Guardian

What I wanted to tell Harriet Sherwood about Itamar


The press tour of Itamar I participated in, in the aftermath of the murder of five members of the Fogel family, included, among the couple dozen of European journalists, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent,  Harriet Sherwood.

Harriet Sherwood in Itamar

Like my understanding of the community itself, a mere couple hours spent in the company of Sherwood didn’t provide me with a complete picture of the journalist, but listening to the questions she posed to our hosts – Itamar’s mayor, Rabbi Moshe Goldsmith, and his wife, and community spokesperson, Leah – at least provided a glimpse into what informs her view from Jerusalem.

Sherwood’s prose has always lacked the anger – and ideologically driven animosity towards Israel – which seems to animate Rachel Shabi, and she doesn’t seem to possess the puerile artistic naiveté of Mya Guarnieri, and indeed her disposition and conduct while in Itamar seemed to conform with this assessment.

Though it would be easy to make more of Sherwood’s gaffe – she asked the Rebbetzin if she considered herself a “Messianic Jew” – than it warrants, it seemed an apt illustration of her unfamiliarity not just with Judaism, but with the political, moral, and historical terrain of the nation she’s covering.

Her pejorative depictions of Israeli “settlers”, which went so far as to suggest a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists and residents of Itamar (as illustrated by Medusa), as with her broader bias against Israel (as documented by Israelinurse), suggests a reporter in tuned with conventional thinking about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in the UK, rather than someone with a keen interest in the region or a desire to challenge her readers’ biases.

As Guardian Assistant Editor Michael White acknowledged in a frank and revealing comment on his blog:

“The Guardian has] always sensed liberal, middle class ill-ease in going after stories about immigration…about welfare fraud or the less attractive tribal habits of the working class, which is more easily ignored altogether….Christians, especially popes, governments of Israel..are more straightforward targets….[The Guardian is] striving much of the time to tell you what you’d rather know rather than challenge your prejudices and make you cross.”

Of course, none of this is to suggest that Sherwood’s habitual bias against Israel is any less injurious to the state’s moral legitimacy than if she was motivated by the malice of Shabi (or other CiF contributors, such as Ben White,Khaled Diab, or Omar Barghouti), merely that what struck me most about Sherwood while with her in Itamar was her evident lack of even the hint of gravitas.

The ugly Israeli caricature which Sherwood’s pen consistently conjures – the “dark, mythical Israel”, as Jonathan Spyer so aptly coined it – is in tuned with the attitudes of polite, liberal society in the UK.

Sherwood no doubt fancies herself refined, sophisticated, and, as she no doubt views the I-P Conflict through the prism of Palestinian victimhood, informed by liberal instinct to side with the underdog.

Yet, in her selective empathy, she fails spectacularly at understanding Jewish concerns – our hopes, fears, and national aspirations.

There was so much I wished I had told Sherwood about the brutal murders of Udi, Ruth, Yoav, Elad, and Hadas.

Yes, I wanted her to understand their humanity, the real life story which bears little or no resemblance to the tales she is told, and dutifully retells, about “extremists”, “hardliners”, and “zealots”, but I wanted to tell her so much more.

I wanted to tell her that such brutal acts of violence, the continuing physical threats from state and no-state actors, and the more amorphous moral threats posed by campaigns of delegitimization (efforts to characterize us as a nation beyond the pale) – the dramas that are dutifully reported by Sherwood and her colleagues at the Guardian – are seen by most Israelis through the much wider lens: thousands of years of Jewish history.

The moral sobriety which Israelis possess is informed by a connection with generations of Jews who came before us: from our Biblical traditions – our patriarchs, matriarchs, prophets and kings, heroes and villains.

Torah Scroll

We’re inspired by the wisdom of Esther, the courage of Judah Maccabee, the defiance in the face of overwhelming  Roman power at Masada, and the unimaginable resolve of our ancestors who resisted the cross during the Crusades.

We recall with indescribable anguish the two thousand years of expulsions, pogroms, and massacres: the masses who met their end in the gas chambers of Bergen-Belsen, the humanity thrown in an open fire in Matthausen and Sobibor, the living thousands who dug and were buried in mass grave at Babi Yar – the helplessness of statelessness.


But, I also wish I could have told her, far from wallowing in our past, we mostly remember to understand. We remember to understand the imperative of Jewish sovereignty, and to know that we’ll forever be in the debt of those brave few who fought and sacrificed so much so that we could miraculously arise from the ashes to be born anew in Israel – our old-new land – and to continue the struggle so that we’re never again subject to the goodwill, the whims and wishes, of those not informed by our history, those not invested in our collective destiny.


