15 seconds in Sderot: An open letter to Harriet Sherwood, the Guardian’s Jerusalem, Israel correspondent

Dear Harriet,

Recently you and some apparently intrepid ‘human rights operatives’ went out for a sail with a fleet of Gazan fishermen to experience for yourselves how Israeli ships patrol the sea off Gaza.  You helpfully informed us of how lenient the Israeli Navy is, by giving us GPS coordinates which indicated that you were right outside the three-mile limit while the only deterrent used by the IDF was water.

I sent you a little note via Twitter asking you and these unnamed ‘human rights monitors’  to complete the experience.  

As defined by their title, it must surely be their aim to see things from all angles and to find out whether the treatment on the other side of the divide is as humane and if the threats from Gaza are as empty by spending some time in Sderot.  

You haven’t replied yet and I’m sure that you wouldn’t wish to miss the opportunity to be fair and objective.  So just answer in the comments below this short note and tell me how many of you there will be and when you can make it.  I’ll ask your hosts to make sure that you get accommodations very near a bomb shelter. Although Sderot doesn’t have the water parks, luxury accommodations and fine-dining restaurants of Gaza  I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people willing to show you the nearest route to safety.  

One thing: I do hope that these monitors are young and fit. You really shouldn’t neglect your visits to the gym before going: your 15 second sprint rate is going to be tested there, possibly with your life as first prize.


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18 replies »

  1. Excellent post. That clip of Sderot should be required viewing for anyone covering the I-P Conflict. It’s a profound injustice that children should have to live their lives under the constant threat of enemy rocket fire – especially as their ONLY crime is being citizens of a sovereign Jewish state. It’s shameful that such a fact isn’t a greater scandal.

    • Adam, you’re right. How Israel is seen as an aggressor is beyond me. Sderot is not a military facility. No rockets are fired from there. No troops deployed out of Sderot. Only families trying to raise their children. Somehow, the human rights that we hear all these groups shouting about are not afforded to Israelis. The same rights that these organizations claim to be fighting for, apparently do not apply to Jews.

      • “How Israel is seen as an aggressor is beyond me.”

        All that is required is to adopt the narrative that Israel is a colonial enterprise predicated on dispossessing the “indigenous Palestinians.”

        And all that is required in order to see the reality of Arab imperialist aggression against the Jewish State is to realize the truth that the Jews are the one and only true indigenous Palestinian nation, and that this conflict is the result of the Arab settlers in Palestine coveting what belongs to the indigenous Palestinians, the Jews.

        All depends on the standpoint, all depends on the initial premises; change the standpoint and you change the entire view, the way you view everything that has occurred, is occurring right now and will occur in this region.

  2. Much as I agree with Margie’s invitation, even if accepted I doubt that Harriet would pen a thoughful and objective article about the mental strains of life under rocket fire. Objectivity is really not Harriet’s style.

    A more likely scenario is that she would morph into an arms expert overnight and declare the rockets no more problematic than the average sparkler.

    The more I hear of journalists like Harriet, the more I think they should be held accountable by law. They are actively exacerbating a conflict in which lives have been and will continue to be lost. I don’t know how they sleep at night.

      • It’s not the Gazan children’s fault that Hamas’s policy is the annihilation of Israel no matter what the cost to the people. However, as the children themselves grow up under the tutelage of the party and as they become Hamas themselves it does become their fault retroactively. If the adults who are Hamas remembered their own pain as children and if it were sufficiently important to them they would move heaven & earth to change the system.

        But they dont, so it isn’t

      • To understand just the kind of blind bigot you are dealing with, here’s one of Tebboth’s posts from 2010:

        “Any criticism of Israeli policies seems to stimulate a bombardment of largely ad hominem abuse in which Gentiles are categorised as ‘anti-semitic’, Jews as ‘self-hating’.

        My own heritage: according to the National Geographic research project, my maternal DNA is associated with Ashkenazi Jewish descent.”

        Now let’s look at the kind of thing that Tebboth deems to be “criticism” of Israel:

        “A spirited discussion ensued on whether Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians can be accurately compared with those which operating under the apartheid system in South Africa.”

        Of course, what Tebboth and the Methodist and Quaker swine are engaged in is not criticism at all, but, instead, crude and ugly deligitimisation of the Jewish state. I have no idea whether they are anti-Semitic. I do know that they are evil.


