What Harriet Sherwood won’t report: Hamas police beat peaceful female protesters in Gaza

On March 8, the Guardian published “International Women’s Day highlights hurdles obstructing women, (co-authored by 12 Guardian correspondents, including the paper’s Jerusalem correspondent, Harriet Sherwood), on the subjugation of women around the world.

Sherwood’s contribution, on the abrogation of women’s rights in the region she covers, didn’t mention female genital mutilationhonor killings , an endemic culture of misogyny, nor the impunity granted to men who physically and sexually abuse their spouses, throughout in Gaza and the PA.

Harriet Sherwood not only ignored the egregious violation of womens’ rights in the Palestinian territories, but, instead, devoted 118 words to the alleged injustice meted out to a female Palestinian terrorist affiliated with Islamic Jihad held in an Israeli jail named Hana Shalabi.

So, it’s not surprising that neither Sherwood, nor any of her Guardian colleagues, have reported the following about an incident in Gaza on Nov. 6:

Hamas police violently attacked a group of women who were peacefully protesting on Tuesday in front of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza. The women were calling for Palestinian reconciliation and sent a request to protest to Hamas which was ignored. Using sticks and batons, Hamas police attacked the women and dispersed the protest.

Another report included the following information:

The protest, organized by women’s organizations including the general union of Palestinian women, was held outside the parliament building.

Iktimal Hamad, a member of the union’s secretariat, told Ma’an that police ordered protesters to leave the area.

“Women refused to leave, because this is a right for every human being to express their opinions and demand their rights,” Hamad told Ma’an.

“We were verbally insulted and hit by fists and sticks. Police tried to arrest some of us but despite that we will continue with our campaign which calls for ending the division,” she added.

Journalist Samya al-Zubeidi said female police officers hit her and ordered her to stop filming.

“They beat me up, in addition to female police officers, (male) police officers also attacked women protesters,” al-Zubeidi told Ma’an.

Interestingly, a Gulf News report on the incident quoted a Fatah spokesperson condemning the attack on Gazan women, thus:

Hamas’ violent attack against the women gives the entire Palestinian population a bad reputation internationally,”

However, any negative publicity for the Palestinian cause in response to the beating of peaceful female protesters in Gaza could only be created if “liberal” media institutions such as the Guardian actually reported the story. 

Fatah arrests 8 Hamas members. Israel arrests 1. Which do you think Harriet Sherwood reported?

On Jan. 9, the Palestinian Times reported that Fatah arrested 8 Hamas members, including a journalist, in the West Bank over several days.  The report also alleged that Fatah arbitrarily extended the detention of other Hamas members, and of firing a teacher who is a member of the group.

Fatah arresting Hamas members in the West Bank

On Jan. 19th, Israel arrested one Hamas member Aziz Dweik , on suspicion of involvement with terrorist activity.

On Jan. 20th, Harriet Sherwood rushed to advocate on behalf of the Hamas terrorist arrested by Israel, posting a piece titled “Israeli jails Palestinian parliament speaker without trial“.  However, further in the article, even Sherwood acknowledges that Dweik is a Parliament speaker in name only, as the Palestinian Legislative Council has not sat since the summer of 2007, when Hamas – which had won elections the previous year – took control of Gaza in a bloody battle with Fatah.

The Guardian also posted a video on Jan. 20 championing the cause of the Hamas speaker of the non-existent Parliament.

Yet, strangely absent from the Guardian’s Israel, Palestinian Territories, or Gaza pages are any mention whatsoever of Fatah’s arrest of eight Hamas members.  Nor mentioned, in service of providing background to Sherwood’s story, was the fact that in 2008 PA security forces aligned with Abbas arrested hundreds of Hamas members and supporters and, further, in 2009, nearly all Hamas-controlled municipal officials were replaced by Fatah officials.

Context similarly missing from Sherwood’s report is the fact that Hamas arrested thousands of Fatah loyalists in Gaza  in 2010 alone, including PA legislators. And, a report in the Palestinian Press as recently as Dec. 30, 2o11 noted that such arrests of Fatah members continued through 2011.

Sherwood characterized the arrest of Dweik as an effort by Israel “to undermine democratic institutions in Palestine”, and hinder reconciliation between the two groups.

Yet, the Palestinians, by any measure, have failed miserably on their own at establishing anything resembling genuinely democratic institutions, as President Mahmoud Abbas is currently serving the seventh year of a four year term, and, per Freedom House, the PA is listed as not free“.

