Harriet Sherwood and impediments to peace in the Mid-East, real and imagined

When David Frost interviewed Israeli historian Benny Morris in July he dismissed (as a minor “academic detail”) Morris’s concern that Palestinian leaders have never recognized the legitimacy of a Jewish state in the region. The British journalist argued that “everyone knows” that the real problem preventing peace is “the settlements”. Frost’s demeanor suggested that he viewed Morris’s explanation not as a serious challenge, but as ‘hasbara’ – mere sophistry meant to avoid the ‘real’ problem.

Leaked emails from the British Foreign Office, obtained by The Commentator, revealed that, in early 2012, a foreign office official complained of the following:

“Netanyahu has a history of using the incitement issue as a delaying tactic in peace talks”,

The history of this issue suggests that Netanyahu administrations have a tendency to charge the PA/PLO with incitement as a delaying tactic in peace talks.”

The emails suggest that, according to the foreign office, information about the Palestinian Authority’s glorification of terrorism, incitement to violence, and antisemitism represent not serious impediments to peace, but cynical Israeli talking points.

Similarly, when Israel’s critics are reminded of offers made by Israeli leaders, rejected by the Palestinians, in both 2000 and 2008, which included a contiguous Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as the capital, they typically downplay the offers, cite their imperfections, and thus legitimize maximalist demands.

Further, historical precedents, such as withdrawals from land previously controlled by Israel (South Lebanon and Gaza) cited as evidence that the ‘land for peace’ formula may represent a fatally flawed political paradigm, are typically dismissed or downplayed.

The dynamics can be summed up as follows:

  • Palestinian incitement, antisemitism and a rejection of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state cast considerable doubt on the possibility that Palestinians will ever create a liberal, democratic and peaceful state.
  • Palestinian leaders’ rejection of previous offers for statehood demonstrates that the maximalist demands, including the so-called “right of return”, translates into a reluctance to make painful compromises necessary to achieve ‘two states for two peoples’.
  • The “land for peace” paradigm in both South Lebanon and Gaza failed.  Unilateral territorial concessions by Israel, contrary to conventional wisdom, only emboldened terrorist movements (Hezbollah and Hamas), and did not enhance Israeli security.

Guardian contributors like Harriet Sherwood, and like-minded commentators, don’t merely dismiss explanations for the continuing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which don’t center around the settlements, but often fail to acknowledge that alternative “root causes” for the conflict even exist.

Her latest post, ‘Israel’s cranes reprove Barack Obama’s failure to pursue a two-state solution, Guardian, Oct. 22, characteristically suggests that Israeli communities established (sometimes re-established) across the green line (1949 Armistice lines) are preventing peace from being achieved.

Sherwood argues that construction across the green line – in Jerusalem, Ariel, and Shiloh – are injurious to a “viable Palestinian state and the peaceful resolution of a decades-old conflict”, and represents an “impediment to peace”.

Her faith in Palestinians’ desire for peace is as unshakable as her belief in Israeli intransigence – completely ignoring factors which would contradict such assumptions.

Sherwood never explains why Israelis should ignore the failure of Palestinians in Gaza to respond peacefully to Israel’s withdrawal, and why further territorial concessions (in the West Bank) won’t again embolden terrorists who, able to operate freely in cities protected by Palestinian sovereignty, will fire rockets into Israeli cities.

She doesn’t explain why, this time, Palestinian leaders will accept even the most generous offers from Israeli leaders and decide to live peacefully with the Jewish state.

And, Sherwood fails to explain why we should ignore polls indicating that a large majority of Palestinians will never accept a Jewish state within any borders.

Sherwood – like so many of her political fellow travelers – simply assumes Palestinian good intentions.

We never quite know what Sherwood expects of Palestinian Arabs because such considerations never seem to factor into her political calculus.

The corollary to the Guardian’s obsession with Israeli behavior – their hyper criticism of every conceivable Jewish sin – is their lack of interest in examining Palestinians behavior – a glaring journalistic blind spot which informs their coverage of the region.

The only actors who possess moral agency in Sherwood’s tale are Jews.  The vital question concerning what kind of Palestinian state Israelis can expect to arise is never considered.

Israelis, however, don’t have the luxury of such blind idealism, as they will have to live with the real world consequences of an independent Palestinian state.

While most Israelis support, in principle, the creation of a Palestinian state, journalists who have no stake in the outcome should at least show a bit of humility, and empathize with those who sincerely question whether this new Arab state will truly bring peace and security.