        John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, on Jews:

        The Jews is a worm

        From “A Concise History of American Antisemitism”:

        “An early visitor to Georgia was John Wesley, later founder of Methodism, who said of the Jews:

        Outcasts from thee, and scattered wide
        Blaspheming who they crucified
        Unsaved, unpitied, unforgiven
        Branded like Cain, they bear their load
        Abhorred of men, and cursed of God

        Wesley’s language grew more violent when he declaimed on the Jewish adherence to the Torah: ‘What stupidity, what senselessness must it be for such an unclean, guilty helpless worm as this [the Jew], to dream of seeking acceptance by his own righteousness, of living by the righteousness which is of the law!’ ”

      • Tebboth, given the endemic violence within Gazan society, it’s very difficult for anyone to tease out whether the post-traumatic stress from which children in Gaza may suffer is due to Israeli action or having, say, to witness summary executions of their family members and such-like.

        Also you should bear in mind that much research into the experience of the children of Gaza is done by people who are themselves biased and wish to make political or doubtful professional capital. One such is, Dr Eyyad Ell Sarraj, a psychologist based in Gaza whose claims of damage to Palestinian children from sonic booms were not substantiated by any verifiable data and contradicted by what we know about the effects of sonic booms from available research. El-Sarraj’s own research has noted ‘many methodological and conceptual weaknesses’ that ‘deserve criticism’, including the confounding effects that self-report and political activity has on the reporting of trauma. While Israeli medical organisations and parliamentary representatives recognise the inherent psychological consequences of these actions and struggle for just solutions for both sides,neither Dr El-Sarraj nor any Palestinian mental health or medical organisation has seen the need to do so for Israeli victims of the conflict.

        And El-Sarraj makes no secret of his “scientific” opinions in other matters, too. He is on record as opining, “Are they evil by nature, these Jews? Or are they stupid, born mentally subnormal? I found after long, long thinking about it that they are not born evil. And they are not stupid. They are psycho-pathologically disturbed” I think that even you will agree that this sort of opinion is far from an objective scientist’s observations of the effects of the conflict.

        Note also that he refers to “Jews” rather than “Israelis.”

        • And it is important to remember that all of the Arabs’ suffering is self-inflicted. If their children are made unhappy, it is entirely the fault of their elders.

          If the Arabs stopped attacking Israel, and stopped committing war crimes against and innocent civilian population, no one would bother them.

          I have extremely limited sympathy for whining Arabs considering that they rejoice in inflicting such suffering on Jewish children.

      • Too fucking bad – when the gloves finally are removed, they pain they experience will be palpable. No point in being reasonable with assholes – they don’t play by any rules.

    • Tebboth, you are not just a bigot but also a complete fool. Nobody is arguing that Palestinians are not suffering. The point is that the plight of Jews in Israel is almost completely ignored. Your two posts simply prove the point that is being made.

  3. Palestinian children are brainwashed, indoctrinated to hate Jews (Yahood) – not Zionists.

    Palestinianism is Racism.
    Palestinianism is Fascism.

  4. Richard, you are ignoring the obvious here. The Palestinians can stop this tomorrow. They can agree to talk to Israel and to negotiate a way forward. It is their choice not to do so. They will not even come to the table and thus we must conclude that they obviously prefer to continue and exacerbate a conflict.

    Shouldn’t you hold them responsible for their own actions and the effects they have on the people whose welfare should be their concern ? Or are you yet another who prefers to see them through the soft bigotry of low expectations – as if they are nothing more than slightly wayward children who do not have the ability to behave like adults?

    • Richard Tebboth must view Arabs as primitives, incapable of being held to current day standards of civility.

      Hence Richard Tebboths dual standards.

      • I’m inclined to agree.

        There appear to be many whose expectations of the Palestinian people are low. They see them not as a people whose values sytem is different to their own but as broadly incapable of judgement and action and as in need of support as the average 12yr old.

        It’s a form of benign arrogance amongst some in the West and those that hold it fall prey to it. It’s a belief that the wisdom of our values is self-evident to those of all cultures and if we apply them to all situations we will solve all problems.

        • What do we call a person who views one race as being less capable than others of civilised behaviour than others and consequently applies different standards to/has lower expectations from that race than others?


          Tebboth is a racist. His own posts condemn him