestinians who had no weapons other than their own bodies went on highly publicised hunger strikes to protest Zionist barbarity.

Zionists in turn are gnashing their teeth and wailing that any disruption is wrong and call those who take action, “cultural terrorists.” That is how the mind of the Zionist thinks; they accuse others of being racists and terrorists, but as their words and actions last Tuesday in support of racist Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman prove, they themselves are the most hateful people imaginable.

[…]

Habima’s performance was supported by a few unenlightened has-beens seeking publicity, the most well-known being Maureen Lipman and Howard Jacobson. One has to ask if Lipman and Jacobson, along with their fellow do-gooders, would have supported the Nazi-sponsored Berlin Philharmonic’s concerts in pre-war London or embraced performances funded by the racist apartheid South African government.”

Is there any antisemite out there who wouldn’t whole-heartedly agree with this vicious rant?

 

Apartheid activists unmask themselves

Once again, anti-Israel activists are busy organizing their annual “Israel Apartheid Week” hullabaloo, which they apparently hope to stretch out over some three weeks from mid-February to early March.

It is a pathetically undignified spectacle – indeed, if the intention was to discredit the Palestinian cause, it wouldn’t be all that easy to come up with something more embarrassing.

As Professor Gideon Shimoni, who authored a book about the Jewish community in apartheid South Africa, has pointed out, it is utterly disingenuous to transform “the term ‘apartheid’ from the description of a singular historical phenomenon in a particular time and place – South Africa from about 1948 to 1994 – into a generic concept. This deceptive device functions much like use of the term ‘holocaust’ to describe any and all human disasters.”

Shimoni also emphasized that there can be no comparison between the conduct of the African National Congress (ANC) and the PLO and other Palestinian factions:

“In South Africa the blacks started with a tradition of non-violent resistance. They tried in every peaceful way to argue their case, only turning to violence as a last resort, because the other side refused to negotiate. Even when the African National Congress (ANC) turned to violence, its nature was incomparable with the barbarically indiscriminate practice not only of the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad but even of the PLO. […] Comparing the Palestinian struggle to that of the ANC is an absolute insult to the latter’s historical record.”

Moreover, Shimoni argued that

the Israel=apartheid fallacy can serve as a litmus test for distinguishing between those who are hostile to Israel’s very existence and those who are conscientious critics of the policies and actions of Israel’s governments and public.

This is a crucial point, because all the activist verbiage about “legitimate” Palestinian rights, justice and equality cannot obscure the fact that those who have made a career of demonizing Israel as an apartheid state plainly share the Iranian president’s view that Palestinian “rights” will only be fully realized in a “world without Zionism.” In other words, this view posits that the realization of Palestinian rights requires the denial of the Jewish right to self-determination and the abolition of the Jewish state.

But professional demonizers of Israel like Ali Abunimah tend to tailor their message. When Abunimah addresses a broader audience, he will emphasize “Palestinian rights and international law,” but when he addresses primarily his faithful fan club, he will leave no doubt that “apartheid”-activists like him have no interest in a Palestinian state alongside Israel:

As these tweets demonstrate nicely, Israel doesn’t have to do anything to be demonized: the fantasies of Ali Abunimah are enough to get him going.

In the screenshot above, you also see a retweet from benabyad, aka Ben White, a fellow-blogger at Ali Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada and author of a book on “Israeli Apartheid.” White tweeted his pride in being quoted in a Knesset debate by MK Hannen Zoabi, who contributed a Foreword to his most recent book – which is in itself a splendid illustration of “Israeli Apartheid:” an Arab – excuse me: Palestinian – MK who, with impunity, spends a lot of time engaging in activities designed to undermine the state in whose parliament she is serving, all the while complaining about discrimination… Where else in the Middle East could she do this?

