At first glance, Harriet Sherwood’s sympathetic show-casing of an Israeli law-breaker (“Israel jails conscientious objector Natan Blanc for tenth time“, May 13th, 2013) might look like just another one of her ‘Jerusalem gossip column‘ type articles focusing on domestic Israeli events which have no relevance as far as the vast majority of Guardian readers are concerned.
But in that article we discover that this is the second time in six weeks that Sherwood has written about the same nineteen year-old from Haifa who, in violation of Israeli law, is refusing to do his military service.
That is undoubtedly strange. After all, Israel is far from unique in having a law of universal conscription – so do Denmark, Greece, Norway, Austria, Finland and Cyprus, to name but a few – but we do not see two Guardian articles in six weeks profiling one Finnish draft dodger. Neither can Sherwood’s observation in her April 1st article that “There is a prison library, but no gym” in the military prison where Blanc has been interred be said to be the most pressing of human rights issues in the Middle East at present.
So the obvious questions arising in this writer’s mind was why would Harriet Sherwood be taking such a close interest in Natan Blanc in particular and who else is promoting this story, which has barely registered on the radar of domestic Israeli news coverage? And this is where the real story behind Sherwood’s story gets interesting.
A search, particularly in Hebrew, reveals that Blanc’s case is being very energetically promoted by a plethora of fringe far-Left Israeli organisations and NGOs including Amnesty International Israel, ‘New Profile‘, ‘Kibush‘ , the student section of the political party ‘Hadash‘ and – first and foremost – the anti-conscription group ‘Yesh Gvul‘ which has organized a publicity campaign and rallies in the vicinity of the military prison in which Blanc has been held – with the participation on at least one occasion of flotilla participant and Warsaw Ghetto vandaliser Yonatan Shapira.
Securing an English language article on the subject of Natan Blanc in a foreign media outlet such as the Guardian would no doubt be seen as something of an achievement to the organisers of this PR campaign. Securing two such items in less than six weeks must make them believe that Hannukah has come early.
It is time for Harriet Sherwood to come clean about her (ironic) self-conscription to a campaign promoting and aggrandising a law-breaker and about the nature of her contacts with the far-Left – and often anti-Zionist – groups which encourage other Israeli youths to break Israeli conscription law.