The Spirit of Apartheid: Why “Palestine” will not be an ‘Rainbow Nation’

Yesterday, Harriet Sherwood reported on the “parallels” some Palestinians are now evidently drawing between their movement and “Mandela’s anti-Apartheid struggle”.

sherwood

The fact that some of the people she quoted to give credence to this argument includes extremists (such as Khaled Meshaal) who, contrary to Mandela’s support for Zionism, don’t believe Jews should live anywhere between ‘the river and the sea’ evidently didn’t provoke the slightest cognitive dissonance in Sherwood – a fact which shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been following this blog’s commentary on their reporters’ consistent lack of intellectual rigor.

Moreover, those who would liken the Palestinian struggle with Mandela’s overlook one glaring and irreconcilable difference between the two movements: Mandela’s South Africa championed the values of ethnic, cultural and religious pluralism – a vision of a “Rainbow Nation” representing the antithesis of what will almost certainly be a homogeneous and exclusivist Palestinian State.  

rainbow

Those (like most Israelis) who support the creation of a Palestinian State must acknowledge that, based on statements by Palestinian leaders and past history – in addition to what will almost certainly be an undemocratic state which will oppresses women, gays and political dissidents – ‘diversity’ will not be a value championed by the state or promoted by its institutions.

In contrast with South Africa, which – consistent with Mandela’s vision – largely embraces its mix of whites, blacks, coloured, Asian and Indian populations (as well as Jews, Christians, Muslims and African ethnic groups such as  Xhosa and Zulu), the new state of Palestine will almost certainly be entirely Arab Muslim.  There will of course be no Jews and (if trends throughout ‘Palestine’ and the Arab Middle East continue) almost no Christians.

All of this leads us to conclude that while Palestine will likely not  become an apartheid state – as such state codified racism first requires the critical mass of racial diversity which they will not possess – it will become the kind of racial exclusivist state which Mandela and South Africa’s liberals found so abhorrent.

While such observations should not be misunderstood as an argument against a vision of a Palestinian State living peacefully alongside Israel, those who so enthusiastically champion Palestine’s creation should acknowledge that the 23rd Arab State will not embrace diversity or liberalism, and certainly won’t show fealty towards the values of tolerance championed with such courage and moral consistency by Nelson Mandela. 

Why won’t Harriet Sherwood tell readers about the suspected terror affiliation of Shawan Jabarin?

As anyone familiar with the rigorous research and detailed reports by NGO Monitor would already know, many self-declared ‘humanitarian NGOs’ in Israel and the Palestinian territories are able to exploit the label ‘universal human rights values’ to promote radical (and decidedly illiberal) agendas.  This edifice is at least partially maintained by pro-Palestinian journalists who often cite reports by such NGOs without informing readers about their extremist ideologies.

Naturally, Harriet Sherwood’s Oct. 4 story titled ‘ICC urged to investigate ‘commission of crimes’ in Palestinian territories, provides readers with no information on the background of Al-Haq, the Palestinian NGO which forms basis of her Guardian report.

The story centers on “two Palestinian human rights groups [which] are calling on the international criminal court to launch an investigation into the commission of crimes under international law in the occupied territories.”  

Sherwood explains further:

Al-Haq and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights [PCHR] have presented a legal opinion to the ICC prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, at The Hague, arguing that the court can take action without Palestine formally signing up to the body. The two rights groups are calling for the court to begin an investigation based on “the mass of evidence and documentation attesting to the widespread commission of crimes in Palestine, and the environment of total impunity for the perpetrators”.

To learn more about the story we contacted Anne Herzberg, NGO Monitor’s legal advisor, who told us, via email, that previous ICC prosecutors have already rejected similar arguments presented by Al-Haq (an NGO whose funders have included the Ford FoundationChristian Aid, and the governments of HollandSpainIreland, and Norway), and that it was unclear what they are hoping to accomplish.

