Harriet Sherwood cynically exploits a Holocaust survivor on Yom HaShoah to criticize Israel

Today is Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Israel’s day of commemoration for the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as a result of actions carried out by Nazi Germany.

At 10 AM sirens sounded throughout Israel for two minutes. During this time, as every year on this day, people ceased from action and stood at attention; cars stopped; and most of the country came to a standstill as people payed silent tribute to the dead.

On Yom HaShoah ceremonies and services are held throughout the country.

On Erev Yom HaShoah and the day itself, public entertainment venues are closed, and Israeli TV airs Holocaust documentaries, Holocaust-related talk shows, and low-key songs are played on the radio. Flags on public buildings are flown at half mast.

Israel is home to just under 200,000 Holocaust survivors.

The Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood decided not focus on one of the many heroic tales of survival against impossible odds, or the scars still carried by survivors’ children and grandchildren, those who are still haunted by stories of their parent’s and grandparent’s suffering, relayed by fading memories – a population still able to provide first hand accounts of their encounters with human evil.

Rather, Sherwood, published “Holocaust survivors struggling to make ends meet in Israel“, which is hard to surpass in the manipulation of genuine suffering in the service of agenda driven journalism.

Sherwood opens:

Despite the horrors of a childhood in the shadow of the Holocaust, Ros Dayan survived to build a life she could be proud of in the new Jewish state of Israel.

She trained as a nurse, she sang in a choir that toured the world. She learnt Hebrew, though she never lost her central European accent. She paid her taxes and eventually bought the tiny house in Jaffa that she had rented at a subsidised rate for years. She even learned to live with the pain of three broken vertebrae, the result of an assault by a Nazi soldier.

But, now, in the last years of her life, Ros is ashamed. One of the 198,000 Holocaust survivors still alive in Israel, she is also one of the growing proportion who cannot make ends meet, who struggle with insufficient funds on a daily basis. Wiping a single tear with a shaking hand, she says: “For the first time, I don’t have enough money for food or clothes. I used to have pride, now I am ashamed.”

According to studies, around a quarter of Holocaust survivors in Israel live below the poverty line, struggling to pay for food, heating, housing, medication and care.

But the most manipulative passage is here, where she finds her desired quote:

“A lot of survivors face big medical bills, and life in Israel is very expensive generally,” says Deborah Garel of the Jaffa Institute, which distributes bi-monthly food parcels to Holocaust survivors. “Holocaust survivors going hungry in Israel? This is not right. After being hungry in the ghetto, they shouldn’t be hungry in the Jewish state.”

Whatever the real economic hardships faced by Holocaust survivors in Israel (and even one survivor without enough to eat is, of course, one too many), to evoke hunger in Nazi era ghettos, where the mortality rate due to malnutrition and disease among babies and infants, for instance, was 100 percent, in the context of difficulties survivors face paying for food in the Jewish state is as callous as it is cynical.

(As a side note, the percentage of survivors cited by Sherwood as living below the poverty line 25%, though of course unacceptable, is exactly proportionate with the general population.)

Finally, In the penultimate paragraph, Sherwood finds one last quote to polish off her narrative.

“I love this country, but I don’t feel Jewish here. I came here to feel Jewish. Every Holocaust day I’m sad for what we lost, and I’m sad I didn’t end up in a country that loves me,” [Ros] says.

Whatever the very real economic problems of survivors like Ros, it beggars the imagination that Sherwood couldn’t have avoided vilifying the Jewish state on such a solemn day.

Further, to provide a bit of context to the British-Israeli relationship, it should be noted that had a sovereign Jewish state been created prior the Holocaust the number of Jews killed would have been dramatically fewer, and indeed the British White Paper in 1939, a document influenced in large measure by Arab demands, dramatically limited the number of Jews allowed to immigrate into Palestine (75,000 over the following five years).

So, the gates of Palestine largely remained closed duration of the war, stranding hundreds of thousands of Jews in Europe, many of whom became victims of Hitler’s Final Solution.

