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. 



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