Israel fires back at Harriet Sherwood over allegations that Palestinian kids were mistreated

On Jan. 22, the Guardian published Harriet Sherwood’s report, Palestinian children – alone and bewildered in Israel’s Al-Jalame Jail, which included accusations that Israel mistreats Palestinian teens charged with acts of violence, allegations largely based on information provided by one radical, anti-Zionist NGO.

Specifically, Sherwood charged that a substantial percentage of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli soldiers (for acts of violence) have been mistreated while in custody – which, it was claimed, includes physical abuse and long stays of solitary confinement. 

In an over 2700 word long report only 230 were devoted to presenting the Israeli side of the story, and even those few passages curiously omitted the following emphatic denial by Israeli Security officials (which was provided to the Guardian prior to publication):

“The claims that Palestinian minors were subject to interrogation techniques that include beatings, prolonged periods in handcuffs, threats, kicks, verbal abuse, humiliation, isolation and prevention of sleep are utterly baseless.”

As HonestReporting noted, Sherwood also severely downplayed the offences Palestinian teens are charged with, which include:

[The recruitment by terrorist organizations…involvement in suicide bomb attacks, Molotov cocktail throwing, stone throwing and stabbing, grenade throwing, the use of explosives, shooting, car bombs, transfer of weapons, kidnapping, rocket launching, as well as assault and murder.

Today, eleven days following Sherwood’s smear against Israel, ‘Comment is Free’ provided Amir Ofek, press attache for the Embassy of Israel in London, the chance to respond.

Ofek, consistent with the information made available to Sherwood prior to publishing her story, strongly refuted allegations that the torture and humiliation of Palestinian suspects was permitted, and categorically denied that “solitary confinement in order to induce a confession” is employed – all of which, Ofek argued, severely undermines the veracity of the Guardian report.

Moreover, while Sherwood provided meager space for the Israeli side of the story in her original report, she didn’t see fit to include any information on the severity of the crimes Palestinian teens were arrested for, choosing instead to focus on the “emotional scars” inflicted upon those in custody. 

As Ofek noted about the horrific nature of the atrocities that minors, some as young as 12, can be arrested for:

Hakim Awad, 17, is a minor. Last March he and his 18-year-old cousin, Amjad, brutally murdered the Fogel family while they slept. No mercy was shown to three-month-old Hadas, her two brothers (aged four and 11) and their parents. The scene of the crime, including the severed head of a toddler, left even the most experienced of police officers devastated. The duo proudly confessed to their killings, and they have shown no subsequent remorse.

Ofek added:

Between 2000-04, 292 minors took part in terrorist activities…Ismail Tsabaj, 12, Azi Mostafa, 13, and Yousuf Basam, 14, were sent by Hamas on a mission chillingly similar to the one involving the Fogels, aiming to penetrate a Jewish home at night and slaughter a family in their beds. In this case, the IDF fortunately stopped them in time.

Ofek further noted that Sherwood’s dismissive claim that “most [Palestinian children arrested] are accused of throwing stones at soldiers or settlers”, shows a “bewildering disregard for the damage that throwing stones…can cause”, before adding:

“Judah Shoham never reached the age of many of these minors, as he was killed by Palestinians throwing stones, aged just five months. Similarly, Jonathan Palmer never reached his second birthday; he was killed with his father [Asher] when stones were hurled at their car last October.”

Indeed, most tellingly, while Sherwood’s report not only named the Palestinian teens who alleged Israeli mistreatment (and even included an eleven minute video of the teens telling their story), a search of the Guardian’s website didn’t turn up even one mention of the Israelis – Jonathan (Yonatan) Palmer and his father, Asher – murdered by Palestinian teen “rock throwers” who Ofek referred to.  

The only mention of the deadly act of terrorism by Palestinian teens at all was a throw-away passage buried in a story about a mosque vandalized in Northern Israel, on Oct. 3., and a supremely callous characterization by Harriet Sherwood in a story titled “Israel approves new settler homes in East Jerusalem“, which referred to the victims in passing as a “Jewish settler and his son.” [emphasis added]

Wrote Sherwood of the Palestinian teens arrested by Israeli soldiers in her Jan 22 report:

“Following detention many children exhibit symptoms of trauma: nightmares, mistrust of others, fear of the future, feelings of helplessness and worthlessness, obsessive compulsive behaviour, bed-wetting, aggression, withdrawal and lack of motivation.”

As Sherwood continually demonstrates, the “trauma” suffered by family and friends mourning the loss of Israeli victims of terror (such as Asher and Yonatan Palmer) is simply not part of the narrative. 

Palestinian teens profiled in Sherwood's report

Not seen in the Guardian: Asher Hillel Palmer, 25, and his one-year-old son Yonatan, victims of terror committed by Palestinian teens

22 replies »

  1. The BBC is up to the same crap as well:

    Wednesday, February 01, 2012
    Disgusting BBC piece sympathizing with a child-killer terrorist

    The BBC’s idea of a hero:

    A two-bed flat not far from the cornice in Qatar’s capital, Doha, is now home for 47-year-old Ibrahim Shammasina from Ramallah.

