Guardian

Harriet Sherwood misleads on UNRWA statement about Gaza construction ban


Harriet Sherwood’s Nov. 22 report continues in the Guardian tradition of ignoring Hamas’s responsibility for the situation in Gaza, devoting nearly all of the text to highlighting Egyptian and (mostly) Israeli responsibility for the reported economic downturn in the territory.  

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The two opening paragraphs set the tone for her story:

Gaza is becoming uninhabitable as humanitarian conditions deteriorate rapidly following Egypt’s destruction of smuggling tunnels and Israel’s renewed ban on the import of construction materials, the United Nations and aid agencies have said. 

A year after the end of the eight-day war between Gaza and Israel last November, the UN said the situation in the tiny coastal strip was worse than before the conflict.

Further, a passage later in her report – about the IDF’s discovery last month of a tunnel from Gaza into southern Israel – represents a classic Guardian obfuscation: 

In addition, Israel last month halted the import of building materials through the crossings it controls, after the discovery of a sophisticated tunnel built by Hamas militants from Gaza to Israel. According to the Israeli military, it was constructed using materials that Israel had permitted to enter Gaza.

Sherwood doesn’t acknowledge that the purpose of this 1.7 km tunnel was to kidnap Israeli soldiers, nor does she acknowledge – in a story devoted to Gaza’s economic situation – that the construction materials diverted by the Islamist regime to build such an elaborate terror facility could have been used to build schools, hospitals and other vital infrastructure projects.  The Guardian Jerusalem correspondent also failed to note that, prior to the discovery of the tunnel, Israel had actually started to increase the quantity of construction materials allowed into Gaza to compensate for the draconian anti-tunnel measures taken by the Egyptian government.

But the most deceptive paragraph appears near the end, where Sherwood addresses the alleged effects of the new Israeli restrictions: 

As a result of the renewed [Israeli] ban, 19 out of 20 construction projects – including 12 schools – initiated by Unrwa have ground to a halt, putting at risk thousands more jobs. Unwra [sic] said Israel’s action was collective punishment, which is illegal under international law.

It appears as if Sherwood significantly mischaracterized UNRWA’s position, as she is almost certainly referring to a statement by the outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, as reported by the agency on Nov. 19.  Here is the UNRWA text in its entirety. 

The outgoing Commissioner General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi, has warned that 19 out of 20 UNRWA construction projects in Gaza have “ground to a halt”. Speaking to the Advisory Commission of major donors and governments hosting Palestinian refugee populations, Grandi said that since March UNRWA has “not had any construction projects cleared by the Israeli government, and for the past month, has been “unable to import building materials.”

Grandi told the “AdCom” delegates that “following the closure of most smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt”, and “given that Israel does not allow exports and hence a resumption of normal economic activities, prices are rising because commodities are becoming scarce, lack of fuel has provoked the closure of the power plant, the few jobs available in the construction industry are disappearing; and the list continues”, said Grandi.

Grandi had a stark warning about regional stability. “Gaza is quickly becoming uninhabitable, and further conflict is bound, as before, to affect civilians in Gaza and southern Israel, unless its causes are addressed.”  Grandi, who leaves office in the new year, called on the international community not to forget Gaza and to address the human dimension.

The time had come to rethink security concerns and political considerations, Grandi argued. “Perhaps strengthening the human security of the people of Gaza is a better avenue to ensuring regional stability than physical closures, political isolation and military action. To obtain this, first and foremost, the Israeli blockade – which is illegal – must be lifted. Meanwhile, the United Nations must be allowed to at least continue construction projects and provide a few extra jobs to the beleaguered population.”

First, Grandi makes no mention in the statement of “collective punishment”.  Moreover, it’s clear that he wasn’t merely arguing – as Sherwood seems to suggest – that the renewed Israeli ban on construction materials was “illegal”, but that Israel’s entire military blockade to prevent the import of rockets and other deadly weaponry was “illegal”.  However, as Sherwood surely knows, the UN Palmer Commission concluded in 2011 that the IDF blockade is fully consistent with international law and is NOT a form of collective punishment.  It’s especially curious that Sherwood didn’t reveal this fact as she reported on the conclusions of the Palmer Commission herself in a story published on Jan. 23, 2011. In ‘Israeli soldiers fired at Gaza aid flotilla in self-defence, says inquiry‘, she wrote the following:

The commission also found that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla was attempting to breach, was primarily for security reasons and was imposed lawfully. It added that it did not “constitute ‘collective punishment’ of the population of the Gaza Strip”.

Whilst the language in her Nov. 22 report is not completely clear, if Sherwood is claiming that UNRWA characterized the recent Israeli restrictions on construction materials into Gaza as “illegal”, and as a form of “collective punishment”, it is clear that the outgoing UNRWA Commissioner General never in fact made such an argument.  

Alternately, if Sherwood was merely attempting to characterize the Commissioner General’s opinion on the broader issue of the Israeli blockade, then she failed to reveal that this view was definitively contradicted by the UN inquiry which she herself reported more than two years ago.  

Either way you read Sherwood’s awkward prose, the reader is significantly misinformed. 

19 replies »

  1. Whilst the article is accurate in some senses and correctly identifies mistakes by Sherwood, one gets the impression that events on a wider scale have made such matters totally irrelevant.

    The west has taken incredible steps to bring Iran in from the cold and there is rejoicing all over the world that she can no longer plot to wipe any country off the map…surely that is worthy of examination…surely everyone is happy????

    • “Whilst the article is accurate in some senses and correctly identifies mistakes by Sherwood, one gets the impression that events on a wider scale have made such matters totally irrelevant.”

