The Guardian’s White Elephant

Ben White was back on CiF on August 17th with yet another anti-Israel diatribe, this time on the subject of the ‘colonisation’ of the Jordan Valley.

Taking a leaf from Neve Gordon’s book, he claims that Israel is ‘ethnically cleansing’ Bedouins  from the area, without addressing the real issues of illegal building without permits and land grabs  – in the case of Al Farsiya, in a military zone. Not content with that, he criticizes the existence of security check points within the region using a report by the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) as the basis for his argument. Yes; that is the same OCHA which permitted an announcement to be made on its official website lauding the anti-Semite Yasser Kashlak.

Ben White is obviously well aware that the type of audience which reads his CiF columns does not usually demand that his material come from objective sources, or that he present both points of view of an event or situation. Such pedantry would obviously dilute the concentration of the anti-Israel fix he strives to provide. Neither do most CiF readers demand that events be viewed in the context of documented history, which is probably something of a relief for a polemicist like White, as he would otherwise have been obliged to explain the whole issue of the Oslo accords and Area C (which includes the Jordan Valley), retained by Israel according to those agreements, which were signed in person by Mahmoud Abbas.  He would have had to elaborate on the subject of the five year transitional period before permanent status negotiations as specified in those accords and how the Palestinian decision to opt for terror prevented those permanent status negotiations from ever taking place.  Who knows; he may even have had to come to the conclusion that had the Palestinian Authority not chosen to renege on the agreements they had signed, or had accepted Clinton’s ‘Bridging Proposals’ in 2000,  the Jordan Valley would by now have been under their permanent control.

Such intricacies are, however, far too complicated for a one trick pony such as Ben White. He much prefers the tried and tested method of base sloganeering, as demonstrated in this article, employing phrases such as “land seizure and ethnic cleansing”, “colonies”, and “a stark example of Israeli apartheid”. No surprises there; we are all too familiar with White’s bigoted, if not downright anti-Semitic, descriptions of Israela nation he deems guilty of ‘ethnic cleansing’, ‘death marches’, ‘massacres’, ‘colonisation’, ‘racism’, and last but not least ‘apartheid’.  He has characterized Zionism as an ideology of extermination, has promoted sanctions and boycotts against Israel, advocated a one-state ‘solution’ and downplayed (or downright excused) Palestinian violence against Israelis many times before. We have even seen him express his belief that anti-Semitism is an “understandable” reaction to Israeli behavior, and sourcing material from a Holocaust denier for his book.

As Eric Lee so accurately puts it:

“But when you grieve over the suffering — the genuine suffering, I might add — of the Palestinians, but feel nothing in your heart for the suffering of the Jews; when every mention of the Israelis is entirely negative, portraying them as monsters — you are not longer a critic and instead have become a bigot.”

And this is precisely why Ben White is a white elephant – something which is of little use, yet costly to maintain. He contributes nothing of value in terms of contextualizing, or increasing our understanding of, the Middle East conflict. Worse still, he is costing the Guardian, and any other outlet for which he writes barrow-loads of credibility.  He is, at the end of the day, an unrepentant bigot whose opinions cast a very large shadow over the reputation of any serious organization which provides him a platform.

Let’s just imagine for a moment that Ben White’s pet hate was not Israel but, say, New Zealanders, Roma or homosexuals. Would he be allowed, and even encouraged, to write about those groups in such blatantly racist terms? Would he be permitted to make baseless accusations – of crimes, and moral failings – which stereotype an entire group? Would he be allowed to publicly promote vindictive sanctions against businesses run by the people he despises or suggest that their claim to equal rights should be ignored in favour of the rights of those who seek their destruction?

Obviously, the answer to all those questions is no. If he had tried to make a career out of demonizing any other race, nationality, ethnicity, or minority group, the Guardian would not touch him with the proverbial barge-pole, and War on Want and Amnesty International would have run miles from him, because to promote him would have been far too costly for their reputation and credibility, tainting them with the stench of such bigotry.

What those who employ and engage with Ben White apparently have yet to realise is that not only is the stench of hate impossible to disguise, even when sanitized with the room-freshener of ‘anti-Zionism, it also has a nasty habit of sticking to those who try to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

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