Watch: EI writer Ben White, Mustafa Barghouti trounce Israeli occupation functionary over segregated buses

Electronic Intifada writer and blogger Ben White appeared on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story with Mustafa Barghouti and Gregg Roman, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Pittsburgh.

The show, anchored by Mike Hanna, discussed Israel’s decision to implement segregated buses for Palestinian workers, a move compared to Jim Crow in the United States or apartheid in South Africa.

Responding to Roman’s claims that Palestinian workers were happy with the new system, White said:

It’s pretty rich for a defender of Israeli apartheid like Mr. Roman to exploit the economic desperation of an occupied, colonized people. This is a classic strategy and discourse in many colonial regimes. Mr. Roman probably doesn’t realize that he sounded very similar to the South African apartheid spokespersons in days gone by when he praises the economic opportunities afforded by the benevolent colonial power to the occupied people.

During the program, Mr. Roman identified himself as a former member of the “civil administration” meaning he was in fact a former functionary of the Israeli occupation regime in the West Bank, however he also denied the existence of occupation.

Viewer Kgaile Benjamin Mogoye commented during the show, “This brings back very painful memories of what Apartheid was to us as South Africans. We know the fallacy of ‘this is an improvement to your condition very well.’ Shame on the Israeli regime, and more shame on the US openly continuing to protect such a ruthless regime.”

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In order to avoid going round and round with the likes of Mr Roman about whether this is "like" Jim Crow and Apartheid or an aid to Palestinian workers, one must emphasize the wider point that White and Barghouti are making.
This is "already a system of Apartheid" and viewing segregated busing as mitigating the negative social forces with which a Palestinian must cope is like lauding his last meal as a just reward for being falsly condemned.
Why is seperate but equal better for a Palestinian? That is the question.

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This is what The Jewish Chronicle says about Gregg Roman, when he started working in Pittsburgh (U.S.A.) last October:

"He managed international civil coordination in the Palestinian territories, provided reports and analysis on the relationship between the IDF, the Palestinian Authority, and international bodies such as embassies and the United Nations." [1]

Today, website +972 Magazine reports that there is no such institution in Ramallah, but there is a Civil Administration in settlement Beit El nearby. [2] I'd like to know more about these activities, and how Mr. Roman sees them as "work[ing] side by side with Palestinians for three years". [14'03"] What exactly did he do? How is this not colonial?

Mr. Roman then worked at hasbara outfit Gloria Center (Herzliya). [3] shows him turning protests into violence, without specifying who fired the "tear gas" and "stun grenades", or why there was "one death" within the Gaza strip when "Israelis responded with non-lethal countermeasures", while "preventing infiltration of Israeli territory" clearly by intruding Gaza territory. Gregg Roman's current job is in the U.S.A.: explaining away Israeli apartheid. In the land of Martin Luther King jr. and Rosa Parks.

[1] http://thejewishchronicle.net/...
[2] http://972mag.com/watch-al-jaz...
[3] http://www.gloria-center.org/2...

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Three times Gregg Roman brings up death penalty for Palestinians in the West Bank. [08:40], "I believe segregation in of itself comes from the P.A. [...] If a Palestinian man wishes to sell a Jew his land, he'll face the death penalty." [22:10], "If a Palestinian sells his house [in the West Bank] to a Jew he will face the death penalty from the Palestinian Authority". [22:55], "Please address the point about the death penalty, sir"

As for segregation, this is an incorrect if not disingenuous description by Mr. Roman.
First of all, the fact that Mr. Roman points to the punishment being a death penalty is irrelevant. If the punishment were a prison time, a fine or a 40 hrs community service, its discriminative nature would not be different (and objectable).

Then, one is not punished for selling *to a Jew*. One may be punished for selling to *an enemy* or for selling to *a foreign state* (or its representative). End of story. Every indepenent state can have these rules, and Palestine under occupation even more so. It is perfectly reasonable for the P.A. to protect itself and its citizens by law from, for example, Hebron-style squatting.

If Mr. Roman were really concerned about discrimination, he could think about estate ownership in the settlements, East Jerusalem and Israel. There is a pattern there.

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.