Regarding Al-Haq, which has a history of characterizing terrorist activities as legitimate “resistance”, Herzberg offered the following comment: 

Al Haq should be careful what they wish for. ICC jurisdiction over the situation in the West Bank would apply to Palestinians as well as Israelis. Given that Al Haq’s director Shawan Jabarin has been alleged by the Israeli Supreme Court to be a senior activist in the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine] terrorist organization, he himself could be a potential target for investigation by the court.

shawan-jabarin-speach

Shawan Jabarin

PFLP is a Marxist-Leninist Palestinian terrorist group which rejects Israel’s right to exist within any borders, and was responsible for a number of hijackings and deadly terror attacks, including the assassination of Israel’s tourism minister in 2001.  PFLP is officially listed as a terrorist group by the United States and European Union - a designation which evidently inspired the following graphic at PFLP’s English site, which happens to mirror Al-Haq’s narrative of “resistance”:

terroristdes12

PFLP graphic

At the very least, it seems reasonable to expect reporters – at least those who take their duty as professional journalists seriously – to inform their readers when a putative “human rights” organization they are covering defends political violence, and is led by suspected terrorist.  

Harriet Sherwood parrots false charge of ‘Water Apartheid’

Harriet Sherwood published a report in the Guardian on Aug. 8 about a new Palestinian city being built near Ramallah (Rawabi rises: new West Bank city symbolises Palestine’s potential) which will eventually be home to 40,000 residents.  The new city of Rawabi is being built by the Palestinian conglomerate Massar International and the government of Qatar, and will, Sherwood informs us, be a hi-tech center which will boast “shopping malls…landscaped walkways, office blocks, a conference centre, restaurants and cafes”.

However, though we’ve at times praised her modest improvements covering the region, and her tendency to provide a bit more balance to her previously one-side stories, Sherwood still has journalistic tick which continually betrays her sympathies and biases, even in otherwise unproblematic reports. A case in point is the following passage from her Aug. 8 story on Rawabi.

Water has been another huge challenge, both for construction and to service the finished buildings. Israel controls almost all water supplies; 600,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem consume almost six times as much water as 2.7 million Palestinians.

Sherwood includes a link to a report, titled “Discriminatory Access and Water Apartheid in the OPT” by the radical NGO Al-Haq - led by Shawan Jabarin, a suspected “activist” with the PFLP terror group – which included the following passage:

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume approximately six times the amount of water used by a Palestinian population of almost 2.6 million

The passage cites Al Haq’s own previous report on the issue, which used language which, though similar, is a bit less definitive:

The result of the overall situation is that, generally, Israeli settlers in the West Bank, which now number nearly 500,000 persons, consume approximately six times the water consumed by Palestinians

This passage cites a report by the NGO Ma’an Development Centre, which includes the following:

Israeli settlers in the West Bank enjoy a continuous flow of water and on average consume approximately six times more water than Palestinians.

This report cites the Palestinian Authority as its source. However, despite checking the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, I was unable to find any such claims.

(The only claim which even touches on the Al Haq/Ma’an charge is a Palestinian Water Authority presentation which alleged that Israelis consume 4 times more water per capita than Palestinians – a far cry from the claim that Israeli “settlers” alone use six times more total water than the Palestinians.)

However, according to a thorough study published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in January 2012, even the less sensationalist charge suggesting an uneven distribution of water seems untrue.  The study, by , provides data demonstrating that “per capita consumption of water between Israelis and Palestinians…have been reduced over the last 40 years and are now negligible.”

Indeed, a report by the Israel Water Authority (published in 2012) supports the study’s conclusion, noting that the annual consumption by more than 2 million Palestinians is 185 MCM (million cubic meters) of water per year, whilst the annual consumption by 7.6 million Israelis (not just “settlers”) is 1040 MCM of water per year.  So, the use of water by all Israelis (who outnumber Palestinians by a factor of roughly 4) is, in itself, less than six times that of Palestinians.  

graphic

Additionally, more relevant to the Guardian/Al-Haq/Ma’an claim, per data published by COGAT (Israeli civil administration in the territories), “settlers” in the West Bank (excluding Israelis who live in eastern Jerusalem) consume 47 MCM of water per year, (or 134 liters per person per day, which is actually bit less than the average rate of water consumption by all Israelis, which is 137 liters per person per day)

So, if 350,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank consume 47 MCM/year and over 2 million Palestinians consume 185 MCM/year, then – while, proportionally, “settlers” use a bit more water per capita than Palestinians – Palestinians consume roughly 4 times more total water than Israelis “settlers” in the West Bank.

