On the Middle East Monitor site, the freelance journalist and anti-Israel activist Ben White has written this piece about the recent disruption, by pro-Palestinian students, of an event hosted by the University College London Friends of Israel Society, at which the Israeli activist Hen Mazzig was the speaker. Some reports of what happened are available here, here (£), here, here, here and here. A cursory glance of White’s article will show that he puts a very different spin of events, essentially blaming pro-Israel activists for “smearing” pro-Palestinian students, rather than blaming the latter for the violent intimidation of the former.
Ben White, of course, has previous: he has (among many other things) claimed to “understand” why people may be anti-Semitic; he has seemingly decried police action against those planning to blow up a synagogue; he has called for a boycott of an Israeli theatre company on the basis of Howard Jacobson’s face; he has recently defended Malia “Zionist-led media” Bouattia. Yet even by his standards, his recent MEMO article is an absolutely shocking piece of “journalism”. Four comments will suffice:
(1) In his third paragraph, White cites UCL’s statement, dated 28 October, which described the protest as “non-violent”. However, he neglects to mention that UCL issued an update to their statement on 30 October, stating that they had indeed received allegations of violence and intimidation. Since White’s own piece is dated 2 November, it is difficult to see how he could have been unaware of the update – particularly as it is available at the same link as the original statement.
(2) Some of the very articles that White himself links to describe, among other things, how a female Jewish student was assaulted (i.e.: held against a door for two minutes); how the Friends of Israel group was forced to move from its original venue to a different room, and how its members were chased across the campus by pro-Palestinian students; how the speaker had to leave out of a rear entrance for his own safety; how pro-Israel students had to leave in threes, under the watchful gaze of the police, and then had the words “Shame shame” chanted at them. By any reasonable standards, these things constitute the violent intimidation of pro-Israeli students, not to mention the suppression of free speech on a university campus. Yet White simply airbrushes these details out of his account.
(3) White quotes a veteran pro-Israeli activist as saying that “I cannot in all honesty say I felt particularly threatened or anxious. It was pretty much water off the proverbial duck’s back.” Tellingly, however, he omits the same activist’s very next words: “However here is the rub. It was very real and intimidating for inexperienced Jewish students, especially the freshers, who had never experienced such visceral hate and nor of course should have to.”
(4) In summary, it is hard to resist the conclusion that Ben White has no objection to the violent intimidation of pro-Israeli students (and others) – most of whom will be Jews and which will include many if not most Jewish students – on a UK campus. He would rightly be appalled if pro-Palestinian students received similar treatment from pro-Israeli representatives. And yet he wonders why he himself is so frequently accused of being anti-Semitic.
James Mendelsohn lives in Leeds. He teaches Law for a living.