9 replies »

  1. When I saw cranes I thought she was doing a useful bird migration post. It is the season after all.
    But no, she sticks to her constant whine

  2. ttp://
    What is Abbas’ true ideology?
    Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik
    Oct. 18, 2012

    What is Abbas’ true ideology?

    The official PA daily quotes Abbas’ Facebook page:
    “…our land is occupied and not disputed territory,
    and this applies to all the territories
    that Israel occupied before June 1967 (i.e., all of Israel).”

    A second Abbas Facebook page (not quoted in the PA daily):
    “…our land is occupied and not disputed territory,
    and this applies to all the territories
    that Israel occupied in June 1967.”

    by Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik

    This week the official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida quoted a letter that “President Abbas wrote on his Facebook page.” Part of the letter read:

    “The [sought UN] recognition will not liberate the land the following day, but will prove that we are right that our land is occupied and not disputed territory, and this applies to all the territories that Israel occupied before June 1967 (i.e., all of Israel).” (emphasis added)

    A Facebook page in the name of “President Abbas” had this text posted on Oct. 11, 2012, as part of a letter to “the residents of Gaza.” (See below)

    Referring to all of Israel as “occupied Palestine” is very common in the PA official daily and on official PA TV. For example:

    PA TV presenter: “Today, [May 15, Israel’s Independence Day] 64 years ago, the Israeli Zionist gangs carried out the most extensive expulsion activities against our people, in the lands occupied in ’48.”
    [PA TV (Fatah), May 15, 2012]

    PA TV educational program for children:
    TV host: “You live in Jerusalem. Do you visit the 1948 occupied cities (i.e., Israeli cities)?”
    Girl: “I’ve been to Hebron.”
    Host: “No, Hebron is a city [in the PA] that we all can enter. The occupied cities – such as Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Jaffa, Acre (i.e., all Israeli cities) – have you visited them?”
    Girl: “I’ve been to Haifa and Jaffa.”
    Host: “Tell us, are they beautiful?”
    Girl: “Yes…”
    Host: “We hope all children of Palestine will be able to go to the occupied territories, which we don’t know and have never been able to see. Personally, I have never been there.”
    [PA TV (Fatah), Aug. 25, 2010]

    See more examples below and on Palestinian Media Watch’s website.

    However, a second Facebook page also in the name of Mahmoud Abbas, linked to by his official website, had the same letter posted one day earlier, but without the word “before”:

    “…this applies to all the territories that Israel occupied in June 1967.” (emphasis added)

    Which letter reflects Abbas’ true message and ideology? Is it the one quoting him in his official daily, calling all of Israel “occupied?” This is the message that PA official media and many PA officials consistently send to the Palestinian population.

    Or does the other version reflect Abbas’ true message and ideology, the one defining “occupied” territory as those areas under Israel only since 1967? This is the message that Abbas and PA leaders consistently send to the international community.

    The following is the full letter, parts of which were quoted in the official PA daily, and which appeared on one of the Facebook pages.

    Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page #1 [] dated Oct. 11, 2012:

    “Letter from His Excellency the President [Abbas] to the residents of Gaza

    My dear friends,
    Since I returned from the UN where I spoke, and stressed our final decision to submit a request to recognize Palestine as a non-member state in the [UN] General Assembly, we and others are approached and pressured again and again to retract this step, and to convince the countries in the world not to vote. The economic pressures that are put on us by several parties are a result of this decision only.

    The [UN’s] recognition will not liberate the land the following day, but will prove that we are right that our land is occupied and not disputed [territory], and this applies to all the territories that Israel occupied before June 1967 (i.e., all of Israel).

    I want you to know that this is a great political and diplomatic battle, and I am sorry that some Palestinian voices do not understand or do not want to understand the importance of this matter.