“In the Palestinian Authority administered territories, political rights rating declined from 5 to 6 [7 is the worst score] due to the expiration of President Mahmoud Abbas four-year term in January 2009, the ongoing lack of a functioning elected legislature, and an edict allowing the removal of elected municipal governments in the West Bank.”

So, while the arrest of one Hamas member by Israel elicits a storm of criticism by the Guardian, scores of arrests by Fatah of Hamas officials, and Hamas members by Fatah officials, is evidently considered insignificant to contextualizing the lack of a functioning democracy in the Palestinian controlled territories.

More broadly, both this latest report, and Sherwood’s continuing reports from the region, seem to possess a unique capacity to blame Israel in some manner for every conceivable Palestinian failure, while similarly denying Palestinians basic moral agency (the definition of liberal racism) – a journalistic dynamic which prevents honest reporting on the I-P Conflict.  

The Arab Spring, ‘double-think’, and Palestinian Statehood

This is cross posted by Benjamin Lazarus at The Commentator

A rare sight in Palestine: Elections

In George Orwell’s, 1984, he coined the term‘double-think’, which refers to the idea that an individual can hold ‘two contradictory beliefs’, whilst simultaneously accepting and believing both opposing convictions.

Despite the dismay of much of the new liberal establishment, the likely failure of the Palestinian bid to become the 194th member state of the United Nations would be wholly correct. Quite simply, to support the birth of a Palestinian state as it stands politically today, and to simultaneously support the Arab spring would be to commit the action of ‘double-think’.

The Arab Spring is essentially the spread of democracy throughout the Middle East; allowing the populations of each oppressive regime to overthrow their autocratic rulers, and to attain the very basic principle of the vote.

Thus, if one is to support this movement how can one then possibly justify supporting the official birth of an un-democratic regime in the very same region?

Mahmoud Abbas, the man presented as a supposed moderate to the Western world, has no democratic right to his position.

He was elected in 2005 for a four year term but this expired in January 2009. He then decided to extend his reign for a further year – until January 2010. This extension has now quite clearly expired – and yet Abbas still refuses to leave his post, despite his actions being in sheer disregard to the Palestinian constitution.

Indeed, Article 65: ‘The Basic Law’, grants presidential legitimacy to the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC). Therefore, under the Palestinian constitution, Hamas’s Deputy, Abdel Aziz Dweik has been robbed of his democratic position by Mahmoud Abbas.

Furthermore, the imaginary nation presented to the UN general Assembly did not have the aptitude to hold either presidential or legislative elections as required by Article 47 of its Basic Law. This is because competing Palestinian rulers will not permit it.

Whilst Abbas’s term has expired, the PLC legislatures are also over-due an election, since their period of legality expired on the 25thJanuary 2010. Indeed, Article two of The Palestinian Elections Law no.9, which is recognized by Hamas as legally binding requiresan election – so where are the ballot boxes?

A government also needs to have the capacity to function – to legislate. But this unfortunately is not the case in the Palestinian territories today.

Since January 2006, the PLC has not legislated once, neither has it conducted any meetings in the last four years, nor passed on any ministers. It is essentially an impotent, undemocratic and constitutionally corrupt administration, and one that surely no serious person could advocate was actually ready for statehood (In this sense, it is actually similar to the Arab spring states – there is simply not enough civil life to make it ready for democracy).

Those who advocate hacking away at the UN – Palestine umbilical cord would do well to think twice about why democracy should be starved from the Palestinians, but not their Arab brothers and sisters across the region.

Unfortunately, one suspects the liberal-left’s anti-Israel hysteria plays a prominent role here; the overthrowing of Mubarak’s pro-American government, with the seemingly inevitable replacement of the Muslim Brotherhood will create a rabidly visceral anti-Israel government in Egypt.

The likelihood of the Arab spring resulting in several more Islamist anti-Israel regimes is very great (as already seen in Tunisia with the recent electoral success of Ennahda).

Perhaps, this is actually what the liberal-left wish to see. A Palestinian state, whether democratic or not, will be a serious threat to the existence of the state of Israel, and thus, such an action of ‘double-think’ may not actually be ‘double-think’ after all.

Benjamin Lazarus is a political analyst with a particular interest in the Middle East and Islamic extremism.