I wanted to tell her that the Fogels aren’t “settlers”.

We are the Fogels, and the Fogels are us.

Harriet Sherwood could have heard these words and completely understood the story.

But she’ll never really understand our story.

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38 replies »

  1. wonderful, beautiful words which brought tears to my eyes. My mum, god rest her soul, who we lost last year used to say “only a Jew can understand a Jew”.

  2. Someone who is anti-Israel purely because it’s the done thing, like Sherwood, is so much harder to fight, in my opinion. Their apathy is practically deadly; yet there is no ideology behind it besides political correctness or taking the easy way out socially. It’s easier for me to challenge someone who viscerally hates Israel, even though there’s much less chance (or no chance at all) of convincing them to change their mind.

    Nevertheless, kol hakavod on this wonderful essay. These are beautifully written and powerful words. They should be forwarded to every Israeli PR person, whether within the government or outside.

  3. You are expecting too much from her,the simple fact that she works and writes for the Guardian makes her unworthy to bother with.Any Jew (she is Jewish isn’t she)with an ounce of pride,self worth,self esteem,would not sell themselves to a loathsome anti-Semitic anti-Zionist anti-Israeli newspaper like the Guardian.

    BTW great article send it to the Guardian,in fact shove it down their throats.

  4. She understands our story alright,she couldn’t be that thick,but then there is no money to be made by writing the truth of what Israel is really like.She would not last two seconds in the Guardian if she wrote anything positive about Israel.

    Freedman’s last article about Israel,brought howls of derision,jeering,ridicule,from the usual Guardian posters,who were his former cheer squad,they thought that he had betrayed them,by pointing out what the palestinians are really like.We won’t be hearing from him,too often.

  5. Harriet Sherwood is just yet another mediocrity among so many who are now prominent in the British media. What more is there to be said ?

  6. ..malice of Shabi (or other CiF contributors, such as Ben White, Khaled Diab, or Omar Barghouti),
    Khaled Diab ?? One wonders whether you have actually read what he has written if you toss him into that otherwise pathetic group. But then again, CifWatch “strives much of the time to tell you what you’d rather know rather than challenge your prejudices and make you cross.”

    I wanted to tell her that the Fogels aren’t “settlers”.
    We are the Fogels, and the Fogels are us.
    Harriet Sherwood could have heard these words and completely understood the story.

    Wrong, the Fogels are “settlers” and becoming a “settler” is a conscious act and a political statement. Like Sherwood you conflate a number of issues in order to camouflage the inconvenient ones. She uses the settlement issue minimize the embarrassing and unjustifiable murders while you use the murders to minimize the embarrassing and unjustifiable settlements.

  7. The Guardian is on a sacred mission to promote the global Islamic revolution. It is one of the main crusading forces of the Dhimmi International and writers such as Harriet Sherwood relentlessly push the party line that Islam is the solution and holy war is best.

    Any other analysis is superfluous.

  8. The Guardian’s inevitable decline into mediocrity is shown by its choice of female writers or editors. What is one to make of Harriet Sherwood or Georgina Henry? How delighted they must be that the EU picked Catherine Ashton ..

    Their male counterparts are Ben and Michael White.

  9. Wrong Crap. Isn’t it interesting that any Jewish community in Israel is called a settlement, no longer how long it has existed? Hebron is a good example. To the libero-fascist any connection that the Jew makes to his/her ancient homeland is termed “illegitimate” and “unjustifiable.” It’s much like the criticism that they incessantly throw at Israel.

  10. Michael:
    I was referring to what Adam wrote regarding Sherwood and I don’t think that either of them has referred to Tel-Aviv as a “settlement”. So when I use the term I am referring specifically to places like Itamar, the subject of the article.

  11. MTC, do you really think that the terrorists who killed the Fogel family (and those who support such actions) would lay down their arms and peacefully coexist with Israel if we abandoned every settlement, and withdrew to pre June 67 borders? I think that’s the heart of the question, one which I rarely see the left addressing. In other words, I’m not opposed to withdrawing from communities across the green line out of ideology, but merely because history has demonstrated the fallacy of the land for peace equation. (I remember those who predicted that peace would be the result of our Gaza pullout and our withdrawal form S. Lebanon, and wonder what they have to say now that their assumptions were shown to be without merit). So, to refer to “settlers” as an obstacle to peace is a cliche that should long ago have been buried. You’re no doubt bright and well read, and wonder why you won’t agree that – looking at the 62 years of Israel’s history – the main obstacle to peace is the refusal of our neighbors to accept our existence within any borders. If we withdraw from every square inch of the West Bank, as well as E. Jerusalem, and the result isn’t a moderate peaceful Palestinian state but, rather, a Hamas run entity like what exists in Gaza, I’m just wondering what the left will say then. More importantly, what will Israel do in such a scenario? How will we deal with terrorist movements equipped with increasingly sophisticated weaponry on 3 of our borders? Surely, you have considered this possibility.