Even if the rate of water consumption by the 200,000 or so additional Israelis who live in eastern Jerusalem (which the NGOs count as “settlers”, and for which data doesn’t appear to be available) is astronomically higher than the average Israeli consumption, Sherwood’s claim that “600,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem consume almost six times as much water as 2.7 million Palestinians” couldn’t possibly be true.

Once again the Guardian cited a claim which is consistent with their anti-Israel narrative, but that simply is not backed up by the data.

‘Comment is Free’ contributor claims 1967 Six Day War was act of Israeli aggression

Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian Arab who’s the former director of the Palestinian NGO Al-Haq, a radical group which has characterized Palestinian terror attacks as legitimate “resistance” and is currently being led by Shawan Jabarin, a Palestinian with alleged ties to the PFLP terrorist group.

raj

The Guardian posted a video on Oct. 9, 2012 of an interview with Shehadeh in which he casually suggested that Israel’s goal was to ethnically cleans Palestinians, so his latest “analysis” on Palestinians’ views about yesterday’s Israeli election, ‘Israel’s elections mean little to most Palestinians – with good reason‘, ‘Comment is Free’, Jan. 23, should come as no surprise.

Shehadeh didn’t waste any time contextualizing what he characterized as Palestinian indifference to the particular results of the Israeli election by evoking the political parallel of disenfranchised blacks under South African apartheid, and soon pivoted to the following additional fiction:

“Since the beginning of the occupation more than 44 years ago, no Israeli government has indicated willingness to accept that its status is that of an occupier of territory acquired through a belligerent war, and consequently been willing to withdraw from these areas and hand them over either to the surrounding Arab states or to a newly created sovereign, independent Palestinian state.”

The idea that Israel acquired territory in June 1967 though a “belligerent war” is a gross historical lie.

The Six Day War was instigated by Arab leaders who explicitly stated that their aim was nothing less than the annihilation of Israel, while Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol did everything possible to avoid a military confrontation with the much larger Arab forces.

In the weeks leading up to the war, Egypt’s President Nasser had ejected UN peace keeping forces from Sinai and Gaza, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, and contributed the bulk of forces to a combined Arab army – much of which was amassed along Israel’s porous borders – consisting of 500,000 troops, more than 5,000 tanks, and almost 1,000 fighter planes.  Threatening rhetoric coming from Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad included the following by Nasser on May 27 and 28, 1967:

“Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight . . . The mining of Sharm el Sheikh is a confrontation with Israel. Adopting this measure obligates us to be ready to embark on a general war with Israel.”

“We will not accept any … coexistence with Israel. … Today the issue is not the establishment of peace between the Arab states and Israel …. The war with Israel is in effect since 1948.”

Additionally, while the Soviets had begun supplying the Arabs with arms in the build-up to the war, France, Israel’s major arms supplier, had issued a complete ban on weapons sales to the Jewish state.

Israel – which, in 1967, wasn’t in control of one inch of Arab territory – was facing total isolation, and the realistic prospect of complete annihilation, when the IDF launched a successful strike on the Egyptian Air Force on the morning of  June 5, ‘officially’ beginning a war which would result in a swift Israeli victory and the acquisition of Gaza and the Sinai, from Egypt, and the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem from Jordan.

Further, contrary to the duplicitous claims made by Shehadeh, in the immediate aftermath of Israel’s victory, Arab leaders, much to the surprise of Israeli leaders, maintained their belligerence and refused to enter into direct peace talks with the Jewish state.  Instead, at a meeting of the Arab League in Khartoum in September, they pledged to continue their struggle against Israel, and insisted on no peace, no negotiations, and no recognition.

