“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Ben White, Stop Digging.

with 12 comments

I feel a bit sorry for Ben White, not for his privileged upbringing or quality Oxbridge education, but rather for the fact that he is a bit of a political masochist and hasn’t learnt the expression, when in a hole stop digging.

White has an article on the Liberal Conspiracy blog, seemingly explaining his views and trying to put some distance between him and the Iranian President.

That is quite understandable and if Omar Khayyam could be persuaded otherwise I am sure that Ben White would like to erase his 2006 article on Ahmadinejad.

Readers will no doubt remember Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory speeches in 2006? And how it was fairly obvious that Ahmadinejad was indulging in populist racism.

Still, there were people who wished to see Ahmadinejad in a charitable light and explain away his views. Any number of quibbles were raised concerning his exact words and their translation into English, but what couldn’t be translated away was his sentiment.

Ahmadinejad’s excusers became less numerous as he invited the creme de la creme of holocaust deniers to Teheran for a denier’s get-together and hosted such notables as Faurisson, Duke and Renouf.

The excuse that Ahmadinejad was merely articulating “anti-Zionism” sounded pretty hollow when he received the applause of so many assorted and deranged neo-Nazis. Eventually, it became an untenable argument except for the most entrenched ideologue or bigot.

Now in 2009, belatedly, White admits Ahmadinejad’s racism, but plays a game with it. White accuses his critics of being “Israel’s apologists” and using “the cry of anti-semitism”. Many of these criticisms relate to White’s new book, and the pasting that it received at the end of Jonathan Hoffman’s pen.

White is clearly on the defensive and, conspicuously, does not acknowledge the numerous errors contained in the book, as highlighted by Jonathan Hoffman’s various critiques.

Nor does White admit, in the Liberal Conspiracy article his use of doctored quotes to bolster his arguments.

Instead White tries to play the victim, the honest author caught by the intrigues of the dastardly “Zionists”.

All in all, its a bit of a feeble ploy to distract attention from his faulty use of history, his propensity for political exaggeration and his lamentable research skills.

I do wish White would stop digging, as the hole he’s in is getting deeper and deeper.

Update: I had forgotten about White’s article in CounterPunch.

White explains how he understands antisemitism, which is not a promising start for someone who tried to explain away Ahmadinejad’s outbursts, then writes a book attacking Israel, containing doctored quotes which portray Israeli and Jewish leaders in the worst possible light.

Update 2: James Mendelsohn has a lovely post at Z-blog, I was struck by this:

“Of course, all of this begs the question: why does White treat all these sources as authoritative? After all, if you are aiming to write a ‘highly readable introduction’ for ‘beginners’, surely you owe it to them to use the most reliable sources possible; or, at the very very least, to give some sort of acknowledgement that the sources you do use have been (vigorously) contested.

White does neither, for which there can surely be only two possible explanations.

Either he knew that many of his sources are discredited but decided to cite them anyway – which would suggest a lack of integrity on his part.

Alternatively, it’s because he didn’t know that they were discredited, which would suggest he is not quite the specialist his own website suggests.

Either way, his use of these sources, without any qualifications or caveats, is a damning indictment of his work.”[my emphasis]

Update 3: Seismic covers White’s twists and turns in detail and shows where White gets his facts from, Roger Garaudy, a well known Holocaust denier.

Update 4:
Sourcing your material from a known Holocaust denier is not a sensible approach for someone claiming a degree of expertise in the Middle East, as Ben White does.

Still, less is it a shrewd idea after you’ve made a case about how it might be possible to “understand antisemitism”.

Certainly anyone with a modicum of knowledge would not touch Roger Garaudy with a bargepole, unless it was to explain what a thoroughly nasty piece of work he was.

Readers may remember Roger Garaudy, one time Marxist and PCF intellectual, who seemed to have flipped out years ago (I am grasping for a better explanation) and then became a leading Holocaust denier and fixture on the neo-Nazi circuit

Garaudy publishes his racist filth via IHR’s journal.

This is a selection of Garaudy’s revisionist view of history:

“Following are excerpts from an interview with French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy, which was broadcast on Iranian TV Channel 1 on December 13, 2005.

Roger Garoudy: None of the well-known people who defeated Hitler and exposed his barbaric deeds said even a single word about gas chambers.