  12. MtC, how are you, a bitter and twisted individual who doesn’t live in Israel, more entitled to voice your opinions and have them respected than anyone else here?

    Khaled Dhiab, being of the Grauniad stable, is passive-aggressively anti-Israel, as are you, which is probably why you identify with his burblings.

    And as for settlers making a conscious choice, how did Yoav, Hadass and Eldad Fogel make that choice? They were murdered because they were Jewish and were there which seems ample excuse for apologists for terror.
    Only Palestinian children are used to make political statements and paraded whilst making them.

    Idiot

  13. Adam, I agree. There could be no such thing as the sort of lasting peace which would lead to peaceful coexistence with these “people” – given that their ideology dictates that they must strive to the death to wipe out Jews.

    MtC, before you start, the above is enshrined in the Koran.

    I have read the Koran. Have you?

  14. I am noticing that all Mind the Crap’s criticisms are aimed chiefly at the powerful figures here, of whom he is no doubt extremely exercised and jealous. He’s a living embodiment of the Oedipus complex.

    Mind the Crap, what was your relationship like with your father?

  15. Adam:
    Your reply is not to the point. First off all, you ignore my comment about Khaled Diab. Secondly, you again conflate two issues – settlements and security. Was there any less security between 67-77 before the settlement boom began? The settlement drive was led by people who were interested in absolutely nothing but the settlements, yet these same people now criticize the rest of the world for also making the settlements the central issue. The settlements have had the negative result of deflecting discussion away from the main issue – security. You’re no doubt bright and well read, but you cannot change reality by writing these articles — and neither can Harriet Sherwood.

  16. Very good thanks (and I note your attempt to deflect). Now, given what you are conveying here and your attitude to the writers of articles here in the past, please answer my question.

    And incidentally, have you read the Koran? I have.

  17. Reading the Koran is a long task..

    An easier task is to read the Hamass Charter of 1988, the same year that Pan Am 103 was bombed.

    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/hamas.asp

    For a quick example, electronically search for the word “freemason” to get a taste of the perverse world-view of hamass and those who push the claim that hamass is a sane, “progressive” element.

  18. MTC –The settlement drive was led by people who were interested in absolutely nothing but the settlements —
    —————————————————–,
    If you say this you don’t remember that the settlements were led by the principle of making land for peace more real by making the land we gave more valuable in that it had people living on it.

  19. Adam, perhaps off the point, but your Holocaust facts are inaccurate. Bergen Belsen was a concentration camp as opposed to an extermination camp, without gas chambers for mass murder. Babi Yar was an open ravine on the outskirts of Kiev, and not a pre-prepared pit – but the method of murder was gruesome – ‘sardine packing’ – getting the victims to lie head-to-foot on top of those already shot to improve ergonomic ‘efficiency’.

  20. BlinderThanC**p,

    No Jew in Palestine is a settler. That’s because Jews are the indigenous Palestinians.

    All Arabs in Palestine are settlers. That’s because Arabs are indigenous to the Arabian Peninsula.

  21. The so-called ‘settler’ issue is something of a red herring. This is because 1) Arab murders of Jews in Palestine long pre-date the current focus on the West Bank – in other words, security has always been bad and Israel in existential danger. 2) In unguarded moments, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority often refer to all Israelis – even behind the green line – as ‘settlers’. This means they want to destroy Israel altogether. Again, nothing has changed. 3) Some Jewish communities in the West Bank were established well beyond living memory, so their members are obviously not ‘settlers’. 4) In their respective visions for Palestine, neither Hamas nor the PA envisage Jews as counting for anything: the aim is to get the Jews out altogether – by expelling them from Gaza (as happened) and the West Bank and by flooding Israel with Arabs, so as eventually take power and destroy it from within. 5) Finally, the left’s focus on ‘settlers’ is inherently antisemitic, because what they really don’t like are religious Jews, still less religious Jews capable of wielding weapons and protecting themselves from persecution. In other words, religious Jews with some kind of power. In that, the new left has common ground with the Nazis, who in fact also called themselves left-wing (National Socialists).