Israel would subsequently withdraw from the Sinai, in the context of a peace treaty with Egypt, and leave Gaza unilaterally.  

However, Israeli offers to withdraw from nearly all of the remaining territory held since ’67, and offer statehood (within geographically contiguous boundaries) to Palestinian Arabs – who were never offered sovereignty under Egyptian and Jordanian rule – would be rebuffed by Yasser Arafat in 2000.  The Palestinian President responded to the peace offer by initiating a bloody terror war which would last over four years and claim over a thousand Israeli lives.  (Interestingly, in 2002 Shehadeh characterized Arafat as “admirable” for not having “betrayed” his people by accepting the Israeli peace offer.)

Another offer of Palestinian statehood, which included the equivalent (with land swaps) of 100% of the West Bank, all of Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, was rejected by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008.

Palestinians, like Arab leaders in ’67, have continued to say no to peace and recognition of the Jewish state.

While Guardian reporters and ‘CiF’ contributors are free to be as hostile to Israel’s existence as they wish, allowing such pro-Palestinian activists the right to engage in such polemical malice, and egregious misrepresentations of history, by characterizing the Six Day War as a Zionist ‘war of aggression’ more befits a Palestine Solidarity Campaign propaganda flyer than the virtual pages of a “serious” newspaper.

Related articles

Guardian interviewee casually suggests Israel is attempting to ethnically cleanse Palestinians

The Guardian posted a video on Oct. 9 of a recent interview with a Palestinian Arab named Raja Shehadeh.  (The video post was edited and produced by the Guardian’s  and ).

Here’s the Guardian’s brief introduction.

“Palestinian writer and lawyer Raja Shehadeh talks about his experience of growing up in the West Bank. Shehadeh discusses the day-to-day hardships of living under Israeli occupation and reflects on episodes from his journal Occupation Diaries.”

On video, Shehadeh displays a calm, reserved, and ‘contemplative’ nature.

However, as we learn from a Guardian review of his book on Aug. 4, the placid facade hides a man embittered by “…the Israeli occupation, the illegal settlements that dot his beloved Palestinian landscape… and the failure of Israel‘s allies and donors to prevent the discrimination against Palestinians and Israeli Arabs.”

(Shehadeh is also the former director of Al-Haq, a radical Palestinian NGO which characterizes Palestinian terror activities as legitimate “resistance” and is currently led by Shawan Jabarin, a Palestinian with alleged ties to the murderous PFLP terrorist group.)

Most of the Guardian video interview shows Shehadeh lamenting over the wonderful life he, and his fellow Palestinian Arabs, lost after “the Israeli occupation”.  (The author is evidently referring to the period of time prior to June 1967, when the land – named ‘Palestina‘ by the Romans in the year 135 – had been in the hands of Jordan, 1949-1967, the British, 1923-1948, the Ottoman-Turkish Empire, for four hundreds years prior to 1923, etc.)

While most of Shehadeh’s selective history of the region is not noteworthy, at around the 3:00 mark of the video he makes the following claim about Israeli intentions.

“One of the most important objectives of the occupation is to empty the land of Palestinians.”

The charge of “ethnic cleansing” to characterize Israeli policy is nearly a banality at ‘Comment is Free’, but the ubiquitous nature of such a patently false allegation doesn’t make it any less reprehensible.

The facts are actually quite simple: The Palestinian population in the West Bank increased from 462,000 in 1948 to 2.38 million in 2005. In Gaza, the population increased from 82,000 in 1948 to 1.37 million during that same period.

Regarding Jerusalem, the Muslim population of the city increased roughly 5 fold from 1967 (when Israel unified the city) to 2009, from 58,000 to over 278,000, while the Jewish population increased only by a factor of only 2.8, from 196,000 t0 480,000.

Shehadeh’s belief that Israel is attempting to “empty the land of Palestinians” – like most political articles of faith – is not based on evidence.