In Churchill’s Memoirs of the Second World War, in Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe, and in General de Gaulle’s memoirs there is no mention of this killing device.


The only film presented to the judges in the Nuremberg trials showed the Dachau gas chamber. The construction of the Dachau gas chamber was never completed, and it was never used. Since this gas chamber was never completed, yet the film presented at Nuremberg portrayed it as if it were completed, this film must have been a means of deception by American agencies stationed at Dachau.

This film is always shown to tourists, since the eye-witness testimony has already been accepted as fact, and the existence of gas chambers during the Third Reich is considered an indisputable fact. One must therefore conclude that no Jews or other prisoners were killed by poisonous gas – not in Dachau, Bergen, or Buchenwald.

[Archived at MEMRI, requires registration.]

This is the type of source that Ben White would quote.

Update 5: There’s a bit of a silly slanging match going on at Liberal Conspiracy, none of which addresses the issue of White’s doctored quotes and decidedly questionable sourcing methodology .

Update 6: Garaudy got worse, if that’s possible, according to Amir Taheri, he’s now a 9/11 truther:

“Garaudy asserts that the 9/11 attacks against New York and Washington were organized by the Bu(sic) administration. He also reasserts his belief that the genocide of Jews by the Nazis during the Second World War never happened and was “invented as a myth by Churchill, Eisenhower an De Gaulle” to justify the destruction and occupation of Germany.

Update 7: Liberal Conspiracy seems to be down for the moment, another link to White’s article is here.

Update 8:
There is still a debate going on at Mondoweiss, I rather liked this comment:

“Bennet · 3 days ago
Philip. there’s certainly a case of double standards by antizionists going on.

Firstly Mearsheimer and Walt refused to debate with anybody when they first published.

Ben White deleted a comment linking to Hoffman’s piece in White’s facebook page on his book and then threw the member out of the group.

War On Want refused to let Hoffman into the meeting.

The Jewish Socialist Group in the UK refused to circulate a discussion paper from a long-standing member because it was critical of Hizbolla.

The trade union Unison refused to let Trade Union Friends of Israel have a stall at conference even though they had previously always had a stall.

Mona Baker a UK boycott leader sacked the ex head of Amnesty Israel from the board of her translation journal because she was an israeli.

And the list goes on. So antizionists like to dish it out but as soon as people act in the same way or even just stand up for themselves then it’s an antizionist trait to claim they’re being silenced by the “zionist lobby.

So Philip – with the greatest of respect kindly stop wingeing and moaning like a spoilt brat who can’t stand other people having views. And if anti-zionists can’t take it then they shouldn’t be so hypocritical.

The claim of being silenced is an old antisemitic trait thatahas been used by far right opponents of Jewish communities for many years.”

Update 9:
JfJfP must be having a problem updating their web site, as they missed off the most recent critiques: More Damn Lies About Israeli “Apartheid” and More White Lies About Israeli “Apartheid”.

Update 10: I have a guest post on Engage relating to this topic.

Update 11: Petra Marquardt-Bigman’s contribution is worth reading in full, here’s a snippet:

“It is all too obvious that the term “apartheid” makes sense only if Israel, Gaza and the West Bank are assumed to be one legal unit, i.e. one state. Indeed, Ben White is an ardent advocate of the so-called “one-state solution” and he enthusiastically relies on writers who claim that this is an “ethical imperative.” As Ben White himself puts it: “To say that the ‘one-state solution’ is impractical or equals the ‘destruction’ of Israel is poorly concealed code for defending the indefensible and a recipe for continual conflict in a land it is impossible to partition.”

That’s plain enough: for Ben White, insisting on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is “defending the indefensible.”

It is interesting to note in this context that among Ben White’s first published articles there is a piece from 2002 that tackles the question if it is acceptable to “understand” why some people are antisemitic.

White’s stance involves some sophistry, because he pretends that there is no ambiguity to “understanding,” even though the term can obviously refer to a purely intellectual process that results in a rational explanation, or to an emotional process that results in sympathy.

In any case, White proceeds to list “a number of reasons” for antisemitism – which of course means that racism against other groups, like blacks or Muslims, could also be understood as having “reasons”… So would White accept the notion that the attacks of 9/11 provide a “reason” for anti-Muslim sentiments?

