‘Activist Journalism’ – in the anti-Zionist context – refers to the capacity to frame any event in the Jewish state in a manner consistent with a pre-determined narrative.
So, any isolated case of injustice is reported as evidence of the state’s alleged systemic and institutional racism or oppression, while counter evidence – indicating that the behavior in question may represent the exception and not the rule – is typically ignored.
For instance, the Guardian will report a Palestinian civilian death in Gaza during an IDF anti-terror operation but largely fail to note the context of Hamas terror or the remarkable care Israel takes to avoid non-combatant deaths – including precision bombing of terrorist targets which often results in far better outcomes in comparison to other armies’ military operations around the world.
Of the 100 Gazans killed in IDF anti-terror operations in 2011, 91 were terrorists and 9 were civilians. That is a civilian to combatant death ratio of roughly 1 to 10.
This contrasts quite dramatically with the average civilian to combatant death ratio in recent conflicts involving NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan: There, NATO had a 3 to 1 ratio (i.e. there were 3 civilian deaths for every 1 combatant death).
Similarly, Israel has been accused on the pages of the Guardian of making it very difficult for Palestinians in Gaza to receive medical care, often with the particular circumstances of each decision ignored, along with that of the broader context of a state which – though at war against a terror movement which calls for Israel’s destruction – still allows thousands of Palestinians (100,000 in 2011) to receive medical care in its hospitals.
Harriet Sherwood’s latest report is an even more egregious illustration of such journalistic bias. Her report entitled “Palestinian Paralympians visit Jerusalem holy site” of May 21st, (tucked away in the sports section of the Guardian), had it been based on the raw facts, could have fairly advanced the following narrative:
Israel, though in a state of war with a Hamas government which does not recognise its right to exist and launches hundreds of deadly projectiles into its cities each year, still allowed – on humanitarian grounds – disabled Palestinian athletes (who are competing in the Paralympics in London this summer) to visit al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.
But, we’re talking about Harriet Sherwood, after all, and so Israel was not credited. Instead she wrote:
“The distance between Gaza City and Jerusalem is less than 50 miles, but one that is near-impossible for most Palestinians in the tiny enclave to undertake. But Qadoom was one of nine athletes and coaches – four of whom will compete in the Paralympics in London this summer – to visit the holy site on Monday, courtesy of the British consulate in Jerusalem” [emphasis added]
Unreported by Sherwood is the fact that for years there has been an unofficial boycott of Jerusalem by Arab states to protest Israeli control of the city.
“Officials from the British consulate applied to Israel for exit permits on the group’s behalf in March. Confirmation for the nine finally came on Thursday, but there was still a six-hour wait at the Erez crossing.”
Then Sherwood’s tale devolves even further. She quotes a paralympian, Hatam Zakut, who says:
“We consider ourselves representatives of all disabled athletes in Gaza. Thanks to the Israelis, there are a lot of us.”
Adding to Zaku’s vague charge, Sherwood writes:
“[In fact] tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are disabled as a result of Israeli military operations.”
“Tens of thousands…”?
There is no source provided to back up Sherwood’s outrageous claim, but after doing a bit of research I found an official United Nations report on Operation Cast Lead – the war in Gaza with the most casualties in recent history.
Per the UN report, there were an estimated 600 Palestinians disabled as a result of injuries sustained during Cast Lead.
While no figures seem to be available on the total number of people disabled in Gaza as a result of conflicts with Israel, a report by the Gaza Ministry of Public Works and Housing, in August 2009 (seven months after Cast Lead), placed the total figure of all disabled Palestinians in Gaza – for all reasons – at 19,763.
In fact, the only reference this definitive report makes to Israel is this line on page 2:
“The increasing in injured people due to Israeli continuous aggressions [sic] led to an obvious increase in number of disabled”
So while there are – according to the official agency in Gaza responsible for collating this data – just under twenty thousand disabled Palestinians in total in Gaza, even the Hamas-run ministry does not attempt to quantify the percentage of this total who were disabled due to IDF military actions, let alone make the claim that “tens of thousands” were disabled by Israeli military operations”.
So, where did Harriet Sherwood get this number?
We’ll likely never know.
But this is no minor question.
Harriet Sherwood is the Jerusalem correspondent for one of the more influential liberal English-language broadsheets and what she reports as fact necessarily has an impact on how millions of readers filter the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Most importantly, such reports greatly influence their readers’ degree of moral sympathy towards Jews’ defense of their right to self-determination in a region resistant to this supremely modest aspiration.
The additional moral issue pertains to the very real world impact Sherwood’s reports have on the Arab world – serving to fuel antipathy towards the Jewish state.
Finally, and no less important, Harriet Sherwood is a professional journalist and therefore owes her readers more than hearsay and half-truths.
Even as a blogger – one with unapologetic and transparent pro-Zionist sympathies – I would never make a specific statistical claim without a link leading to a credible source.
It speaks volumes about the Guardian that their reporters are evidently not held accountable to such basic professional standards.
- The racism of no expectations: The Palestinians on the pages of the Guardian (A six month review) (cifwatch.com)
- What the Guardian won’t report: Attempted Palestinian kidnapping of Israeli mother & baby (cifwatch.com)
- Harriet Sherwood’s continuing advocacy journalism on behalf of Palestinian terror suspects (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian photo story on Gaza drawings by Palestinian who are children curiously on-message (cifwatch.com)
- Contrary to what The Observer claims, there has not been “relative peace” in Israel (cifwatch.com)
- Suzanne Goldenberg avoids mentioning her Jenin lies at the Guardian Open Weekend (cifwatch.com)
- Harriet Sherwood legitimizes characterization of Israel’s border fences as ‘sign of weakness’ (cifwatch.com)
- Guardian’s biased coverage of terrorist hostilities in Israel’s south: Numbers, headlines and photos (cifwatch.com)