Ben White is of course also convinced that there shouldn’t be a Jewish state in any borders – indeed, his CV consists only of anti-Israel activism – but he often prefers to put it in a less than straightforward way. For example, when he was recently interviewed on the website Jadaliyya, he was asked what audience he was trying to reach with his new book and what impact he hoped for:

I hope that this book can be a useful resource for university students, and also for human rights/solidarity activists, seeking to have a better grasp of Israel’s discriminatory policies towards Palestinian citizens. But I also would like this to be read by those people who have an interest in the issue or region as a whole, and who have never had a chance to seriously unpack the implications of Israel’s definition as a “Jewish and democratic” state. There are insights here, I believe, that are crucial for an approach to the conflict that realistically appreciates what it will take to reach a settlement.

As is evident from all of Ben White’s writings, the “approach” he hopes to popularize is one that demands the abolition of Israel as a Jewish state.

The interview is followed by a short excerpt of Ben White’s new book, which starts with these assertions:

The Negev, or al-Naqab in Arabic, is an area that has been consistently targeted by Israeli governments, along with agencies like the Jewish National Fund (JNF), for so-called “development,” i.e. Judaization. In parallel to the indigenous Bedouin Palestinians being expelled and forcibly relocated (see Chapter Two), private resources have been mobilized in order to “settle” the Negev with Jews.

Well, could there be anything more outrageous than Israel planning to develop part of the state’s underdeveloped territory???

Notice also that the Bedouin are now “Bedouin Palestinians” – and what should we make of the fact that Ben White is so utterly opposed to having Jews moving to the Negev? Sounds like he’s in favor of a Jew-free Negev, or maybe some kind of apartheid???

But what is perhaps particularly ridiculous is that Ben White hopes that his book will be read by people “who have an interest in the issue or region as a whole.” Follow benabyad’s (oh, the spell-check would prefer beanbag…) tweets for a few days, and you’ll see that he has absolutely no interest in the “region as a whole.” The region doesn’t exist for him, even the Palestinians exist only insofar as their affairs can be related to Israel – Ben White is truly a one-trick-pony, and for him, it’s all about the Jewish state.

So no, Ben White wouldn’t know a thing about the Bedouins in the Sinai, and since they are probably not “Bedouin Palestinians” and it would be tricky to blame any of their grievances on Israel, Ben White couldn’t care less. Oh boy, what he is missing – of course there could be an Israeli angle! As Amr Yossef explained in a Foreign Affairs article last September:

Ever since 1982, when Egypt restored its control over the Sinai Peninsula after 15 years of Israeli occupation, the Bedouin majority who live there have been framed by the government in Cairo as outlaws. They are culturally and ethnically apart from Egyptians of the Nile Valley and share largely nomadic and clan-based social connections that extend beyond national borders. Bedouins were also long suspected of being collaborators during the Israeli occupation, accused of taking jobs with Israeli companies and starting new businesses under Israeli control.

As a result, Sinai Bedouins have long faced state discrimination: Almost a fifth are refused Egyptian citizenship, and all are denied the right to own land for fear that they would resell it to Israelis. Bedouins are also excluded from Egypt’s mandatory conscription, prohibited from joining police or military academies or from holding key positions in Sinai’s two governorates.

These discriminatory policies have been compounded by economic marginalization. Only a tiny fraction of Bedouins were able to find work in Egypt’s tourism industry, the country’s largest economic sector. In fact, many Bedouins believe that they were better off in terms of employment, education, and medical services under Israeli administration.

No doubt, the Sinai Bedouins are desperately in need of being educated by Ben White. So here’s a worthy cause for the activist networks he relies on: organize a Sinai book tour for Ben White!!! But of course, he would consider this only if Israel re-occupied the Sinai…

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog

Ben White understands that he justified antisemitism

At the very beginning of his career as an anti-Israel activist and writer, Ben White published an article that asked: “Is It Possible to Understand the Rise in Anti-Semitism?”

Ben White’s answer was a definite “Yes”:

I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, yet I can also understand why some are. There are, in fact, a number of reasons.

After listing some of these supposed reasons, Ben White repeated in his conclusion:

I have just provided a by no means comprehensive list of reasons why “I can understand very well that some people are unpleasant towards Jews.” I do not agree with them, but I can understand.