      ‘Household name’ have you considered starting your own blog?
      Then you can fill it with items that impress you as being relevant, including articles about the alleged misdeeds of the British Armed Forces.

      Until you do need I remind you that the purpose of this site is clearly indicated at the top of the home page, and that the Managing Editor is Adam Levick.

      • ” the alleged misdeeds of the British Armed Forces.”

        I have a theory. That the slaughters perpetrated by our armed forces are not examined by some pro Israelis because they serve a purpose. That purpose being that the IDF can hide behind the destruction and violence that we have wrought on the world this century.

        If it had not been for the US/UK astonishing destruction of Iraq and Libya, the IDF would be seen in a different light . Instead the IDF can simply carry on with its business safe in the knowledge that their big brother’s extremes of brutality makes their deeds look benign in comparison

        However as I hinted above all this is coming to a head. The fact that Israel is the only country in the world calling for action against Iran means that Israel is in danger of turning into the very pariah that she claims others accuse her of being.

        The question of the possible mistreatment of Gazans does not matter a jot compared to the need to get at Irans oil and if Israel screws that up she will lose US support. That’s what I mean when I suggest the articles relevance is shaky.

        • What a pile of tosh your post is, HN! I scarcely know where to begin. Let’s go for the low hanging fruit of your last paragraph. Are you seriously suggesting that most of the World’s objections to Iran’s nuclear weapon programme are somehow driven by a desire to “get at Iran’s oil”? Do YOU want Iran’s government to have access to nuclear weapons?

        • “If it had not been for the US/UK astonishing destruction of Iraq and Libya, the IDF would be seen in a different light . Instead the IDF can simply carry on with its business safe in the knowledge that their big brother’s extremes of brutality makes their deeds look benign in comparison”

          Interesting, but not surprising, that your main concern is not to hold the Armed Forces of the USA and UK to account or to fight for justice for alleged victims in Iraq and Libya BUT so that the World’s press can concentrate on the IDF.

            • Yes for a minute I wondered if you were feeling OK.

              It was troubling to see a post of yours where you don’t call someone anti semitic . But you are obviously in top form and in full command of all your literary powers.

              • Well, you are just one of millions who hate Israel. Antisemitism again is a mass phenomenon, revived on a world wide scale by the internet and formed for and by dudes like you who hate individualism, rationality, who search for faith and collectivism in a world they do not understand due to missing cognitive abilities.

        • “I have a theory. That the slaughters perpetrated by our armed forces are not examined by some pro Israelis because they serve a purpose. That purpose being that the IDF can hide behind the destruction and violence that we have wrought on the world this century.” What a moronic comment. If anything we would be pointing out that you Limeys are far worse than anything Israel has done, which would be a fact.

          Compared to any other conflict in the entire history of the world – the IDF would be the single shining example. Israel’s “mistreatment of Gazans”. What mistreatment? We provide food, water, power, medicines, fuel, and medical care. What do we get back? Terrorism and genocide.

          You are a total idiot and liar

          • “You are a total idiot and liar”

            I am not a liar.

            “would be the single shining example. ”

            You see this is why some of you folk are laughed at . Since CIF started several thousand civilians have died in your fights , many from explosives dropped from the air. I made the point that the US/UK slaughters are way way worse …but ” shining example ” ????

            I have often said that the lack of even gentle criticism of the IDF on these pages is a gift for the Guardian and makes some posters seem like sycophantic simpletons. The Guardian needs to be taken to task and CIFWatch occasionally hits the mark but mostly the posters here conform to stereotype with depressing regularity

            • “I am not a liar”
              And then you prove that you are a liar by writing:
              “Since CIF started several thousand civilians have died in your fights”

              As only a total idiot proves that he lies you completely confirmed Gee`s statement about you.

              What a loser.

              🙂

              • CIF started in 2006 . Since then we have had Lebanon and Gaza . Between these two there were certainly over a thousand and yes I cannot find any source that says this topped 2 thousand so I withdraw my comment and say it was merely a thousand.

                Nothing compared to us…nor Grozny nor Syria but hardly the “shining example” of above.

    • that she can no longer plot to wipe any country off the map? are you sure ? didn’t you here Khmenai latest wrods of “love” for Israel? I guess you think he was misunderstood, poor things they allways are. don;t you think we need to wait for 6 months before you jump with joy.

  2. I wonder if the 12 schools mentioned in Ms Sherwood’s report are the same 12 schools being funded by the British taxpayer?

    In which case can I have my money back I have better uses for it.

    For a gut-wrenching experience read this speech by the UK Consul General to Jerusalem, which details UK aid.
    The man is obviously part of the ‘Camel Corps’ at the heart of the Foreign Office.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/world-location-news/uk-consul-general-salutes-gazans-you-have-not-been-forgotten

  3. The problem with Sherwood is that she allows her own bigotry to cloud her judgment, is a lousy journalist, and a ditz.

  4. The big set of journalists at The Guardian engaged in and their reporting on this particular issue point to their “war against Israel”-mentality as in war times all means are allowed, distortion, misleading, misrepresentation, outright lies, the whole set of propaganda tools against the enemy.
    I wonder why Israel isn`t considering to define The Guardian officially as mass medium hostile to Israel, not to forbid any reporting, but to brand The Guardian accordingly to its reporting. On the other side it could be a boost to the sale, and there are a lot of other hostile media in the West, so why singling out The Guardian? It`s a bit tricky.
    Another argument of The Guardian will be to assert it is only hostile to the government, but this is easily to debunk since The Guardian is hostile towards every government of Israel at least since the eighties.