The “Israel: Apartheid Not Democracy” lecture was produced by the UC Irvine Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). On Tuesday evening, a crowd filed into Donald Bren Hall 1600 with Ben White, the researcher and author from across the pond who is once again sharing his research on Palestinian life and what he has labeled an apartheid nation, a nation with systematic or political segregation on grounds of race.
At the front of the entry for the lecture hall, a table displayed Palestinian inspired jewelry and images that depicted flags and indigenous garments. President of SJP, Hannan Seivafi, was on double duty as she was stationed at the table informing onlookers about the items that were for sale, while also glad-handing the crowd as they entered the lecture.
White’s presentation was not a mild version of his accounts as his lecture dives into the poverty and communal distraught that White claims plagues the Palestinian people. With information coming from both of his books, “Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide” and “Palestinians in Israel: Segregation, Discrimination and Democracy,” White told a story about lives disrupted and uprooted as the hegemonic Israeli government continues to develop and consume more territory beyond the “Invisible Green Line,” land designated to the Palestinians in the 1967 agreements. In this lecture Israel is accused of masquerading as a democracy while its government moves as a dictatorship.
The Cambridge-educated researcher delivered background on the Palestinian people’s plight with images, as their villages were literally torn down by crews and developed new Israeli settlements. Along with photos of communities that look like areas hit after a series of tornados, White displayed maps that showed the Palestinian territories after the 1967 borders were set. He continued to show maps in succession that kept changing overtime and as he showed, the blue color, representing Israel, continued to grow while the red representing Palestine slowly faded away.
According to White, in 1948 many Palestinian people lived through a mass exodus of their homes at the hands of Israel after it received its independence that same year. When the Israelis celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, or Independence Day, those at the other end of independence observe the Nakba, or Massacre Day. Nakba is the period when Palestinians were expelled from their demolished homes and in observance of the day, Palestinians visit the destroyed neighborhoods that was once occupied by Palestine. With the information that White puts forth, it appears that Nakba still exists in 2013.
The lecture showed that over time, the apartheid policies of Israel have continued to bombard the Palestinian people like a nation sanctioned by the United Nations. White informed the audience in the lecture that since South Africa’s apartheid ended, the word apartheid had not been in use by the UN until 1992 when laws that put segregation on the books appeared, like the Jim Crowe laws of the American South. The “Basic Law: Dignity and Liberty” of 1992 did just the opposite for the people of Palestine, White explained. The new statute allowed policy makers to continue generating hurtful laws like the Family Separation Laws that gave control of the government to separate Jewish Arab relations.
The lecture was keenly focused on the policies that had been doled out over the decades, which in the words of White were continually meant to allow one group of people to completely dominate another group of people with.
During the question and answer session, White took on a wave of questions that asked about Arab life in and around Israel, but was also directly confronted with a question about his alleged defense of former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he downplayed the Holocaust and threatened Israel’s national security. The questioner also asked the lecturer to explain when he said “well although I am not anti-Semitic myself, I could understand why some people are.” White respectfully denied the question an answer and pointed out that those questions had already been answered and were available for view on his website. After a review of benwhite.org.uk, it becomes clear that the answers to those questions were not available.