The Guardian’s lazy, pejorative characterization of Jews in Hebron

How many of the roughly 800 Jews living in the ancient city of Hebron has Harriet Sherwood interviewed?

My curiosity regarding the Guardian Jerusalem correspondent’s familiarity with Hebron’s Jews was piqued by the following sentence in her April 4 report about recent violence in the West Bank (after “five months of calm“) following the death of convicted Palestinian terrorist Maysara Abu Hamdiyeh, titled ‘Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers in West Bank‘:

After the funeral Palestinian youths threw stones at Israeli soldiers close to an extremist Jewish settlement in the heart of the city. The Israeli military responded with teargas, stun grenades and rubber bullets

Hebron’s Jewish community, which currently includes some “90 families and 200-350 yeshiva students”, is perhaps the oldest Jewish community in the world (dating back to Biblical times) and is designated as the second holiest city in Judaism, containing sites of historical significance such as the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

Jews have lived in Hebron almost continuously throughout the Byzantine, Arab, Mameluke, and Ottoman periods, and it was only in 1929 — as a result of an Arab pogrom in which 67 Jews were murdered and the remainder forced to flee — that the city became temporarily free of Jews.

Under Jordanian control from 1949 to 1967 Jews not only were not allowed to live in Hebron but were barred from entering the Tomb of the Patriarchs, while authorities undertook a systematic campaign to obliterate any evidence of Jewish history in the city.  They “razed the Jewish Quarter, desecrated the Jewish cemetery and built an animal pen on the ruins of the Avraham Avinu synagogue”.

Shortly following Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jewish community of Hebron was re-established, and today – consistent with the terms of the 1997 Hebron Agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority – is comprised of  two sections – H1 and H2.  H1 is all Palestinian (population apx. 120,000), while the city’s entire Jewish population resides in H2 (a geographical unit which is also home to 30,000 Palestinians).


Jews in Hebron

Whilst Hebron is of course positioned on the ‘other side’ of the 1949 armistice lines (the green line), characterizing Jews who currently live in Hebron as “settlers” falsely suggests that they are interlopers, colonizing land with which they have no connection.  Worse, referring to a community of hundreds of Israelis as “extremists”, as Sherwood does, imputes widespread fanaticism without even a hint of evidence – conveying a message that there’s something radical or extreme about the desire to maintain even a small Jewish presence in the city.

Moreover, would the Guardian ever countenance such a negative characterization of residents within a Palestinian Arab city – even for places which have generated a large proportion of terrorist acts?

Try sounding these hypothetical sentences out in your head and decide whether they could conceivably ever be published at the Guardian in any context:

In 2002 Israel launched Operation Defensive Shield, which included a large anti-terror operation in the “extremist” Palestinian city of Jenin.

Or, how about this:

A rocket was fired into Israel today from Gaza City, “the extremist Palestinian city“.

Each example cites Palestinian towns where, by any standard, there has been a disproportionate amount of terrorist activity.  Yet, is there any doubt that the Guardian would never, under any circumstances, make such a huge generalization about every inhabitant of these cities?

Whilst it would of course be fair – based on the context and information in a particular story – to refer to specific Jews (or specific Jewish groups) within Hebron or other ‘settlements’ as “extremist” (as Sherwood did in an Aug. 12 report about Jews who physically attacked Palestinians for nationalist motives) stereotyping an entire community of Jews with such a pejorative is inaccurate, illiberal and intellectually lazy. 

33 replies »

  1. And some of us thought that there was actually a light at the end of the tunnel for Harriet.

    • Her reports have definitely improved, but at times she still falls back to old habits.

        • And you’re still being paid to troll here
          This despite your very empathic promise that you would desist from trolling and especially [doing so] for cash…
          You just couldn’t resist coming back here, could you, fuckwit?

    • Dear Adam, the violence of Hebron’s settlers has been documented by countless Israeli and international human rights groups, NGOs and UN agencies. I suggest you do some research before writing your posts.

  2. How many of the roughly 800 Jews living in the ancient city of Hebron has Harriet Sherwood interviewed?

    And how many have you interviewed, Adam ?? And what does your little history lesson have to do with your question ? The truth is that the behaviour of the Hebron Jewish has been well-documented in the mainstream Jewish media, including its antagonistic behaviour towards the IDF soldiers protecting them. For example:,7340,L-3632613,00.html
    The only one that is lazy is YOU and the only thing that this article will accomplish is to make this site even more ludicrous in the opinion of readers who are familiar with the situation.

    • If you were to read the article you provided you would have agreed with Adam . it seems the lazy one is you.
      This is from the article you provided us.
      “Daniela Weiss and the youths who are not permanent residents of Hebron must be sent away from the city”

    • I fail to see how the ynet story (from 4 years ago) in any way undermines my post. Extremists like Weiss are in the minority, and, in fact, she was angrily condemned by Yesha Council Chairman Danny Dayan.

