Harriet Sherwood’s Double Standards on Racism

As time progresses and the Guardian’s latest Jerusalem correspondent finds her feet, I am finding Harriet Sherwood’s double standards increasingly both offensive and revealing.

Just over a month ago she reported from Tsfat (or Safed, as she calls it) with a story about the edict issued by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu aimed at preventing Arab tenants from renting property in the town.

“Eliyahu, son of a former chief rabbi of Israel, advocates the expulsion of all Arabs from land he says God gave to the Jewish people. Now an Israeli cabinet minister is calling for Eliyahu to be removed from his post. Avishay Braverman, the minister for minority affairs, last week lodged a formal complaint with the justice ministry, saying Eliyahu’s “continual incitement against the Arabs in the Galilee harms the fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs and does not serve the interests of the state”.

The rabbi, along with 17 others, signed a letter this year ordering Jewish landlords not to rent to Arabs, saying: “Their way of life is different to that of Jews … [they] are bitter and hateful towards us.” Neighbours should ostracise such a landlord, “refrain from doing business with him [and] deny him the right to read from the Torah”.

A conference held last month under the banner of “Quiet War: Combating Assimilation in the Holy City of Safed” attracted 400 participants, including extreme rightwing activists.”

I think most of us would agree that trying to prevent a person or persons from living in a particular place because of their race, religion, skin colour or sexual orientation is indeed offensive and represents archaic attitudes which have no place in the modern world.

Fast forward to January 9th and Sherwood is back, this time objecting to a plan to create housing for a specific group of people in a certain place because they are not of the ‘right’ race.

Only this time the prospective tenants happen to be Jewish and the place happens to be the neighbourhood of Shimon HaTsadik (or Sheikh Jarrah as Sherwood calls it) in Jerusalem.

“Nasser Isa Hidmi, of the Jerusalem Committee Against Demolition and Deportation, said the international community should act to prevent Jewish settlers moving into Palestinian neighbourhoods: ‘We don’t want sympathy – we want them to stop Israel from doing what it’s doing.'”

So, just to clarify the situation for those of us not entirely fluent in Guardianista-speak: objecting to Arabs renting or buying property in a predominantly Jewish town which once had a substantial Arab population is bad, but objecting to Jews renting or buying property in a predominantly Arab neighbourhood which once had a substantial Jewish population is good.

People who advocate the former scenario are ‘extreme right wing activists’, whilst people who advocate the latter are presumably ‘progressive’ or ‘peace activists’.

And whilst Arabs wanting to live in Tsfat are just prospective tenants, Jews wanting to live in Simon HaTsadik are ‘settlers’.

Only a seriously convoluted mind could fail to see the offensive double standards being brought into play in these two stories; anti-racism is a concept which loses all value if exceptions are made for political or ideological reasons, and Harriet Sherwood and the Guardian are doing precisely that.

So much for “the world’s leading liberal voice”.

14 replies »

  1. Unfortunately, this is not just the voice and mindset of Harriet Sherwood and The Guardian. It is also the voice and mindset of the British government, the EU and the UN who use exactly the same linguistic dichotomies. William Hague even went and joined and praised the Sheikh Jarrah demonstrators when he visited Israel. In the case of the UK, EU et al, the double standards are All About the Oil. And the trade with governments like Libya. If Israel had loads of oil and Iraq, Libya, Iran et al didn’t, you’d be hearing very different messages.

  2. Melanie Phillips has a useful term to describe such shills for Islamic supremacy: reverse-racists.

    The values of writers such as Harriet Sherwood, and also the organisations listed by Judy above, do not pertain to a civilised society or community, and, echoing Sarah Palin, should be ‘refudiated’ in their entirety.

  3. Quite so, Judy.
    In more philosophical moments, which usually occur whilst I’m doing the ironing or washing the floor, I sometimes wonder how long the second Intifada would have lasted if the EU had not been bankrolling the practically bankrupt PA to the tune of 10 million Euros a month, and how many Israeli lives might have been spared in consequence.

  4. A comment seen elsewhere on the web (David Thomson’s blog):

    “Tomasky is shameless. Blood libel and double standards won’t cost him his job though. At the Guardian they’re treated as qualifications.”

  5. It was ever thus.
    I realised years ago that language, or rather its mis-use, is the primary tool that is used to harm Israeli Jews and de legitimise the Jewish state.

  6. Great article, IN.

    MTC – my comment at Harry’s Place:

    The fact that most of those meddling in ME affairs do not speak Arabic is what has allowed the Arabs to indulge in “speaking with forked tongue”. In English (or French, German, etc.) they say what naive Westerners want to hear, and in Arabic that say what they really mean for consumption at home.

    There is a group of Jews who are not rootless cosmopolitans, and who have a great deal of nostalgia for the home they left behind. Many Israelis who left Israel for all sorts of reasons still feel “home” is that little patch of land on the shores of the Mediterranean.

  7. If Israel had the oil, would things be different?

    I doubt it. When Israel’d have something indispensable, all the world would unite clamouring that it would be their duty to give it away for free for the benefit of mankind because otherwise they’d be the source for everlasting war which their neighbours just had to wage because they would be understandably blinded by greed and thus couldn’t prevent themselves from constantly attacking.

    Why the west has this special standard for Israel and/or the Jews baffles and mystifies me no end. It is so completely nuts. All Jews I have ever met and partied and worked with struck me as being like everybody else. I pride myself to have a well working phantasy and imagination but even by letting that lose I couldn’t detect anything more or less special than I could in an inhabitant in a village from the next valley.

  8. I’m sure others know this, but it can’t be said enough that the phrase used by Sherwood and her allies ad nausea, “historically Arab E. Jerusalem”, isn’t just misleading, its a lie. It was only Arab between 1948 and 1967, when the Jordanians had control of that part of the city and cleansed the area of Jews.

  9. the neighbourhood of Shimon HaTsadik (or Sheikh Jarrah as Sherwood calls it)

    … as indeed the local authorities do …

    Luckily Israeli society is far more liberal than Israelinurse.

  10. Israelinurse

    pretzelberg lives in Berlin
    – that’s why he is an expert on what confusion transcriptions introduce into a language 😉

    Jihad in German becomes Dschihad etc.

    oh and he is a keen enforcer of PC
    as understood I suspect by former GDRs