Would White accept the ultimately racist notion that the actions of some members of a group somehow provide “reasons” for prejudice and discrimination against the group as a whole?

What is sure is that when it comes to antisemitism, White thinks that “reason” number one is, unsurprisingly, “the state of Israel, its ideology of racial supremacy and its subsequent crimes committed against the Palestinians. It is because Zionists have always sought to equate their colonial project with Judaism that some misguidedly respond to what they see on their televisions with attacks on Jews or Jewish property.”

These few lines illustrate why White has been repeatedly suspected of antisemitism, and they also illustrate why he apparently doesn’t quite understand the reason for such accusations. To begin with, White seems to believe that if he says Israel has an “ideology of racial supremacy,” he is stating an obvious fact, and this of course implies that he believes that Jews define themselves as a “race”… Indeed, White also relies on this notion in order to justify his claim that Israel is guilty of practicing “apartheid.” “

Read more here.

Update 12: Seismic Shock again looks into Ben White and his theological underpinning in The Theology Behind the ‘Israeli Apartheid’ Gospel.

Update 13: Seismic points us to something White wrote previously and there is a curious usage of words:

“Popular struggle, like violent resistance, is not an end in and of itself; it is a method, a strategy. It is the end goal, decolonization and liberation from occupation and Zionist apartheid, that is ferociously opposed by the self-declared international guardians of the “peace process” and their friends in the Palestinian elite. The rest is just smoke and mirrors.”

“It is the end goal, decolonization and liberation from occupation and Zionist apartheid,”

If it were almost anyone else I might feel charitable, but is White talking about the “liberation” of existing Israel? Is that a euphemism, for something else?

If it were almost anyone else I might feel charitable, but is White talking about the “liberation” of existing Israel? Is that a euphemism, for something else?

And how does “decolonization” work an existing Israeli state, full of Israelis? Is he proposing to send them somewhere else?

I don’t know.

I suspect White doesn’t know either, my impression is that he writes half of this stuff without thinking it through. Perhaps I am being too charitable?

[Not sure that happened there with the funny characters, all fixed.]

Written by modernityblog

17/07/2009 at 23:07

12 Responses

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  1. […] article is analysed by Modernity here. White draws attention to a letter he put together with Philip Rizk on Israel’s 60th birthday, […]

  2. Is Liberal Conspiracy down at the moment?


    18/07/2009 at 13:45

  3. seemingly, I wonder who’ll get the blame?


    18/07/2009 at 13:59

  4. Thanks for the heads up 🙂

    I love this quote from White’s latest piece:

    ‘Israel’s apologists don’t actually want to have any meaningful discussions’

    Aah yes, this from a man who has turned off comments on his blog, thrown me off his Facebook group and never answers questions!!

    I wonder whether White would say: “The crusades were shameful, I don’t agree with hating Muslims, but I understand why some people do. Slavery was shameful, I don’t agree with hating black people, but I understand why some people do.” etc etc

    James Mendelsohn

    18/07/2009 at 22:26

  5. You are most welcome, James, I enjoyed your piece on Zblog, very sharp.

    I am afraid that White is playing the victim and such a role doesn’t suit him too well.

    I do wish he’d admit to being wrong and at least try to debate these issues. It is a shame that his expensive education is so obviously wasted.


    18/07/2009 at 22:59

  6. […] my own blog includes a few short pieces, not forgetting Liberal Conspiracy and […]

  7. Thanks for that Mod. It’s his propensity for big words like ‘morality’ and ‘justice’ that gets me. He’s clearly preaching…


    21/07/2009 at 14:25

  8. He’s not terribly good at arguing tho 🙂


    21/07/2009 at 14:31

  9. […] Mod continues his critique of the crank Ben White […]

  10. […] from various journalists who are renowned for having a certain chip on their shoulders, and Ben White is one of those, for […]

  11. […] Some may suggest that Ben White was being spiteful, inconsistent, non-Voltairian or just a small minded bigot. […]

  12. […] White, David Duke, Holocaust denial, Iran, Juan Cole, Naked Antisemitism 0 Over the years some strange individuals in the West were arguing essentially that ‘Ahmadinejad is misunderstood, that he really […]

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