Ben White begins North American speaking tour in the face of opposition

on 23 Comments

British author Ben White begins his U.S./Canada speaking tour “Israel: Apartheid Not Democracy” this week in the United States. White will be visiting 13 different locations between November 11 – 25.

In a recent interview White told me that:

I hope that through this tour, students will be able to grasp aspects of Israel’s apartheid regime that are typically not reported or much discussed, and that in learning about the reality on the ground, will also be motivated to take action on campus in solidarity with Palestinians. “

Over a week before the tour began, opposition to his talk at Brooklyn College hit the NY Daily News.

Many times opponents to the Apartheid argument will point to how well Palestinians in Israel have it in comparison to other places in the Arab world as a point of deflection. To this point, White responds:

“This comparison is a transparent distraction – the comparison is not between a Palestinian in the Galilee and an Iraqi in Baghdad, but between the Palestinian citizen in Haifa and the Jewish Israeli who lives under the same regime but is granted privileges the Palestinian is not. From the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, the State of Israel affords and denies rights to Jews and Palestinians on a discriminatory basis, a result of the state’s settler-colonial past and present.”

Above is a short video interview with White about his upcoming tour. For event information, see White’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

23 Responses

  1. Blaine Coleman
    November 10, 2013, 2:07 pm

    Ben’s talks are good fuel for BDS activists on campus. The problem is that there are no BDS activists on campus, any campus, not since April 2013 in California.

    I am glad Ben is hoping that his talk will motivate students “to take action on campus in solidarity with Palestinians”; yes, of course I hope the same.

    But Ben spoke in March 2013 at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor to a roomfull of the most dedicated Palestine solidarity students from several Michigan campuses, and at least one Canadian campus. Afterwards, they never pushed for even the weakest BDS resolution, anywhere. They were thrilled to just pose for pictures with Ben and call that “activism”.

    It is now November 2013, and not a single visible campaign to boycott Israel exists on any campus in North America. Not in Michigan, either.

    Even if Ben bluntly urges the students to march into their student governments and demand Boycott-Israel resolutions, they won’t. And they will list a dozen “strategic” reasons why now is “not the right time”. They will tell you that instead they are “organizing smart”. They will tell you they are “building bridges”.

    Even if Ben offers to personally lead them into their own student governments and speak for their boycott resolutions, nobody will accompany him.

    After 2001, where has there been a single group of students with the self-confidence to demand Boycott-Israel resolutions on any campus, in any sustained way? The tiny handfull of exceptions (California, Wayne State, DePaul, UMich-Dearborn) last for no longer than a snowflake on a hot day. Compare that to the last decade of feverish campus campaigns to boycott Coke, Adidas, and fossil fuels– to alleviate oppression that’s not one-tenth of the brutish strangulation visited on Gaza.

    Speeches like Ben’s (even with his nice clear slideshow) simply will not move the students to demand boycott resolutions.

    Israeli massacres of Gaza and Lebanon won’t move the students to demand boycott resolutions. These students are permanently paralyzed when it comes to demanding boycott against Israel. Privately, they grin for photos with their fellow BDS supporters — and this is the sum total of the “BDS movement” on campuses.

    Too bad for Gaza, but there is a silver lining: happy party times for U.S. BDS supporters at their conferences, once a year. Good luck, Ben. Those students grinning for photos with you are never going to demand BDS in real life, on any campus.

    • Stephen Shenfield
      November 10, 2013, 4:45 pm

      Why in your opinion are students so reluctant to support BDS? Would they react differently if the demand was not for a boycott but for withdrawing US aid from Israel and using the money for urgent domestic needs? That would make it possible to appeal to the direct self-interest of ordinary Americans — even those who don’t care very much about the plight of Palestinians.

      • Blaine Coleman
        November 10, 2013, 6:43 pm

        To Stephen:

        The students are not shying away from a certain type of demand against Israel. They are terrified of making any demand against Israel, any demand at all.