    His new living room is twice as large as the cell in the Israeli jail where he spent 19 years.

    “A minute of freedom is worth more than all the possessions in the world,” says Shammasina. “Prison, it’s a grave – as if you’re in a grave but still alive.”

    Shammasina was sentenced to 23 years in jail for his role in the 1990 murder of three Israelis and a further 20 years for planning a kidnapping. Despite spending almost half his life in prison, he does not regret his actions.

    “When there is an occupation, you’re forced to,” he says. “It’s your duty, the duty of every Palestinian, to resist the occupation. If I didn’t resist, I would just have surrendered.”

    Out of one of the bedrooms steps Ibrahim’s frail 85-year-old mother, Tamam. While he was in prison, Ibrahim’s brother, father and wife all died.

    His mother, who peppers every sentence by giving thanks to God, could not see her son for years.

    Understandably, she has now decided to come to Qatar to be with him.

    Despite the time they spent apart, she supports what he did.

    “No, I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it,” she says simply.

    Also visiting Shammasina for a few weeks is one of his two sons, 24-year-old Iyad.

    His father has been in prison for most of his life, but he says that he does not feel any anger towards him, although they do not have a typical relationship.

    “He’s more my friend than my dad,” says Iyad.

    The BBC allows Shammasina to talk about how horrible prison is, how wonderful freedom is, and how important resistance is. It describes how heartbroken his mother is, how he is trying to rebuild his family, and how tragic it is that his brother, father and wife all died while he was imprisoned. The entire is designed to make the reader sympathize with him and with the tribulations he has had to endure.

    But it doesn’t say a word about his victims.

    Who did Shammasina kill?

    Lior Tubul and Ronen Karmani, were both seventeen years old (some reports say Ronen was 18.) On a summer day in 1990, they went to visit their girlfriends north of Jerusalem.

    Shammasina abducted them, bound their hands behind their backs, gagged them and then stabbed them dozens of times, so that their faces were unrecognizable. They were dumped in a ravine nearby.

    This subhuman scum was also involved in murdering a taxi driver, Rafi Doron, as well as abducting and killing a hitchhiking soldier, Yehoshua Friedberg.

    This happened during that non-violent first intifada we hear so much about.

    This is the monster – and child-killer – that the BBC is asking its readers to sympathize with.

    (h/t IranAware)

    • I don’t get it… how does the atrocious murder of one family by one Palestinian teenager justifiy mistreating hundred others Palestinian children accused of minor offences? This seems completely at odds with international law and human rights principles.

      • Churchill, You are misrepresenting reality. What possible reason could you have to do so?

        Here is a video of Arab children, Child Soldiers, brainwashed by their elders to IGNORE reality, IGNORE common sense, IGNORE physics, IGNORE self preservation, and RUN TOWARDS and oncoming car.

        Please note the Adults, clicking away with their camera, like the photogs clicking away as “Saint Pancake” ran infront of an oncoming bulldozer, the Adults egging on their child pawns.

        And what do you classify as a Child?
        – A “child” with facial hair?
        – A 6 foot tall “child”?

        • Mistreating Palestinian children is still unacceptable. The very idea of 13 year old little kids being arrested in the middle of the night, feetshackled and tried in Israeli military courts is chilling, and completely at odds with human rights principles in Western democracies. How come Palestinian children are tried in military courts, not civilian courts? They are children. Are we back to the Middle-Ages in Israel?

        • Churchill has it just right. For an ISA spokesman to deny mistreating stone-throwing minors is fair enough – if wildly unbelievable given the substantial evidence to the contrary. His subsequent references to much more serious crimes is either a total irrelevance or an example of wanting your cake and the penny: “we don’t mistreat minors but even if we did it would be OK because a handful of them commit serious crimes”.

          As for your video,Thank God I’m an Infidel, it really has nothing to do with the story. So demonstrators want to get publicity and some photographers sell their snaps. Nothing new there and certainly nothing that justifies the imprisonment of hundreds of minors subject to ill-treatment and under inhumane conditions.

          • Funny. What I consider to be “wildly unbelievable” is anything written by an obsessed with Israel so-called moralist who isn’t concerned with both sides of a story. This goes for Harriet, as well as Ben White, the Electronic Intifada, and from what I’m gathering in the above comments, Churchill and Sencar.

            Seriously…. You live in a glass house and you’re going to throw stones? And when you, and break up your house, you’re going to blame Israel and the World Jewry?

          • Here we see sencrap denying the documented fact that “palestinians” use their own children as human shields, as child soldiers, as pawns, as drones.

            Again I ask sencrap, what is a child?

            Look at the two “children” in the first video titled “palestinian teens profiled in sherwoods report”. Notice the facial hair?