    My dear friends in our beloved [Gaza] Strip,
    I’m a very touched by the messages I receive from you. I want you to know that you are all in my heart, and that Gaza of Hashim (i.e., an honorable name for Gaza. Hashim was Islam’s prophet Muhammad’s grandfather) is a dear part of this homeland, which has sacrificed thousands of Martyrs (Shahids), injured and prisoners during the journey of our struggle to end the occupation and to establish our independent state whose capital is our eternal Jerusalem. I recognize the difficulties that you are experiencing: blockade that does not allow you movement, limitations of freedom of opinion, lack of work places and suffering as a result of Israel’s never-ending attacks. I know as you know, my dear friends, that the rift [between Fatah and Hamas] must end immediately.”
    [Facebook page in the name of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Oct. 11, 2012
    and partially reprinted in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Oct. 17, 2012]

    Mahmoud Abbas’ Facebook page #2 [
    Abbas?fref=ts] dated Oct. 10, 2012:

    The part of the letter with the text defining “occupied territory”:

    “The [UN’s] recognition will not liberate the land the following day, but will prove that we are right that our land is occupied and not disputed territory, and this applies to all the territories that Israel occupied June 1967.”
    [PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’ official Facebook page, Oct. 10, 2012]

    The following are examples of PA use of terminology that defines all of Israel as “occupied”:

    PA daily: Israel is “the territories occupied in 1948”
    “[Palestinian] Civil defense teams yesterday extinguished a huge fire that raged over hundreds of dunams of land in Kufr Jabara… reaching the town of Taibe in the territories occupied in 1948 (i.e., Israel).
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 24, 2012]

    PA TV: Israel is “lands occupied in ’48”
    PA TV special broadcast marking 64th anniversary of the Nakba:
    PA TV presenter: “Today, 64 years ago, the Israeli Zionist gangs carried out the most extensive expulsion activities against our people, in the lands occupied in ’48.”
    [PA TV (Fatah), May 15, 2012]

    Israel referred to as “Palestine occupied in 1948”
    “The National Committee to Defend the Right of Return (committee marking the 64th anniversary of the Nakba) held… a political symposium… with the participation of the chairman of the Hadash [Israeli political] party from Palestine occupied in 1948.”
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 12, 2012]

    PA daily: Israel is the “Interior” and “occupied Palestine”
    “Star [Arab] goalkeeper Majdi Khalaileh rejected out of hand the idea that he might play in the Palestinian league for any club other than Jabel Mukaber… Khalaileh emphasized that only two options are open to him: either to remain in the Palestinian league, with Jabel Mukaber, or to go back to the Interior (i.e., Israeli) league in occupied Palestine.”
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 3, 2012]

    PA daily refers to Israel as “the territories occupied in 1948”
    “A state funeral was held for the deceased, with the participation of leaders and senior members of the PLO and the PA, and some leaders of the Palestinian population in the territories occupied in 1948.”
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, May 3, 2012]

    Fatah press release refers to Israel as “occupied Palestine”
    “In a press release published yesterday by the Information and Culture Commission, the [Fatah] movement said:'[Ahmad] Jibril and the merchants of Palestinian and Arab blood who are with him, have not succeeded in pushing the members of our Palestinian nation in Syria and in Lebanon to the fields of meaningless carnage… and the electrified fences of the Israeli occupation, on the border between occupied Palestine
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 1, 2012]

    PA TV program for kids: The Galilee is “occupied lands, land occupied after 1948”
    PA TV program The Best Home
    PA TV host tells children: “You must all be asking what this day commemorates, or why Land Day is specifically on March 30…On March 30, dear friends, in 1976, Israeli occupation forces confiscated a region – in other words, thousands of dunams of land in the Galilee (northern Israel), occupied lands, that is, land occupied after 1948.”
    [PA TV (Fatah), March 30, 2012]

    Israeli-Arabs are from “the territories occupied in 1948”
    “The women of Palestine marked March 8 with a central rally, attended by a group of released female prisoners from the various districts of the West Bank… and representatives from the territories occupied in 1948…”
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 9, 2012]

    PA daily in name of Ahmed Qurei (Abu Alaa) refers to Israel as the “Palestinian Interior occupied in 1948”
    “In a press release published yesterday, Ahmed Qurei [head of the PLO’s Jerusalem Department]… called upon residents of Jerusalem and residents of the Palestinian Interior occupied in 1948 (i.e., Israel) to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Sunday, in order to stand against the Zionist calls and to maintain the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque.”
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 10, 2012]

    The Galilee [in Israel] is the “occupied Palestinian Interior”
    “District Governor of Jenin, Qadura Musa, met yesterday in his office with a delegation of women – the founding members of the Arab Association of the Galilee… Musa enlisted all the district’s resources to bring about the success of the cooperation between the district dignitaries and the occupied Palestinian Interior.”
    [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Feb. 5, 2012]

  3. Isn’t it interesting that I’ve lived in Jerusalem for over 5 years and I have never seen Harriet Sherwood, neither has anyone else that I know.