        Honestly, the only students who give a damn about Palestine are Arab students. They are best able to articulate what’s been done to 300 million Arabs by Israel. They feel the humiliation. They flock to Arab comedy shows to laugh bitterly at themselves. They also fear what the Zionists might do them, whether in Ann Arbor or in Gaza City.

        The humiliation shakes their confidence to speak publicly. And they fear being called anti-Semites, being barred from every job, thus being effectively prevented from marrying and living a normal life. The victimization (and later academic careers) of the UC Irvine students shows that they are right (and wrong) to be so afraid.

        Those students who have every reason to feel safe, and protected by their white privilege, don’t give a rat’s ass about Palestine. So they also won’t make public demands against Israel — even though it would cost them nothing to speak up.

        Until they were led by Black students, the Civil Rights and Black Power movements simply had no spirit, no loud confident voice. White liberals had no spirit or ability to do much.

        But with self-confident Black leadership, the Black Freedom movement went far. They had a big enough heart to inject the issue of Palestine into U.S. political discourse too, starting in the summer of 1967.

        Until Arab students can publicly demand action against Israel, saying “Boycott Israel” or “Cut all Ties to Israel”, or whatever, even a million Mondoweiss web sites won’t liberate Palestine.

        Do you remember the 4 Black students who started the 1960’s, with the lunch counter sit-ins? They were afraid of being killed or arrested — but they were not. And they saved Black America.

    • W.Jones
      November 10, 2013, 6:52 pm

      I think you are partly realistic, but partly over-pessimistic. Every bit promoting human rights helps activate human rights.

    • Ladidah
      November 11, 2013, 5:18 am

      That’s bogus, Blaine. In the first place, all of the divestment resolutions passed on campuses around March/April of this year (2013) in California and numerous other places (for example, in Canada, BDS resolutions were passed at numerous campuses including by Canada’s largest student union, the York Federation of Students) happen at the culmination of an academic year’s worth of activity.

      So the campaigns for resolutions that students are working on now, building alliances, informing and educating will be bearing fruit, once again, in March/April/May 2014, at the end of this academic year.

      Please stop slagging off student efforts about which you are clearly uninformed and attacking what is apparently one of the most active and largest sectors of the Palestinian and solidarity movement working for BDS and for Palestine. It is utterly mysterious why you are spreading negative misinformation and denying the existence of active student campaigns on numerous campuses.

      • Blaine Coleman
        November 11, 2013, 7:41 am

        A response to “LaDiDah”:

        Yes, I was very happy to see the York Federation divestment resolution, which was in March 2013. I was also thrilled to see the California divestment resolutions which followed it in April and May, and I hoped they would become a nationwide trend. Yet they only spread to one campus — DePaul.

        As you say, there are many, many campuses with some students who (privately) support BDS. Is that the”movment” you speak of? Certainly it must feel like a movement to those SJP-ers who privately meet with each other.

        Were gay bars in the 1950’s a Gay Liberation Movement? No, they were secretive places, living in fear of public disclosure, certainly lacking the backbone to demand their rights as normal human beings — exactly like today’s BDS “movement”. It exists under a rock, not proudly in public view from September through September on every big campus — as it should do.

        And yes, I agree with you that this year promises to be like last year — a handful of divestment campaigns at the tail end of the last semester of the school year.

        Where the hell are they from September through February? “Strategizing”? “Building Bridges”? “Educating”? Yes, I know what that means – essentially private events for themselves and their personal friends to comfort themselves over the daily loss of Palestine.

        You are right — there will be a little flurry of divestment campaigns in “March/April/May 2014, at the end of this academic year” — so that when the Zionists start screaming, their victims can simply flee the campus or graduate and disappear. This is a strategy to AVOID campus debates all year.

        I guess I should be grateful for the handful of April heroes on a handful of campuses. But that is no national movement, it has no national energy, no natioanl public backbone, and scarcely anyone with a real name that is publicly pushing for it from September through February.

        For example, your screen name is “La-Di-Dah”. I understand the need for anonymity: Arab students are victimized for speaking out for Palestine; but at some point paranoia and paralysis make BDS into an underground whisper when it should be a proud nationwide shout.