Yesterday, Ben White tweeted:

So perhaps Ben White now understands that he justified antisemitism. It would be good if he also came to understand that the article he wrote some ten years ago was a remarkably fitting start to his career, because it revealed the hypocrisy that underlies his activism: if there can be “understandable reasons” for antisemitism, other expressions of racism and bigotry can be similarly justified.

But unsurprisingly, bigotry-justifier Ben White still seems to “understand” people who propagate antisemitic tropes, and apparently, he doesn’t mind to collaborate with them at all.

Amnesty UK endorses peace without Israel

It’s a tired old formula, but some just can’t let go of it: peace in the Middle East, and the world at large, requires doing away with the Jewish state. One of the most prominent proponents of this final solution of the Middle East conflict is Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has declared that “Iran believes that whoever is for humanity should also be for eradicating the Zionist regime (Israel) as symbol of suppression and discrimination.”

To give the assorted opponents of the right of Jews to self-determination in a state of their own a boost, Amnesty UK will host a “special launch” for the second book of hyper-active anti-Israel activist Ben White. His first book was – no prize for guessing – “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide.”

When this book came out in summer 2009, I analyzed some of White’s writings in a longer post concluding with this paragraph:

The views espoused by Ben White thus confirm the interesting analysis by Professor Shimoni who emphasized that “apartheid has become one of the world’s most potent defamatory code-words. Hence those who a-priori seek fatally to stigmatize Israel grasp it with alacrity as a weapon in the struggle to end its existence as a Jewish state. In a sense, the Israel=apartheid fallacy can serve as a litmus test for distinguishing between those who are hostile to Israel’s very existence and those who are conscientious critics of the policies and actions of Israel’s governments and public.

In his new book, White seems to offer a message that isn’t all that different from the one Ahmadinejad has propagated. While he ostensibly focuses on “Palestinians in Israel” (and the apartheid-like oppression they suffer…), his purpose has remained the same – and Amnesty UK is fully aware of it, since the organization announces on its website:

‘Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy’ is the new book by Ben White, and considers an issue neglected by the mainstream “peace process” and many commentators: the Palestinian minority in Israel.

What many in Israel call ‘the demographic problem’ White identifies as ‘the democratic problem’ which goes to the heart of the conflict: Israel’s definition not as a state of its citizens, but as a Jewish state.

With a foreword by Member of Knesset Haneen Zoabi, and endorsements by the likes of Prof. Ilan Pappe and Booker Prize-shortlisted author Ahdaf Soueif, White’s new book describes how a consistent emphasis on privileging one ethno-religious group over another cannot be seen as compatible with democratic values and that, unless addressed, will undermine any attempts to find a lasting peace.

So, no “lasting peace” as long as Israel is allowed to define itself as the world’s only Jewish state.

Anyone attending Amnesty’s “special launch” and eager to learn more about this final solution of the Middle East conflict will have the opportunity to acquire a signed copy of the book during “the drinks reception after the event.” Announcing the event, the book’s author tweeted:

@benabyadBen White

RSVP your place at my Amnesty book launch on 26/1 http://www.amnesty.org.uk/events_details.asp?ID=2127 & FB page here https://www.facebook.com/events/240197576052973/ <<< should be a good crowd :)

It should indeed be a “good” and very friendly crowd revelling in the echo-chamber atmosphere provided by the host, because “Amnesty International UK reserves the right to refuse entry to any person for any reason deemed appropriate by us, including […] any conduct that we consider would be disruptive or offensive.”

I suspect it might qualify as “disruptive,” maybe even as “offensive,” to point out that there are many minorities in the world that suffer from discrimination without having their own representatives serving as members of their country’s parliament and, as in Haneen Zoabi’s case, simultaneously engaging in writing and activism directed against the state whose citizens she is supposedly serving…

I have little doubt that it would be most definitely “disruptive” AND “offensive” to point out that some people will notice that when it comes to the Middle East, the kind of hostile activism MK Haneen Zoabi so energetically pursues is so far only possible in the Jewish state.

Yet, Amnesty UK is promoting a book that echoes the Iranian president’s view “that whoever is for humanity should also be for eradicating the Zionist regime (Israel) as symbol of suppression and discrimination.”

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Cross-posted from my JPost blog