The fact is that Israel has absorbed hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors, and nearly a million Jews expelled from Arab lands, since the end of WWII, and offered them citizenship, economic assistance, and didn’t let them languish in refugee camps.

But, most importantly, Israel provided these stateless, homeless Jews a safe haven in the first sovereign Jewish polity in over 2000 years – a historically persecuted minority finally no longer at the mercy of the goodwill, whims and wishes of “enlightened” non-Jewish rulers. 

It is not at all surprising that a Guardian reporter like Sherwood can always find someone to serve a desired narrative of Israeli villainy, even in the context of the Jewish state’s response to the Shoah.  But, the ubiquitous nature of such tendentious journalism doesn’t render it any less irresponsible or offensive.  

But perhaps, just perhaps, her sensitive soul could have been moved (just this one time) to recount just one of the many stories (among the remaining survivors) of those Jewish men, women and children who risked everything to escape the fires ready to consume them in Europe to reach the shores of their promised land.

Having lost much if not all of their family, they had finally arrived in Eretz Y’srael. They had finally reached freedom.

Life in the modern Jewish state is, of course, not perfect, but it is not unreasonable to expect Harriet Sherwood to, at least on this one day, this supremely solemn occasion, display just a modicum of respect, a bit of self-restraint, and avoid such characteristic ideologically driven caricatures of the nation she’s covering. 

18 replies »

  1. The sole redeeming feature of the article is that Sherwood does at least quote Garel as saying “The government is doing its best”. But other than that … ?

    Can’t the G. for once mark this day with e.g. an article about persistent anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial within the Arab world (and indeed elsewhere)?

    • No, pretzelberg, it couldn’t. I guess even it realises that doing as you say would show it to be the hypocritical and lunatic rag that it is.

      • pretzelberg you are right that it should but what could it write, given that it promotes that very antisemitism by giving column inches to Islamist terrorists and Nazis? The Guardian’s behaviour helps to make antisemitic discourse the norm.

        On the BBC six o’clock news earlier I heard the usual bruhaha about Qatada and Theresa May’s woeful mishandling of booting him out of the UK, where he’s living been living on benefits which the good citizens of the UK stump up while many of them go hungry. A reporter interviewed one Islamist supporter of Qatada and allowed him to fulminate against the US, the UK and “the Jews” (note, not the Israelis – this low life is a died in the wool antisemite of the more traditional kind) for their treatment of the “great man”. Not once, never once, did that reporter try to intervene or attempt to argue with that foul-mouthed hatred.

        These are the depths to which the UK has sunk, but then again one expects such things from the BBC.

          • Abu Qatada actually came to the UK on a false passport and claimed asylum and has cost the UK citizens tens of thousands of pounds in state benefits for himself and his family as well as legal aid costs of additional thousands, see

            I work with people who receive pittances for pensions, who have worked all their lives for the little they get and have harmed no-one. It makes me sick to my stomach that this animal is awarded all this money apparently without question – enough to buy himself a brand new house recently as well as live in the lap of luxury compared with the elderly people I work with, and yet he has the gall to preach hatred and the destruction of the way of life of his adopted country.

            This is the Islamist strong suit, pretzelberg. They perceive those massive benefits so freely awarded compared to the meagre amounts awarded to the people I work with to be their right, their jizya tax they think they are entitled to claim from infidels and European governments allow them to get away with it. At the same time they work to use UK and European law and democratic rights (which they openly despise) to try to consolidate their power and in order to spread the da’wah which would finish democracy forever.

    • The fact that some Holocaust survivors are not able to make ends meet in Israel is a scandal. They deserve the best and they must be treasured as the last direct witnesses to the tragedy of the Holocaust. That M. Levick would not have these survivors’ best interest in mind, and would use them to pursue his own obsession over a British journalist is deeply shocking.

      • Nat who is M. Levick?
        We have an Adam Levick, is M.Levick a relation?

        There has been a poster in the past who has used the term ‘M.Levick’ then they usually start to foam at the mouth and spew out rubbish about Adam being jealous of Guardian journalists.
        But that isn’t you, is it?