        Consider the acronymn “BDS”. It is still a secret handshake, not a national shout. 99% of the population has no idea what BDS even means. Why not simply say “Boycott Israel” or something else that is comprehensible?

      • Ladidah
        November 11, 2013, 7:11 pm

        “Yes, I was very happy to see the York Federation divestment resolution, which was in March 2013. I was also thrilled to see the California divestment resolutions which followed it in April and May, and I hoped they would become a nationwide trend. Yet they only spread to one campus — DePaul.”

        As I already said, these resolutions come in March, April and May because they are the culmination of an academic year’s work, an academic year that begins in August or September. You will again see a similar flurry of activity in March, April and May 2014 because of the education, alliance building and other organizing being done by SJPs on campus now, including these events.

        “As you say, there are many, many campuses with some students who (privately) support BDS. Is that the”movment” you speak of? Certainly it must feel like a movement to those SJP-ers who privately meet with each other.”

        This is really strange. It is odd that you, as a non student of many years are dedicating yourself to attacking students who are holding public events like the tour being discussed here, holding Palestine Awareness and Israeli Apartheid Weeks, educating their fellow students on Palestine and BDS. None of that is private. SJP conferences and meetings are in fact for students for justice in Palestine and not for those who seek to lecture students from on high. That’s not a shameful fact.

        “Were gay bars in the 1950′s a Gay Liberation Movement? No, they were secretive places, living in fear of public disclosure, certainly lacking the backbone to demand their rights as normal human beings — exactly like today’s BDS “movement”. It exists under a rock, not proudly in public view from September through September on every big campus — as it should do.”

        That is just totally bogus. You are posting this on what is literally a post about a PUBLIC SPEAKING TOUR IN SUPPORT OF BDS BEING HOSTED BY SJPS saying that SJPs aren’t speaking about BDS in public. I am not going to do research for you, so I would suggest you read the frequent coverage at this very website on the various activities and campaigns being undertaken by students. Note that as I write, Right to Education Week is being launched and students across North America are holding educational events about Palestinian right to education and how Israel is denying those rights, and what can be done about it – isolating Israel. If you have doubts that these events are happening, visit some SJP facebook pages. They’re being publicly advertised all over the place on campuses. Just because you refuse to look doesn’t mean that others aren’t organizing.

        “And yes, I agree with you that this year promises to be like last year — a handful of divestment campaigns at the tail end of the last semester of the school year.”

        No, it’s called building alliances and coalitions throughout the school year to build strong support and mutual alliances against oppression and in support of BDS.

        “Where the hell are they from September through February? “Strategizing”? “Building Bridges”? “Educating”? Yes, I know what that means – essentially private events for themselves and their personal friends to comfort themselves over the daily loss of Palestine.”

        THIS IS A PUBLIC SPEAKING TOUR THAT YOU ARE COMPLAINING ABOUT. If you think that some mysterious Action X that does not include things like Ben White’s speaking tour is THE WAY TO STRUGGLE, suggest that you take it on rather than attempting to vilify others.

        Finally, we’re talking about BDS on a specialized news site about Palestine. At the events being written about in this story, students and Ben White will speak about boycotting Israel.

        Oh, and no, I’m not sorry for being anonymous on the Internet. I would suggest, however, that real name or not, those who dedicate their attention to smearing SJP activists in the name of “BDS” should reconsider who their enemies are.

      • Blaine Coleman
        November 12, 2013, 6:28 am

        In response to “Ladidah”:

        Thank you for all those words, but there was still no answer to the only important question:

        Where is the campus that actually features a visible movement pushing for a boycott against Israel? Where?

        P.S.: All that talk about busy-busy-busy SJP activists (who truly cannot be seen or found from September until March) is not a good answer. All those alliances being built! All those public speaking tours!

        Yes, I went to the last public speaking tour at the University of Michigan, which was attended by nobody from the public.