Alternately, it would be fair to cheekily observe that if Israelis have been trying to expel the Arab population from Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza, they’ve certainly been doing a bloody awful job at it.

Israeli “pillaging” and the Vikings’ cognitive war booty

When I first saw the word “pillage” in Harriet Sherwood’s report, Israel accused of pillaging Dead Sea resources in occupied territory, Sept. 3, the first thing which came to mind was marauding barbarians arriving “in their helmeted hordes” across Europe – greedy, blood-thirsty warriors conquering lands.

What sprang to my mind when contemplating the aftermath of such savagery was something along the lines of this…

…and, certainly not this:

AHAVA store, Ein Bokek, Israel

In the year 793, Lindis-farne, an island off the north-east coast of England, was invaded by a powerful fleet of Danish Vikings. They “sacked the city, devoured the cattle, killed many of the monks, and sailed away with rich booty in gold, jewels, and sacred emblems”.

While such attacks by the Germanic savages – who controlled half of England from the late 9th century into the 11th century – sowed fear across the continent for generations, assaults against their neighbors carried out with brutal efficiency, their image has improved of late, no doubt due to a slick campaign of Scandinavian ‘hasbara’.

Stories in the Daily Mail and Independent in 2009 argued that the Vikings’ reputation for raping, pillaging and engaging in violent conquests is unfair, and that they were, arguably, ‘model immigrants’ who lived side-by-side in harmony with the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic locals.

So, while Israeli propagandists, known as Zionist Keyboard Brigades for their tactic of violently raiding the marketplace of ideas to ‘sway’ opinion, are, according to myth, feared, loathed and isolated for their Semitic trickery, the Nors Media Warriors – who, legend has it, were no less fearsome than their ‘military division’ – can now reasonably lay claim to a posthumous cognitive victory.

Harriet Sherwood does her bit for BDS

Placing herself in such none too illustrious company as Press TV, Electronic Intifada and a couple of minor regional Australian dailies, Harriet Sherwood apparently had no qualms about rehashing the September 3rd press release from Al Haq concerning its latest ‘report‘ and producing an article which, for the most part, parrots the anti-Israel NGO’s outlandish claims. 

The sub-header of Sherwood’s September 3rd article on the subject of the Dead Sea mineral resources describes Al Haq as a “Palestinian human rights organisation” and ten paragraphs of her report uncritically repeat that organisation’s claims, whilst just one paragraph and a sentence are given to the point of view of the company ‘Ahava’, and one paragraph to the Israeli foreign ministry. 

“However, in a letter circulated in 2010, Ahava said: “The mud and minerals used in Ahava’s cosmetic products are not excavated in an occupied area. The minerals are mined in the Israeli part of the Dead Sea, which is undisputed internationally.” “

…..

“In a statement, the Israeli foreign ministry said that, under the Oslo accords, Israel had territorial jurisdiction that includes land, subsoil and territorial waters in Area C. It “therefore would be entitled to licence a company to excavate mud in that area if it chose to do so”. “

In other words, there should not be much of a story here. A company, located in Area C under the terms of the Oslo Accords, is doing what it is perfectly entitled to do.

Packaging department, Ahava, Mitzpe Shalem

But in choosing to ignore the highly flawed reputation of Al Haq – an NGO notorious for its employment of ‘lawfare’ against Israel, for its part in the disgraced ‘Durban I’ anti-Israel circus and for employing a director whom as recently as 2008 was considered by the Israeli Supreme Court to have connections to a terrorist organization – Sherwood displays a typical lack of critical thinking.  

Not only has she elected to give disproportionate balance to the unfounded claims of a politically motivated NGO seeking to advance the cause of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (one of Al Haq’s board members is American-born Lisa Taraki – also a founder and steering committee member of PACBI – the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), but her final paragraph even promotes the BDS stance. 

“The al-Haq report calls on the European Union to adopt restrictions on the import of Israeli products originating from settlements, and urges cosmetic retailers to provide clear information about the origin of products they sell to allow consumers to make an informed choice about purchases.”