      • You still haven’t explained how you have come to the conclusion that extremists in Hebron are a minority. You accuse Sherwood of lazy journalism, but you provide no proof yourself. I posted a link to one random article, but anyone who reads the mainstream Israeli media is aware of a constant stream of incidents perpetrated by the settlers against not only Palestinians, but also fellow Jews, including IDF soldiers.

        Here is the view from New York:
        But of course all readers of Cifwatch know that Jeffrey Goldberg is a self-hating Jew, one who commits the ultimate crime of daring to having opinions that contradict those held by Adam Levick. But calling someone a “self-hating Jew” (or similar) is the ultimate example of “lazy journalism”.

        • No external, it’s you who doesn’t get it. It’s not Adam Levick making assumptions about the political views of Hebron’s Jewish residents. He makes no statement about that at all. What he does is criticize Sherwood’s assumption that they are “extremists”.

          It is not for Adam to provide evidence to support an unfounded presumption, because he has not made one. It is for Sherwood to provide evidence for her unfounded generalisation, because she HAS made one – and in an internationally influential “liberal” newspaper, to boot.

          • Yes, he has made an unfounded assumption: that the majority of Hebron’s Jewish community are not “extremist”, otherwise he would not be criticising Sherwood’s comment. And it is not me that has “to get it” – I am not a journalist. If Adam is criticising Sherwood’s professionalism (“lazy journalism”), then I expect him to be more diligent and professional.

            The truth is that neither Sherwood nor Adam define “extremist” and its varying degrees, nor attempt to determine how many of the residents fit into each category. If, for example, Adam believes that a settler who regular curses IDF soldiers, throws rocks at Palestinians, harrasses Palestinian children, vandalizes Arab property, etc, is not an extremist, then he is correct – there are no extremists among the Jewish population of Hebron. But he doesn’t provide any definitions, facts or proof in this article, and his little history lesson – no matter how accurate – is totally irrelevant

            • I don’t believe Adam said there are NO extremists in Hebron. He challenged Sherwood’s assumption that they ALL are. I can’t be bothered to explain again why her unfounded assumptions are potentially more damaging than any Adam might have made. You’ll just have to work that out for yourself.

  3. Guys, I know this is completely off topic but the Anonymous hacker group was supposed to have launched a cyber attack on Israel. They threatened to wipe Israel off of the web. They targeted the official websites of the IDF, Mossad, Bank of Jerusalem as well as other prominent Israeli sites. At the moment none of those sites is affected, however Anonymous’s own OpIsrael site is currently playing the Israeli national anthem, as well as displaying pro-Israel video’s and messages. Check it out at

  4. Why aren’t Israeli Arabs also extremists for daring to live on that side of the border? Typical double-standards.

    Good work.

    • Yes. I consistently find it bizarre that so called “liberals” can justify and support a “no Jews allowed here” agenda, and at the same time call Israel a racist and apartheid state!

      As the Americans would say – Go figure!

      • It’s a matter of them wanting to belong and their insecurity about being deemed “progressive.” In order for them to being considered “progressive” they have to follow dictates of what others tell them.

        The end result is that they graze on soundbites like a mindless herd.

      • Come on, that’s silly. The agenda is not one of “no Jews allowed here”.

        It’s about Israel transferring members of one selected group in its population onto foreign land.

        • If you had followed news from this area, you would have read how Palestinians at all political levels, including Abbas, have demanded that a future Palestinian state must be judenrein.

        • Pretz = I accept that some “settlers” and some “settlements” seem to be there and behave merely as a provocation, but the idea that all such people and towns are “extremist” or “illegal” or a “barrier to peace” is exactly equivalent to saying “no Jews allowed here”.

          Hebron is the perfect example. The revival of an ancient Jewsih community in a holy Jewish place, which is entirely legal under the terms of the Oslo accord, is lazily characterised in by Sherwood and the MSM in general as an “extremist” “settlement”. Frankly, whetever the political views of the Jews in Hebron, it is their presence that irks Sherwood, not their political views.

          In any case, you surely knwo that Israel does not “transfer” its population onto foreign land. That implies forcible transfer. No Israeli lives beyond the green line who has not made a free choice to do so.

          As for “foreign land” – where are the agreed borders as envisaged by the 1947 partition and the 1967 ceasfeire agreement? Did I miss that?

  5. Whilst Hebron is of course positioned on the ‘other side’ of the 1949 armistice lines (the green line)
    Why is ‘other side’ in quotes?

    … characterizing Jews who currently live in Hebron as “settlers” falsely suggests that they are interlopers, colonizing land with which they have no connection.
    Well, some of them are born on another contintent, after all!
    It depends on how you define “connection” and how far you want to take it.

    I agree that Harriet is silly to automatically call all settlers in Hebron “extremists”, though.

    • That connection has been very clearly defined ever since being expelled by the Romans: “next year in Jerusalem.”