        That event featured Ben White, Max Blumenthal and professor Camelia Suleiman last March. The small room looked packed, but it had maybe eight University of Michigan students — who were already in and around the local equivalent of SJP. The rest had driven long distances from other existing SJP’s. Not one soul wandered in from the public, except for a handful of peace activists from the 1950’s and early 1960’s who always show up to these things. There was zero media coverage, even from the campus newspaper.

        The event flyer had been emailed on an apparently need-to-know-basis. Over a few days, an already weak flyer was further watered down, so finally it was called “Deconstructing Israeli Democracy: Apartheid, Zionism, Women’s Movements by Ben White, Max Blumenthal, and Dr. Camelia Suleiman.”

        Not one word from any speaker mentioned divestment or boycott or sanctions against Israel. I entreated the speakers before the beginning of their talks to please put in a good word for boycotting Israel. They all seemed to agree– but none breathed a word about BDS until the end, at which point I was passing them notes to please ask for boycott, and the video feed was about to shut off.

        At that point, Max took my note and passed it to Ben. Then Ben said a few positive things about the BDS movement, and everyone left to go home.

        That was in March 2013. At no time from September to May of that school year was there the slightest squeak on that very large campus demanding any boycott, divestment, or sanctions against Israel. Also no squeak for BDS this year, and Thanksgiving is almost upon us.

        That is typical of the BDS-free “BDS movement” you speak of. Sure, it’s better than nothing, but it doesn’t possess the self-confidence to simply demand a boycott against Israel, period. Not a single student in the United States does, on any campus.

        That’s really a shame, after 11 years of national divestment and BDS conventions. So we all wait until Spring of 2014 for a handful of divestment resolutions on a few campuses. Then we wait for Spring of 2015.

        Is that a movement? What if the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement had looked like that, terrified of its own shadow? Mississippi would still be enslaved.

    • just
      November 11, 2013, 7:43 am

      Why are you so fulsomely critical about the efforts of students? As far as I am concerned, they are leading the charge of BDS, just as they did with SA.

      How about criticizing our enabling Congress and other compliant adults for their lack of participation and informed activism wrt the grotesque abuses of Israel? Ben White, Jimmy Carter, MW, Alice Walker, Roger Waters, Max Blumenthal, Codepink and many others are spreading the truth. Please try to do the same.

      To put it more plainly, criticism of the students is unfair and misplaced. I’m sure that you know that you can attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

      • Blaine Coleman
        November 11, 2013, 7:56 am

        Dear “just”:

        You claim students are leading the charge for BDS. If only they were!

        As examples of this student movement, you name a handful of non-students who are largely elderly and usually wavering on BDS.

        I ask again, can anyone name the North American campuses where students are publicly pushing for divestment or boycott resolutions against Israel, this semester? I hear only silence from September until March, almost every year.

        Every day I am in a state of disbelief over that campus silence. Although, yes, you are right: BDS-supporters would rather be praised for their underground private meetings, where they tell each other that BDS is a good thing.

        But private meetings are no movement. The biggest of them all just concluded at Stanford – a national Palestine solidarity conference. Nationwide, it got one piece of news coverage: one news article in the Stanford Daily. After 11 years, is that all Palestine gets on U.S. campuses? One article?

      • NorthCascadian
        November 11, 2013, 10:07 pm

        I just want to agree with Blaine Coleman. Here in Portland “The BDS Movement” studiously avoids calling for a “Boycott of Israel”. Right now, the destruction of Brand Israel is as easy as its ever going to be, no need for “targeted campaigns” Lets just start talking about what a nightmare Israel is, in all kinds of ways, stickers, flyers, buttons. Lets start asking who are the “arch zionists” on our college campuses, lets get their names out on the table. Lets start inviting the “hasbots” to actually defend the demented monsters occupying Palestine. Lets invite the liberal synagogues to hold events, start getting some material aid over to Gaza, maybe we could talk with the Birth Right/Wrong people to sneak some Palestinian back in….