  2. You sort of come to expect this kind of rubbish from this women,she is devoid of any sensitivity,i wonder if this women has any brain cells …………….

    Can we organize and sign a petition to get this stupid woman kicked out of Israel….She is an absolute disgrace………

    • No petition, but I have submitted a letter – wonder if it will be published?


      Today (19 April) is Yom HaShoah, on which Israel and Jewish communities around the World pay tribute to the memory of 6 million Jewish men, women and children brutally and systematically murdered in Nazi Europe less than a lifetime ago. Moving ceremonies take place throughout the World to remember the dead and to pray that such an evil atrocity should never happen again.

      I read with disgust and disbelief the Guardian’s sole article marking this sombre and sobre event: “Holocaust survivors struggling to make ends meet in Israel” (18 April). In it, Harriet Sherwood recounts the experience of one survivor of the Holocaust who expressed her “shame” at the fact that she is now struggling to support herself in modern Israel.

      There is nothing to criticise in reporting the struggles of the poor in Israel, other than the almost complete lack of context (poverty amongst survivors, for example, is almost exactly in line with that in the general population). Neither do I say the Guardian had any responsibility to report on Yom HaShoah at all. But having decided to do so, to use that one article to spin a tale of the perceived “failure” of Israel to care for its most vulnerable citizens, an article which barely mentions the horrors of the Holocaust, is simply a staggering and shameful hijacking of the spirit of the day.

      Yours faithfully”

  3. The whole world is finding it hard to make ends meet,there are people who are starving,have no shelter,having to scrounge in garbage bins to survive.

    The Israeli government is aware of the plight of the Holocaust survivors,and IS doing something about it………

    About time the Israeli Government did something about this Harriet Sherwood.

  4. It is sad that anyone in Israel should be below the poverty line, and especially Holocaust survivors. But as anyone knows who has lived in israel (and not off a salary provided by the Guardian), making ends meet in this highly taxed country, with a totally disproportionate military budget that has to be supported, that has built itself up from scratch while bringing in millions of refugees from the Holocasut, the Arab countries, the USSR, Ethiopia and so on, is difficult for all but a few at the top of the economic pyramid.

    If anyone thinks Holocaust survivors would be better off in the USA, for examples, unfortunately the same tragic stories of end-of-life poverty can be found here. And not only for Holocaust survivors.

    U.S. President Barack Obama should pay greater heed to the plight of Holocaust survivors living in poverty in the United States, American survivors said ahead of Obama’s visit today to the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.

    “Far too many U.S. Holocaust survivors cannot afford nutrition, shelter, glasses, dental care and other necessities,” read a statement by the Holocaust Survivors’ Foundation – USA.

    Nearly 15 million children in the United States – 21% of all children – live in families with incomes below the federal poverty level – $22,050 a year for a family of four. Research shows that, on average, families need an income of about twice that level to cover basic expenses. Using this standard, 42% of children live in low-income families.

  5. Proving, once again, that Sherwood does not possess an ounce of human decency. – Her piece and the Salah article they published on this very day shows, again, just how low the Guardian can sink.

  6. Poverty among elderly, ailing Holocaust survivors, differs little from that in the rest of the aged population. It is true that some victims did not get much benefit from reparation money as it was paid to government agencies instead of to the survivors direct. Nevertheless, most, like Ros, used as an example by Sherwood, built new lives, worked, got a small rented flat which she eventually bought and, together with monthly payments for their suffering, augmented by extra payments for illness and disability, will have work pensions and national insurance pensions, too. It may not be much, but it seems sufficient to cover the expense of a live-in carer ( at least $750). It seems that, as usual, Sherwood articles are long on phoney tea and sympathy, short on hard facts and perspective.

  7. The Guardian suffers from CSP compulsive skin picking,they like to pick at sores.It isn’t just Israel that they pick at,almost every article in the Guardian is a sour,negative,nasty nit picking article.Their latest article written by Raed Salah cheered on by Ben White and some of the heavy hitters of the Guardian staff.Is a prime example.