‘Just Journalism’ has an interesting post which engages in comparative analysis of Harriet Sherwood’s CiF article of October 11th on the subject of accusations against Israel regarding the shooting of Palestinian children in the Gaza buffer zone and an article on the same subject, published the next day, by the Independent . Despite the fact that even the Indy’s best friends could hardly describe it as a pro-Israel newspaper, as ‘Just Journalism’ rightly points out, their journalist – in sharp contrast to Sherwood – managed to provide some context and background for the story.
Not merely content with presenting a story devoid of context, Sherwood’s article relies heavily upon one prime source – the NGO ‘Defence for Children International’ , specifically its ‘Palestine Section’. A less ideologically motivated reporter than Sherwood might have considered it worth taking the time to investigate that NGO a little before relying so heavily upon its reports for her information. Had she done so, one of the first things she would have noticed is that ‘Defence for Children International’ appears to have little or no interest in Israeli children affected by the conflict. She may also have noticed that incidents involving Palestinian children and Israelis appear to interest this organization far more than the fact that some of these children do not appear to be able to exercise their right to education, the fact that they are subject to horrific incitement from a very early age, or the issue of the employment of ‘child soldiers’ or ‘child activists’ by various terrorist groups, which as anyone who knows the region well is aware, is a very serious problem which often endangers children’s lives and wellbeing.
Israeli soldiers who served in Judea & Samaria during the second Intifada tell of Palestinian snipers who would fire from street corners and then send small children to collect their bullet casings for future melting down and recycling. In such a situation, a soldier seeing a head appear round a corner from which he was fired upon moments earlier can easily mistake a child for a legitimate target. A former commander of an Israeli guard post on the Gaza border shortly after the disengagement once told me of an incident in which a youth of around 14 years of age approached their position despite his repeated calls in Arabic for the boy to go back and warning shots in the air. The commander had to decide whether to shoot at the boy or risk the lives of his soldiers in a possible suicide bombing. He chose the latter course of action, and discovered that the boy was unarmed and suffered from Down’s Syndrome. He had been deliberately sent by terrorists to approach the Israeli position in order to test the reactions of the Israeli soldiers and learn their procedures.
Had Sherwood investigated ‘Defence for Children International – Palestine Section’ even further she would have discovered that its founder and the current President of the entire organisation – already on his second term – is Rifat Odeh Kassis from Beit Sahour. Kassis’s laden resume includes being the general co-ordinator for Kairos Palestine (meeting with the notorious Ben White on their behalf on July 30th 2010) and a subscriber to the Karios Document . He is associated with Sabeel , has had articles published on ‘electronic Intifada’ and has publicly expressed his support for a one-state ‘solution’ and the ‘right of return’ for all Palestinian refugees to Israel which would bring about the demise of the Jewish state. Since 2008 Kassis sits on the board of the Alternative Information Centre and was a co-founder of the Alternative Tourism Group together with Ghassan Andoni , who also co-founded the International Solidarity Movement. These three groups have close links, as documented here .
“The ISM was founded in 2001 by Ghassan Andoni, Neta Golan, Huwaida Arraf, George Rishmawi and Adam Shapiro. With close links to the PFLP of George Habash, this is no ‘peace movement’, as repeated statements by its leaders and its founding charter testify. The ISM is heavily involved in the ‘Free Gaza’ movement and in 2007 three of its British activists were caught uprooting thousands of dollars worth of vines in Dolev.
Ghassan Andoni was also a co-founder in 1984 of the Alternative Information Centre (AIC), together with Michael Warschawski, former leader of ‘Matzpen’, aka The Anti-Zionist Revolutionary Communist League, who was jailed in the 1990s for publishing a PFLP pamphlet. The AIC, posing as an NGO, and funded by several European bodies including Christian Aid and the Irish government, has a virulently anti-Israeli agenda including activism in the BDS movement. Warschawski is quoted as saying “one has to unequivocally reject the very idea (and existence) of a Jewish state, whatever will be its borders.” (The Haifa Conference for the Right of Return, June 2008). Readers will not be surprised by the fact that occasional CiF contributor Neve Gordon is among the AIC’s stable of writers.
The same Ghassan Andoni, together with fellow ISM founder George Rishmawi, also founded The Alternative Tourism Group in 1995. Many ISM volunteers use this company’s services to get to Israel and as one can discern from its web site, this is no ordinary tour company. It will come as no surprise either that the BBC has used its services.
The political gains of such tourist programmes, which have clearly tapped into the current fashion in the West for holiday destinations guaranteed to impress one’s ethically-minded ‘progressive’ friends, are not lost upon the organisers of such projects. Although later denied by the ATG, among those who claimed to have used its services were the bombers of Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv who also met with ISM activists and attended a memorial for Rachel Corrie in Gaza just days before their murderous attack.”
Any reputable journalist would have therefore taken information provided by an NGO with such an obviously politically motivated pedigree with at least a pinch of salt and sought to verify the information provided from other, more objective, sources. Harriet Sherwood, of course, does not trouble herself with such pedantry which is why her reporting from the Middle East will never be anything beyond the regurgitated propaganda which exposes her repeatedly as a very silly goose.