  2. German Lefty
    November 10, 2013, 2:48 pm

    Oh, I wasn’t aware that Ben White is a Brit. I assumed that he is an “Ami”. Anyway, I hope that he will come to Germany, too. Perhaps he can bring our politicians to reason.

  3. seafoid
    November 10, 2013, 2:54 pm

    link to haaretz.com

    “North American Jews are realists. We acknowledge problems and seek solutions to strengthen our Jewish communities, Israel and the world around us. ”

    What if strengthening Jewish communities in the US means dumping Zionism?

    • bilal a
      November 10, 2013, 3:42 pm

      Zionism is a pseudo religion which is not easily ‘dumped’ without a spiritual replacement, hannah arendt:

      let me tell you of a conversation I had in Israel with a prominent political personality who was defending the – in my opinion disastrous – non-separation of religion and state in Israel. What [she] said – I am not sure of the exact words any more – ran something like this: ‘You will understand that, as a socialist, I, of course, do not believe in God; I believe in the Jewish people.’ I found this a shocking statement and, being too shocked, I did not reply at the time. But I could have answered: the greatness of this people was once that it believed in God, and believed in Him in such a way that its trust and love towards Him was greater than its fear. And now this people believes only in itself? What good can come out of that? Well, in this sense I do not ‘love’ the Jews, nor do I ‘believe’ in them; I merely belong to them as a matter of course, beyond dispute or argument.

      link to lrb.co.uk

      • tear-stained uzi
        November 11, 2013, 12:57 am

        Where, o where, is the Jewish Dr. Martin Luther King, who will lead his troubled flock to the True Zion of the spiritual realm, not this false idol of already-inhabited real estate?

        (Probably he sits in a cage, waiting to be deported as a schvartze “infiltrator.”)

      • seafoid
        November 11, 2013, 9:20 am

        MLK was a leader of oppressed people. Israel needs someone with balls to lead smug oppressors out of their nation’s death spiral.
        Someone like De Gaulle.
        All they have is Peres, who’s Walmart quality when they need Cartier.

      • just
        November 11, 2013, 9:54 am

        Peres is more like Dollar Store expired goods.

        Otherwise, your comment is spot on, and appreciated.

      • seafoid
        November 11, 2013, 1:25 pm

        He reminds me of this bumper sticker

        link to northernsun.com

      • just
        November 11, 2013, 3:21 pm

        LOL!

      • seafoid
        November 11, 2013, 5:13 pm

        They used to have a t-shirt with the same slogan. I bought one and it’s wearing well.

      • just
        November 11, 2013, 5:51 pm

        You never cease to bring a smile, a nod, and wonderful surprise to my day.

        thanks, seafoid.

  4. Memphis
    November 10, 2013, 5:44 pm

    4 speaking engagements in the Greater Toronto Area. SMH

    Ben, You should have done 2 in Toronto, 1 in Montreal, and 1 in Ottawa (where I live, would like to have seen this)

  5. Blaine Coleman
    November 12, 2013, 9:10 pm

    To “LaDiDah”,

    The core problem is that SJP’s are terrified of living through a “controversy” from September thru March, every year. So they stall until April (or never) before asking for any divestment resolution.

    But “controversy” is the way you get heard! Who would even know about the Brooklyn College event without that “controversy” that advertised it?

    Since the SJP’s have no experience facing “controversy” (that means screaming Zionists), they don’t know that it’s really possible to ignore the bastards. Just turn your back and keep demanding boycott.

    It’s untrue that campus divesmtment campaigns are impossible before April. You don’t need September thru March to educate with tiny events that no one sees or hears. You need September thru March to loudly educate by demanding boycott, and then letting the Zionsts scream as loud as they like. That gets the slogan “Boycott Israel” into the campus paper.

    But if there’s no audible noise on campus against Israel all year long, no real “alliance building” and “educating” can be happening, can it?

    Tell me, can you imagine if the whole 1960’s had consisted of silent “alliance building” and invisible “educating” — would any Black person be allowed to vote in Mississippi, even today?

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