A critical viewing of the Al Haq report would place it in the context of the ongoing attempts by various parties (including the Palestinian Authority, assorted NGOs and – sadly – some EU officials who should know better) to create facts on the ground whilst avoiding the final status negotiations which are supposed to determine the eventual agreements on key subjects such as borders and settlements. The BDS campaign’s aim is to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state and to sabotage the internationally accepted model of the two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Part of that campaign is the promotion of memes such as ‘Palestinian territory’, ‘occupation’, ‘Palestinian natural resources’ and so forth. 

In order to engage in balanced critical thinking on any subject, it is of course vital to look at more than half a story. When that story includes claims about “Palestinian natural resources” or Palestinians “dispossessed… of extensive portions of the Dead Sea land”, it is necessary to delve back into history and look into less well-publicized and less frequently promoted elements which are integral to the whole story – something Sherwood has obviously not bothered to do. 

As early as 1907, a mining engineer from Siberia named Moshe Novomeysky approached the Ottoman authorities of the time for permission to extract minerals from the Dead Sea. In 1920 Novomeysky emigrated to what was by then post-First World War Palestine and spent several years carrying out surveys and trying to persuade the British Mandate authorities to grant him the tender for mining in the Dead Sea area. 

His application was eventually accepted towards the end of the decade, provoking a lively – and at times, anti-Semitic – debate in the British House of Lords. Novomeysky’s company – the Palestine Potash Company, or PPC – was granted a seventy-five year concession in August 1929. Novomeysky had already, in 1922, purchased some disused huts on the northern shore of the Dead Sea where the main production plant was situated. Initially, the plant’s workers commuted from Jerusalem, but with British permission marshland near the factory was drained and the co-operative community of Kaliya was established.

In 1939, a kibbutz named Beit HaArava (after a biblical village in the same area) was established on the factory’s lands nearby.  By 1943 one hundred Jewish families, including many who had escaped Nazi Germany, were living there. After having gone to great lengths to wash the salt out of the land – as shown in the film below (unfortunately only available in Hebrew) they began to grow agricultural crops and supplied fresh food to the potash plant’s workers. 

Novomeysky’s company also recognized the potential of the Dead Sea as a tourist attraction and in 1934 the first hotel was set up at Kaliya, with a new, modern facility added in 1940 and even, two years later, a golf course – which proved very popular with the British officers stationed in Palestine at the time. In the winter of 1944, the Kaliya hotel became a stop-over point for BOAC’s hydroplane flights to India, with guests including Winston Churchill. 

When the British Mandate was terminated and the War of Independence broke out, the isolated communities of Beit HaArava and Kaliya, together with the hotel and the potash plant, became difficult to defend. After 43 workers from the power plant at Naharyim were taken prisoner by the Iraqi army, it was decided to evacuate the residents of the northern Dead Sea area on May 19th and 20th 1948. On May 22nd the advancing Arab Legion destroyed the two kibbutzim, the hotel and the factory. 

Memorial at Beit HaArava. The kibbutz’s original graveyard was desecrated after the residents’ evacuation.

Novomeysky’s company also had facilities in the southern part of the Dead Sea which did not come under Jordanian occupation during the War of Independence and in 1953 Kibbutz Ein Gedi was established just south of the armistice line. 

Between 1948 and 1967, whilst the area of the northern shore of the Dead Sea was under Jordanian occupation – along with the rest of Judea and Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, and including places where Jews had lived for many years – there were of course no Palestinian claims of ‘dispossession’ or theft of ‘Palestinian natural resources’. 

The Jordanian decision to join in the 1967 war of annihilation, despite Israeli pleas to the contrary, resulted in the defeat of the Jordanian army and Jordan’s loss of control over the areas it had occupied in 1948. Kaliya was re-built in 1968, Beit HaArava in 1980, and in 1971 Mitzpe Shalem was established.  