  2. It was good to see some pro Israel article to offset the dreadful anti-Zionist imbalance at the Guardian. However, it was not good enough.

    It’s fair comment to say, by way of background, these are not kids skipping school and getting involved in petty crime. But after that, there should have been a fuller rebuttal of the charges. Maybe there were space limitations, but if a complete answer could not fit in, it might have been better not to post anything.

    And this piece – “When a minor involved in terrorist activity is arrested, the law is clear: no torture or humiliation is permitted, nor is solitary confinement in order to induce a confession – which challenges the veracity of the accounts in your article.” was ill advised. What the law says is insufficient. What would have been more helpful would have been detail about actual steps taken to uphold the prisoners’ rights (children or otherwise).

    There’s no shame in admitting imperfection – checkout the Paul Auster furore for an example of that – and nowhere in the world is there perfect protection of human rights. Israel needs to fight its corner more smartly than this.

  3. Harriet Sherwood is whipping up animosity and hate towards Jews. Arabs reading this will see it as one more example of the wrongs done to them and will bolster their claim to victimhood.

    This is an irresponsible, biased and dangerous journalism.

    Why can’t Israel just ask her to leave…nicely, like?

  4. “The claims that Palestinian minors were subject to interrogation techniques that include beatings, prolonged periods in handcuffs, threats, kicks, verbal abuse, humiliation, isolation and prevention of sleep are utterly baseless.”

    This statement wasn’t published….but these were:

    The ISA said its employees acted in accordance with the law, and detainees were given the full rights for which they were eligible, including the right to legal counsel and visits by the Red Cross. “The ISA categorically denies all claims with regard to the interrogation of minors. In fact, the complete opposite is true – the ISA guidelines grant minors special protections needed because of their age.”

    “No one questioned, including minors, is kept alone in a cell as a punitive measure or in order to obtain a confession.”

    How much space do you want the Guardian to give to ISA denials of ill-treatment? Clearly the ISA denies all and the Guardian quotes them to that effect. What more do you want?

    It might have been in the ISA’s best interests to avoid comment on the crimes of which these minors are accused. The terrorist activities referred to ended in 2004 whilst the Fogel family murders (terrible as they were) were very much a one-off. Current accusations refer to hundreds of minors, the vast majority of whom are accused of stone throwing. Invoking accounts of terrorism and murder vastly misrepresents the true picture.

    I refer CifWatch readers again to the recent B’tselem report ‘No Minor Matter’ where ISA mistreatment of arrested minors is analysed in considerable detail.

    • And where there are measured responses to B’Tselem’s claims from the IDF spokesman and from the Israel Ministry of Justice, none of which Ofek used in his attempted rebuttal, choosing instead lengthy descriptions of the damage stone-throwing can cause.

      Incidentally, Sherwood drew attention to one particular cell, number 36 as having some sort of evil reputation but in the accompanying video, the detainees talked freely about getting food delivered, getting a pillow and mattress and one even mentioned that the cell was air-conditioned, albeit pumping out warm air. Not 5-star accommodation but certainly not a dungeon.

  5. There should be a signed petition to kick this garbage called Harriet Sherwood out of Israel.Where are the Israeli authorities,why haven’t they yanked her chain yet…….

    You despair at the blase attitude Israel has towards those like Harriet Sherwood who constantly smear Israel….

  6. Amir Ofek’s response was too mild too apologetic,he seemed to be on the back foot.This is the Racist Guardian cesspit you enter into it with full combat gear.

    The slurs,smears,the nasty racist comments,from the Racist Guardian’s regular cheer crowd was sick….One moron called Berchmans excelled in his sick and nasty anti-Semitic comments.This guy is Teflon coated never gets deleted no matter what.

    Next comment on Israel in the Racist Guardian we should target and concentrate on Berchmans and run him into the ground……

  7. Seeing the well fed condition of the Arab terrorists

    released in exchange for the emaciated Gilad Shalit

    tells the world more about the treatment of prisoners by Israel

    compared to the treatment of prisoners by Geneva Convention flouting islamofascist war criminals

    than any fanciful claim by Der Guardian and its propagandists.

    julius streicher would have been a featured columnist in Der Guardian if he weren’t executed for his crimes against humanity in WW2.

  8. @IloatheTheGuardian

    One moron called Berchmans excelled in his sick and nasty anti-Semitic comments.

    Berchmans is a bit of a joke even on Cif. He functions in two modes. One is to insist that no comment on Cif is ever anti-semitic and the other is to accuse everyone of Islamophobia should they dare to criticize Islam, an Islamic country, an Islamic organization, an Islamic hate-preacher, or an Islamic terrorist group.

    I also suspect he’s the prime instigator of the deletion of many pro-Israel comments.

  9. You think this article is bad, I suggest you take a look at the Guardians CiF page from today, the idiot called Ben White is back with another one sided hatchet job.