On the liberal and fashionable anti-immigrant racism of the Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood

If a right-wing columnist or blogger in the UK had written an essay decrying the injurious effects of certain racial or ethnic groups on British society, the response by Guardian reporters and CiF commentators would be furious and indignant.  If the essay had singled out South Asians or North Africans, and warned that such groups were changing the face of British culture for the worse, accusations of racism would be predictable and sanctimonious.

Indeed, in 2010, the Guardian ran a whole series of articles under the heading, “Europe: Immigrants under pressure“, which noted, “Anti immigrant movements in Europe have moved from the madcap fringes to propping up governments.”  The series even included an interactive map to show where the anti-immigrant racism was flaring up, which was characterized by Guardian writers alternately as “far right”, “xenophobic”, and “racist”.

More recently, the Guardian has blamed such “mainstream” anti-immigrant rhetoric from “far right bloggers” for helping to incite Anders Behring Breivik’s terrorist attack in Norway. 

Yet, Harriet Sherwood – the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, who, no doubt, fancies herself a multiculturalist who is free of such narrow-minded anti-immigrant bias – saw fit in her most recent post, Israel’s former Soviet immigrants transform adopted country“, Aug. 17, to blame Israeli immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU) for moving the country in a dangerous direction.

Sherwood’s piece blames “The million-plus citizens of the former Soviet Union who immigrated to Israel in the past 20 years” for causing a housing crisis, being resistant to integrating into Israeli society, and bringing with them Russian political values inconsistent with democracy, tolerance and compromise.

Now, just imagine if something similar was written about the injurious effects of immigration to the UK on traditional British culture, and substitute the word “Muslims” for “Russians” to get a sense of the supreme moral hypocrisy at play here.

Fortunately, we received the following email from Anastasia Couzminski, a CiF Watch reader and immigrant to Israel from the FSU, who took furious exception to Sherwood’s characterization of her.

Here’s, in part, her email to me:

Hello CiF watch,

As a regular reader of your blog and one of those annoying Russians that “integrated little” in Israel, I couldn’t let this article pass. This is personal.

I am beyond furious at [Harriet Sherwood’s] article!

[What she says about Russians] couldn’t be any farther from the truth.

As an immigrant who’s been living here most of my life, I consider myself to be 110% ISRAELI and not Russian or Kazakh (I was born in the republic of Kazakhstan).

My mother is Jewish but I have many friends whose mother are in fact non-Jewish but are similarly supremely dedicated to this country.

It is absolute rubbish that immigrants integrated little and live mostly in “Russian enclaves”.

Many such “unintegrated Russians” are married to “Sabras” (Israelis who were born in Israel), give their kids Israeli names and many even refuse to speak Russian anymore.

This LIE [regarding the] lack of integration is evident everywhere.

I, as with most of the “unintegrated Russians”, have served in the army and, in fact, many of these “unintegrated Russian” young men go to become fighters and officers in the army and fight and DIE side by side with Israel-born soldiers!

We study all together in schools and universities and despite there being “Russian” hang-out places, it is SIMPLY NOT TRUE that [non-Russian] Israelis are NOT wanted there. The FIB that Russians created a housing problem is [also simply not true]. Russians did not come to parasite on this country. They finished “Ulpan” (Hebrew classes for immigrants) and right away began searching for jobs. They can now be found in every single workplace including hospitals, courts, and the media (NOT ONLY Russian media).

The fact that Harriet Sherwood makes a point of singling out Russians is a total double standard. And the following quote by the Russian-hating Israeli journalist, whom [Sherwood] must have had to dig out from some very dark place, which claims “…alienation between Russian immigrants and native-born Israelis [exist because] there is not much social interaction” is also simply not true.

Most of my friends are Israelis, many of my friends are married to Israelis, we party, travel and do everything together! And the older generation is the same.

In short, [Sherwood] evidently didn’t have anything to report about and found, in the much maligned Russian community, a convenient target and scapegoat.



21 replies »

  1. Thanks Anastasia.

    I’d like to add that in comparison to the immigrants in the UK the former USSR immigrants to Israel in the last 20 years have intigrated in a far better way.

    So much so that one of my better memories of 2002 work in Petah tikva was an engineer from russia called Peter who spoke fluent Hebrew by the time we met.

    he went to do a job in Nazzareth for the day and came back with a carton of baklawa from an arab marchent.

    The religious engineer made a fuss he shouldn’t have bought it because it wasn’t koshered and us seculer Israelis laughed it off and ate it.

    “It’s just Baklawa buddy” we said.

    You couldn’t get a more Israeli picture than that.

    As for the Kazakh born security guard, me and my French wife spent the independence day BBQ with them in Park Hayarkon…

    Mind you it might have been a Russian “enclave” hiding away insoide all the hundreds of Israelis….

    • Anastasia you shouldn’t worry about Ms. Sherwood’s racist crap. This is her style, this is her only profession, this is her moral and intelligence.
      While you and most ex-Soviet olim and their descendants become Israelis a long time ago and are busy to build our country poor Harriett has only one talent to sell – her hate of everything Israeli. Writing that the ex-Soviet immigrants didn’t integrate fully into the Israeli melting pot she proved again her absolute and total ignorance, stupidity and moral incompetency.

    • I’m not Israeli,but talking with russian-israeli everyday and absolutely agree with Anastasia.But I aslo must add that there is real problem with intergration among old age immigrants.

      It’s will be great if CIF Watch made official complain on Sherwood’s racism especially after you won “Hassidic Jews in London riots” batle.