The future of those three kibbutzim, as well as other communities in that most inhospitable part of the world, is a very serious subject: one which must be resolved in final status negotiations leading to a lasting peace agreement. The ugly dehumanisation of the people who live in those communities as ‘war criminals’ and ‘pillagers’ does nothing to bring peace any closer. 

But of course the wish for peace and co-existence is not shared by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and its rejectionist partners such as Al Haq.

Precisely for that reason, such delegitimising rhetoric should be spurned by sober observers who do wish to see a peaceful two-state solution to the conflict. It should certainly not be parroted blindly and uncritically on the pages of any newspaper which aspires to be taken seriously, by a journalist who apparently cannot even be bothered to learn the historic background of the region, but is prepared to act as a pawn for the BDS campaign. 

Harriet Sherwood on the Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike – high on pathos, low on fact.

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?”

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four, (1949), pt. 1, ch. 3)

Next month will mark the second anniversary of Harriet Sherwood’s arrival in Israel. Those two years have made no noticeable difference to her reporting – suggesting that Sherwood’s tendency to blindly reproduce frequently unsubstantiated claims made by various individuals or organisations (often with a lot more to them than Sherwood chooses to inform her readers) is more a matter of method than lack of knowledge or experience. 

As we saw just a couple of months ago in the Guardian’s coverage of Khader Adnan’s hunger strike, what Sherwood (and others) omit from their reports is often just as critical to the overall picture as the words they do choose to write. Thus Adnan – an Islamic Jihad activist seen on record recruiting suicide bombers – became a baker as far as Guardian readers were concerned, whilst the victims of his militant group  (as Sherwood elected to term a proscribed terrorist organisation) remained outside the sphere of Guardian readers’ awareness.  

Now Sherwood is at it again, with an article from April 26th on the subject of the latest round of hunger strikes by Palestinian security prisoners held in Israeli prisons. In it, she covers two specific prisoners; Bilal Diab (aged 27 from the village of Ra’ei, south-west of Jenin) and Tha’er Halahleh (aged 34 from Hevron and one of the leaders of the hunger strike). 

What Sherwood refrains from informing her readers is that – like Khader Adnan – both men are members of the Islamic Jihad

בלאל דיאב מהכפר ראעי שבקרבת ג'נין. נמנה עם הג'יהאד האיסלאמי. צם 48 יום בדרישה להשתחרר

Bilal Diab

ת'איר חלאלה. ממנהיגי שובתי הרעב, מהג'יהאד האיסלאמי. מאזור חברון. דורש לבטל את מעצרו

Tha’er Halahleh

Sherwood quotes ‘Addameer’ in her article, describing it as a ‘prisoners’ rights group’ but declining to mention the organisation’s political aspects and its use of Palestinian prisoners as a means of political leverage. 

This interview (worth reading in its entirety) with Addameer legal researcher Mourad Jadallah gives an idea of the group’s political affiliations and the significance of the subject of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons in internal Palestinian political power struggles.

Asa Winstanley: Palestinian hunger strikes seems to have developed a lot recently. It’s an old tactic, but there seems to be a new focus on it.

Mourad Jadallah: We have days for hunger strike for prisoners from Fatah and [then] twenty other days for prisoners from the PFLP [Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine], which means that also the prisoners’ movement is not united like it was [in the past]. So what happened outside the prisons is reflected inside the prisons’ movement.

AW: The factional divisions you mean?

MJ: Yeah. Like today — this is something we don’t want to talk about but maybe for The Electronic Intifada we can say [that] until today we are not sure that the prisoners of Fatah will participate [in the hunger strike starting tomorrow].

……

 This is one side of how we can explain all these hunger strikes in the prison. From one side, the peace process failed to release the prisoners … And the other side, you have the [prisoners] exchange. Most of the prisoners released … they are affiliated to Hamas. So the other prisoners said, OK, what we have [are] political factions who just look out for their own prisoners and if we are from other parties nobody will ask for us and the peace process can’t release all the prisoners … The prisoners decided and they understood that they have to fight for themselves.

AW: Most of the prisoners released in the exchange were from Hamas?