  22. Jon:
    Brilliant comment !! You even managed to drag the Nazis in !!! But your attitude is inherently anti-semitic because what you really don’t like are secular left-wing Jews wielding opinions. In other words, secular left-wing Jews with some kind of power. And don’t forget that although the Nazis called themselves “socialists”, their first target was the left in Germany, long before the Jews. So who do YOU have common ground with ?

  23. MTC – sorry to burst your bubble, but a heck of a lot of what you (& the UN, Catherine Ashton, the PSC, PLO etc*) would call settlers are Left-wing secular Jews.

    *(that’s some company you keep, btw)

    The question is, how did we get to the current situation? We got here because the 1948 armistice lines/pre ’67 borders were indefensible and numerous Arab armies decided to take co-ordinated advantage of the situation in order to try to wipe the Jews INSIDE those borders off the face of the earth.

    Yes, in theory we could have just taken the land in a fair fight and not built anything there, but would that have prevented our arriving at today’s situation in which we are accused non-stop of ‘stealing Arab land’? I don’t think so.

    As we have proved in both Sinai and Gaza, we are perfectly capable of dismantling towns and villages if the situation justifies it.

    If there’s one thing the current unrest throughout the Arab world should be teaching us, that is that we’d be best waiting until the dust settles before we even think of signing any more treaties or taking any more unilateral steps.

  24. IsraeliNurse:

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but my comment was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I am disappointed that you were not more indignant about a comment that collectively equates the Israeli left with the Nazis.

    Yes, in theory we could have just taken the land in a fair fight and not built anything there, but would that have prevented our arriving at today’s situation in which we are accused non-stop of ‘stealing Arab land’? I don’t think so.”

    Not “in theory”, because that was essentially the situation from 1967-77. And the settlements are not “theory”; they exist and despite what we say here they influenced attitudes on the other side, mainly because of the daily friction they initiated and the sense of finality they generated amongst the Palestinians, i.e. ‘if we don’t do something now it will be too late.’

    P.S. Your comment on the H-P “Mer-Khamis” thread yesterday was excellent.

    • MTC wrote, “And the settlements are not “theory”; they exist and despite what we say here they influenced attitudes on the other side, mainly because of the daily friction they initiated ”

      You have apparently decided that “peace” entails disgorging the Jews from their homes to reduce “friction.” Quite the opposite! It is likely that constricting the land area of Israel will produce war rather than avoid it – as happened in Gaza. Moreover, your favoring of an apartheid Palestinian state is an evil you will see and admit to only in hindsight, I am afraid. Frankly, if there must be victims, then I prefer that Palestinians carry the burden. Jews have already had their turn!

  25. I obviously pressed a button, didn’t I. Don’t like being compared to Nazis? Well, don’t espouse antisemitic positions, then.

    By the way, just repeating what people write and turning it round is not clever: it just shows you have lost the argument.

    Incidentally, for all those people who are capable of rational argument, note that a true antisemite will never be convinced by it: his mind cannot be changed because it is fundamentally bigoted. You will never, ever hear a true antisemite admit he was wrong. If you show him up enough, he will start shouting and, ultimately, descend into violence. Examples of this lovely mentality: Hamas, the PA, Hezbolah, Iran, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the new Left

  26. Jon:
    I obviously pressed a button, didn’t I. Don’t like being compared to Nazis?
    Actually, yours was the most moronic comment that I have ever seen on CifWatch and believe me, you have a lot of competition here. I have concluded that comments like yours are the ones that the people who run this site prefer to see as they seem reluctant to erase them. It’s sad that even the anti-semitic Guardian would quickly remove your comment but not CifWatch.

  27. I see. Accusing you of an antisemitic approach is moronic, is it? Your response, which fails to grapple with the substantive issue, proves my point entirely. Anyway, this thread is now closed, as far as I am concerned. Not worth wasting powder and shot on the inedible.

  28. Deep down inside, Harriet Sherwood knows what happened in Itamar is was an act of genocide.

    The woman works for the Guardian, England’s most anti-Israel mass media outlet, at least under Rusbridger that is, so she does what her bosses expect her to do. Or she might get fired tomorrow.

  29. Deep down inside, Harriet Sherwood knows what happened in Itamar was an act of genocide.

    The woman works for the Guardian, England’s most anti-Israel mass media outlet, at least under Rusbridger that is, so she does what her bosses expect her to do. Or she might get fired tomorrow.

  30. MindtheCrap intrigues me. I come across his posts on CiF which are very different from the ones here. Perhaps there are two of him or what he writes here is an act, or he’s one of those split personalities.

    Or he has to behave himself on CiF because he’d be rubbed out if he didn’t so he lets off steam here.