      • Vandoren there’s a problem with older immigrants from any society about fitting in. They don’t make as much effort to learn the language and the way of life is often so different from what they knew that they never get used to it.
        Just starting the work week on Sunday rather than Monday is a real shock for a lot of people!

      • Vandoren, my parents emigrated to Israel in their late 50s. They really never integrated into Israeli society; had English-speaking friends; never learned the language and my father, especially, found it terribly hard to emigrate at that age. That does not mean, however, they were not 100% Zionists and loved the country. Sherwood deliberately obfuscates. Her remit is to write only negative opinion pieces. She is not a real journalist. She has no nose for ‘news.’

  2. A shockingly stupid article from the hackette Sherwood – it is a perfect exemplar of Orwell’s ‘double think’. But she has found a new best friend!

    “It was a very different type of immigration,” said Lily Galili, an Israeli journalist writing a book about the impact of the tidal wave from the former Soviet Union. “The didn’t want to integrate. They wanted to lead. They changed the nature of the country.”

    Racism, much? They – all of them – did not want to integrate, wanted to lead and have changed the nature of the country. Would Sherwood tolerate and approvingly, quote any hack who talked and wrote about the million or so recent immigrants to the UK (France, Germany etc) in similar terms? Of course not – that would be ‘racist’. But when it comes to Israel, the comical Sherwood’s staggering conceit and SWP approved ‘anti-Zionism’ blinds her. Compare and contrast with the equally Israel obsessed Linsey German who stated at the Marxism 2003 event: “I’m in favour of defending gay rights, […] but I am not prepared to have it as a shibboleth, [created by] people who . . . regard the state of Israel as somehow a viable presence.”[6].

  3. I dispute the idea that the Russian have not integrated into the country. Of course, both ways that is a sweeping statement and there will be individuals that integrate more and those that integrate less. But when we visit Israel as we do every couple of years there is less and less of the Russian influence visible that was so obvious a decade or two ago – less Russian language on storefronts, more Russians serving in the army, obviously many in academia, etc.

    Even their emergence in politics is a strong indication of integration and a desire to make Israel their home rather than reminiscing about the good old days under Kosygin etc.

    • BTW – regarding the housing crisis, etc. The fact that Israel absorbed some 2 million Russians probably did put short term pressure on housing. But against that, the fact that the economy was then that much larger as a result of the new and fast population growth was a tremendous plus.

      It is interesting to compare the contribution of many of the Russian, many highly educated, to technology, culture, finance, and so forth and the incredible ability of Israel to absorb a group 1/3 its population at the time of the mass Russian aliyah with the absolutely abysmal record of European countries with the immigrants an, even more telling, the miserable record of the the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank in creating similar successes.

      There is no success that the topsy-turvey views of Sherwood and her ilk will not somehow manage to see as a failure.

      But that is because their measure of success is the failure of their own country, which they are forced, incredibly, to view as a success. When you see the world upside down, anything is possible.

      • I remembered it was 1 million when I left arounf 1997.

        Aviv’s link confirms this.

        Never the less, at the time Israelis were 5+ million.

        This was a massive immigration.

        I still remember the massive Russian signs in Arlozorov shops which are now all but disappeared.

        The integration of the older people is always harder since learning language at youth / childhood is always easier, and customs / Social practices are not fully in place.

        In other words young people and youth’s social building blocks are open to changes and they can adjust their reaction to be easily part of the crowd, which is something most people require.

  4. And, Anastasia, those who actually know and understand Israel also know that the Russian aliyah has been both a miracle and a blessing to Israel (and to those in the rest of the world) who reap and will continue to reap the rewards of the Russian / Israeli technological and medical advances. (And yes, for sure, a small minority of these immigrants are criminals/idiots/racists etc – how could it be otherwise?) And, as with the aliyah from the Arab lands, it takes time for complete integration but complete integration there will be.

  5. If Ms harriet C. Sherwood wants to learn about ex-Soviet Israelis then she must read this in the Ha’aretz from Maya Zinshtein:

    There is no such thing as Russians in Israel
    The so-called ‘Russian public’ is made up of one million people of different ages, from different countries, cultures and socioeconomic status, and with only one common denominator – a language

    • You forgot to mention that the language is Hebrew.

      One of my Israeli friend from Kazakhstan is a lady from Muslim dissent who married a Jewish Kazakh before they made Alyia.

      Strange how her views towards Palestinian terrorism were far harsher than mine, even though I was born into this fiery country.

      She never thought of herself as being in an enclave or not a part of the public.

  6. Calling a million people from the former USSR (Poland, Russia, Chechnya, Ukraine, Rumania etc) all “Russians” is typical of Harriet in Israel. She always misidentifies and seeks ways to label and sort people & behaviour into groups of ‘rotten’, ‘more rotten’ and ‘most rotten’.

    To illustrate how much she is missing: an accident led to an exchange of words between two drivers in Israel. One shouted “You Russian shit” and the other replied, more angrily than ever “I’m not Russian, I’m Polish”.

    • We should send this twit a symbolic air ticket out of Ben Gurion airport,to a destination of her choice,Libya,Syria,South Lebanon,Iran,Iraq,or any of the enlightened Muslim states that the Guardian and it’s posters love so much.

      • It could have been a lot worse,the Guardian could send someone else to Jerusalem to replace HS,someone else who actually has a brain……

        • And the Migrants in Britain are fully integrated???????????……..Some of these looters and rioters are third generation migrants to Britain and still feel and are made to feel like outsiders….and this idiot is talking about integration…..

  7. People who don’t want to be seen to be having a go at Jews think it’s okay to have a go at Russians instead. Sherwood is a racist.