MJ: Especially in the first phase of the release — 80 percent of them were from Hamas.

AW: Why was that?

MJ: This is what Hamas wanted, and also the majority of prisoners today, they belong to Hamas. This is the reality even after the exchange. And we know that Fatah and the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], when they release the prisoners, they look for the Fatah prisoners, they want to keep this legitimacy at least in the eyes of the Fatah prisoners.

So everyone is saying, OK, Hamas succeeded to release 1,000 Palestinian prisoners — 80 percent of the first phase, which is like 450, they were Hamas. And the others, who were serving short sentences, were from different parties. So maybe it’s time for others to do the same as Hamas and release their prisoners.

… Since the beginning of the year there have been some short hunger strikes … Then suddenly you have the PFLP prisoners who went on an open hunger strike for twenty days, then Hamas came and did the prisoner swap … And then Khader Adnan put all the focus on Islamic Jihad. So you have a competition between the political parties. At some point you have the focus on the Fatah prisoners.

An additional aspect connecting this latest round of hunger strikes to its many predecessors -which Sherwood also completely ignores – is its role in the ongoing attempt by some  Palestinian groups (including organizations such as Addameer) to have people serving sentences due to convictions for terrorism recognized as political prisoners. In fact, as Addameer’s director Sahar Francis states in this article, they already view all Palestinian security prisoners as ‘political’ – even leaders of terrorist groups such as Ahmed Sa’adat of the PFLP and those convicted of acts of terror. 

Sherwood’s next quote in her article comes from Shawan Jabarin of Al Haq. As was previously pointed out by CiF Watch when Sherwood wrote a puff piece about ‘Defence of Children International – Palestine’ in January 2012, Jabarin (who sits on the board of DCI-Pal together with Sahar Francis of Addameer) is linked to the proscribed terrorist organization the PFLP. 

In June 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court noted that:

“[Jabarin] is apparently active as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in part of his hours of activity he is the director of a human rights organisation, and in another part he is an activist in a terrorist organisation which does not shy away from acts of murder and attempted murder, which have nothing to do with rights, and, on the contrary, deny the most basic right of all, the most fundamental of fundamental rights, without which there are no other rights – the right to life.”

If – as with almost everything she writes about – Sherwood were not so busy endeavoring to reduce the subject to simplistic concepts of innocent, helpless Palestinians and bad, powerful Israelis, she might have been able to broaden her readers’ knowledge on the subject of these repeated hunger strikes as part of a comprehensive strategy to try to secure the release of prisoners. 

She could have pointed out the connections between the well-organized strikes and the calls by Khaled Mashaal and other prominent members of Hamas such as Ismail Haniyeh, Ahmed Bahar and Ismail Radwan to kidnap more Israeli soldiers as a ‘second front’ in the bid for the release of convicted terrorists from Israeli prisons. 

She might have mentioned the statements by Issa Qaraqa  (PA Minister of Prisoner Affairs) and PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi on the subject of the coordinated hunger strike – both of which called for ‘internationalization’ of the issue – adding  further evidence to the fact that rather than some kind of spontaneous reaction to specific grievances, the strike is part of a co-ordinated political campaign, as the between Hamas and Fatah leaders in its promotion also indicates. 

“Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas spoke by telephone Thursday about rallying Palestinians to support Palestinian prisoners in their hunger strike against certain Israeli prison policies, such as administrative detention, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported Friday, citing a Hamas statement.

The two also discussed tactical strategy for emphasizing the hunger strike and prisoner issues on the public relations and diplomatic fronts.”

But unfortunately for anyone who actually relies upon the Guardian for news and information about what goes on in Israel, they will learn nothing of the wider context of the hunger strikes in Israeli prisons because Harriet Sherwood apparently deems it unnecessary for readers to be aware of the connections of her subjects and interviewees to terror groups or the political campaigns of which the strikes are part and parcel. 

Instead, she’s busy piling on the pathos; slowly but steadily narrowing her readers’ range of thought in true Newspeak fashion.