Poor Harriet Sherwood, missing the big picture that’s coming into focus right in front of her nose while obsessively reporting about the latest round of Middle East peace talks that promise to end the six-decade-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict in nine months.
As Ms Sherwood, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent breathlessly relayed US President Barack Obama’s praising of the rebooted peace process, the Hamas-led government in Gaza – located a mere 50 miles away from Israel’s currently undivided capital city – was shutting down uncooperative media outlets in the territory.
In Roy Greenslade’s July 29 article for the Guardian, Gaza’s Attorney General Ismail Jaber was quoted as saying that the broadcaster Al-Arabiya and news agency Maan “fabricated news” that “threatened civil peace and damaged the Palestinian people and their resistance” to Israel.”
Thankfully for freedom loving journalists such as Ms Sherwood, this latest human rights violation by the demopathic Hamas movement is expected to be temporary, although when the offices will actually be allowed to resume operations remains a giant question mark.
Harriet Sherwood’s unwillingness to shed a bright light on Hamas’ latest crackdown on dissenting voices represents a glaring and dangerous ideologically driven moral blind-spot. So fixated is she on perpetuating the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that dear Harriet repeatedly denies her significant readership access to a few uncomfortable facts about the neighborhood bullies who share a volatile border with Israel.
According to the independent watchdog organization Freedom House, the media in Gaza are not free. Following its takeover of Gaza, Hamas replaced the PA Ministry of Information with a government Media Office and banned all journalists not accredited by it; authorities also closed down all media outlets not affiliated with Hamas, whose security forces have allegedly tortured detainees.
Furthermore, Hamas has significantly restricted freedoms of assembly and association, with security forces violently dispersing public gatherings of Fatah and other groups.
Now, none of this is meant to imply that Ms Sherwood can’t find Gaza on a map. Bright, curious and well-read, the Guardian’s intrepid Jerusalem correspondent has indeed filed reports about the goings-on in Gaza. Yet, she seems impervious to any news item that may distract her readers from the Israel-as-Goliath fable.
Case in point, Ms Sherwood filed a report on July 19 in which she (inaccurately, as it turns out) asserted that about 20,000 construction workers had been laid off as the result of a shortage of materials caused by Israel’s ban on the importation of construction materials into the Gaza Strip.
In truth, Israel had actually decided to ease the ban on construction materials.
Yet, the broader issue is Ms Sherwood’s chronic myopia vis-à-vis alleged human rights violations by Hamas against its own people.
And when facts prove to be stubborn and persistent, Ms Sherwood simply tortures the English language in an attempt to whitewash any pesky Palestinian human rights abuses. Indeed, it takes an imagination most fertile to conceive of a group classified by the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan as a terrorist organization as ‘conservative’.
For a journalist with an agenda, this type of selective reporting is taking place at a most inopportune time. Try as Ms Sherwood may to turn a blind eye, human rights violations in Gaza – not to mention the Palestinian Authority – are increasing. According to the Palestinian Independent Commission For Human Rights (ICHR) report, 2012 year saw a 10 percent increase in the number of complaints about human rights abuses by the PA and Hamas, compared with 2011.
According to, Randa Siniora, executive director of ICHR, many complaints were related to arbitrary and political detentions, as well as torture and mistreatment.
The organization recommends that the PA and Hamas stop violating freedom of expression by interrogating Palestinians who are simply expressing their views.
Why hasn’t Ms Sherwood followed up on the findings and recommendations of this report? Are not the alleged human rights violations of Israel’s presumptive peace partners of any relevance to the final configuration of a Palestinian state?
If this is how Palestinians leaders treat their own, can they be trusted to enforce the dictates of a final status agreement with Israel?
In all fairness, it should be noted Harriet Sherwood is a highly regarded journalist praised far and wide for her relentless reporting of every slight endured by Palestinians at the hands of Israelis.
Yet, the same Ms Sherwood sees nothing newsworthy about the severe human rights abuses being perpetrated by Hamas against its civilian population.
Lying by omission is lying by either omitting certain facts or by failing to correct a misconception. It appears that Ms Sherwood has made a career out of overplaying news stories about every conceivable Israeli miscue, while leaving out information that would detract from the Palestinian victim narrative.
Ms Sherwood’s ho-hum reaction to the horrific treatment of her cherished Palestinians effectively perpetuates the racist assumption that Palestinians lack moral agency.
And now…back to the negotiating table!
Click here to view this and other essays of mine that have been published on CiF Watch: