Friday, 21 January 2011

LSE Palestine Society Host Ben White

By Peter Stockwell
On Tuesday 18th January, the London School of Economics Palestine Society invited the author Ben White to come and give a talk titled, "Understanding Israel's policies of Apartheid and Exclusion." 

Ben White at the LSE

The talk was a great success attended by both outside and LSE students. 

Ben White is a freelance journalist and writer, specialising in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His first book, ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’, was published in 2009, receiving praise from the likes of Desmond Tutu and Nur Masalha. Ilan Pappe called White a “strong and clear voice”, while Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, described the book as “essential reading”.

Ben White divided his talk into three fundamental parts which he believes has helped in creating and maintaining the Israeli Apartheid Regime: Land & Privilege, Demolitions and a De Facto One State. 

Under the first point of "Land & Privilege" Ben White explored the Israeli strategy of "judaising' the Negev/Galilee, whereby 20% of the population are Palestinians, mainly because there are "too many of the wrong people in a particular area." The strategy of ensuring a "Zionist majority" was one initiated by the Jewish Agency in 2002 and endorsed by the Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister who claimed in 2009 that the "focus of today is to judaize the Negev and the Gailiee." 

Ben White also explored the concept of "settlements" whereby there are over 120 official colonies, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, fragmenting and colonising what would be considered in the future the Palestinian State. In these settlements the regime of separation and inequality is ensured: a prime example illustrated by Mr. White was that Israelis in the settlements are subject to Civil Law, compared to Palestinians who are subject to Military Law. This has been described by Human Rights Watch as "Systematic Discrimination", thus creating a two-tier system. 

Mr. White explored the question of the East Jerusalem where by 87% of land is unavailable for Palestinian construction, which the EU has described as "systematically undermining the Palestinians." Reference was also made to the Gaza Buffer Zone whereby 23 children were shot in the period between March - December 2010 alone. 

Demolitions are one way of ensuring apartheid. An example of Al-Arqaib was given, a village that has been demolished 9 times in the space of one year. In the West Bank, Israel has torn down 396 Palestinian structures in 2010 alone: leaving 561 homeless. The funny thing is, Palestinians must pay for the demolition of their own property. 

"Demolition of Palestinian homes is linked with Israeli Policy to control and colonise areas of the West Bank" 
Amnesty International  

Mr. White also touched on the semantics of the lexicon employed by Israel, i.e. Occupation. Surely, this suggests something short-term? Nonetheless, this supposed "occupation" started in 1967. Nothing temporary about this Israel. Mr. White argued that Israel has absorbed the West Bank into the very fabric of the Israeli Society, and thus the de facto creation of a "one-state". 


The talk ended with an emphasis on the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) Campaign, because, in the words of Yonathan Shapira (in his letter "Courage to Refuse");

 "It is no longer enough to try and change Israel from within. Israel has to be pressured in the same way apartheid South Africa was forced to change." 

because, "the oppressor doesn't give up power voluntarily." 

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