We are told that the language we use dictates the way we perceive the world and react to what goes on in it.
This manipulation of discourse is evident in the Guardian and particularly on CiF, both of which are good at cranking up ill feeling towards Israel and Jews but dismally incompetent at providing contextual information to their readership so that they can come to a balanced conclusion about what they are being told. Harriet Sherwood is an arch-practitioner of this manipulation of discourse and truth, but thankfully she is not very clever at it.
Thus, when she writes about the heart-wrenching murders in Itamar of five members of a Jewish family (among them a baby of only three months old) and two of whom had their throats cut, somehow she cannot bring herself to call the perpetrators of that infamy what they really are – terrorists (for their attack was calculated to instil terror after all) – preferring rather to refer to them as “militants.”
In line with her usual dispensation with any pretence towards ethics and balance, Sherwood then refers to “continued tension” between Palestinian villagers and what she calls “hard-line settlers,” with regular skirmishes over the destruction of olive trees. She also goes on to tell her no doubt eager readership (many of whom, remember, are being carefully fed whatever nastiness they want to hear about Israel, according to the Guardian’s assistant editor, Michael White) that Itamar is “intensely nationalist-religious” and populated by Jews who believe they have a divine right to the land.
Nowhere in this shabby pretence towards “journalism” is there any mention of the fact that residents of Rafah, in Gaza, came onto the streets to celebrate the murders, and, as their grisly customs dictate, handed out sweets. One of them declared that joy was a “natural response” to harm inflicted by settlers on the West Bank. (Our Harriet, of course, would not want to feed that to her readership – it might be too strong meat even for them).
Instead, by mentioning the continuing tension between Palestinians and “hard-line” and “intensely nationalist-religious” settlers (by which, presumably, we are meant to believe that the murderers of Israeli civilians are not in any way hard-line or intensely nationalist-religious, nor did they perpetrate this outrage because they believed they had no divine right to do so), she nastily implies that this poor family was to blame for the violence perpetrated against them.
So, I would like to ask you, Harriet Sherwood:
Do you believe that these terrorists have the right to murder an Israeli family in retribution for the destruction of olive trees? (Come, come Harriet, YOU have linked the two as though you believe – whatever that might be worth – that the one is responsible for the other, and to raise the question in your readers’ minds. If you do not believe that to be the case, that the two are not linked, then why mention it at all?)
Why did you not define these perpetrators as terrorists?
Do you believe that murders of innocents are fitting retribution for whatever perceived wrongs perpetrated are against Palestinians , ie do you agree with the terrorist who said that “joy” was a natural, or fitting, or even an understandable reaction to them?
Why have you referred to the residents of Itamar as “hard liners”, without making clear that the Palestinians who attacked them are more hard-line and intensely nationalist-religious, to the extent that they perpetrated murder for their nationalist-religious beliefs and others celebrated that inhuman act?
Finally, a slightly tangential question: Why is there no opportunity to comment below your piece? Is there perhaps a glimmer of awareness on your part that you really have galloped headlong out of the realms of decency this time?