A Harriet Sherwood tale of Palestinian love and Israeli darkness

Harriet Sherwood doesn’t like Israelis very much.

Though she at times remembers her professional obligations as a journalist and attempts to achieve a bit of balance, in the three and half years she’s occupied the Guardian’s Jerusalem desk she’s never effectively hidden her pro-Palestinian sympathies, nor her immutable belief that the sole cause of the Israeli and Palestinians Conflict relates to blockades, settlements, and occupation.  So, consuming is her belief in the invisible hand of Zionist oppression that she once even suggested that Israeli policies were responsible for a Gaza man’s suicide.

Though she’ll soon be stepping down as Jerusalem correspondent – to be replaced by the paper’s foreign affairs editor Peter Beaumont – she’s still firing a few parting shots at the Jewish State. Her farewell stories have included a love letter to the people of Gaza and, most recently, a nearly 4000 word story about the toll of the ‘occupation’ which is so one-sided as to be indistinguishable from the propaganda associated with Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.


Here are some representative passages from Sherwood’s public relations work for the Palestinian cause published at the Guardian on Feb. 8:


…in the southern West Bank, 12-year-old Nawal Jabarin lives in a cave. She was born in the gloom beneath its low, jagged roof, as were two of her brothers, and her father a generation earlier. Along the rock-strewn track that connects Jinba to the nearest paved road, Nawal’s mother gave birth to another baby, unable to reach hospital in time; on the same stretch of flattened earth, Nawal’s father was beaten by Israeli settlers in front of the terrified child.

Even home is not safe. “The soldiers come in [the cave] to search. I don’t know what they’re looking for,” she says. “Sometimes they open the pens and let the sheep out. In Ramadan, they came and took my brothers. I saw the soldiers beat them with the heel of their guns. They forced us to leave the cave

This alleged comic book cruelty by Israeli forces is of course impossible to verify, though it’s interesting that the only other account of the Jabarin brothers being beaten we could find was a ‘report’ on the website of the International Solidarity Campaign.


The first generation – Nawal’s parents and their peers – are now approaching middle age, their entire lives dominated by the daily grind and small humiliations of an occupied people. Around four million Palestinians have known nothing but an existence defined by checkpoints, demands for identity papers, night raids, detentions, house demolitions, displacement, verbal abuse, intimidation, physical attacks, imprisonment and violent death. It is a cruel mosaic: countless seemingly unrelated fragments that, when put together, build a picture of power and powerlessness

Of course, in nearly every report she files, Sherwood tries to build a picture of Israeli power and Palestinian powerlessness in a manner consistent with the Guardian Left narrative.


In the South Hebron Hills, the shepherds who have roamed the area for generations now live alongside ideologically and religiously driven Jews who claim an ancient biblical connection to the land and see the Palestinians as interlopers. They have built gated settlements on the hilltops, serviced with paved roads, electricity and running water, and protected by the army. The settlers and soldiers have brought fear to the cave-dwellers: violent attacks on the local Palestinian population are frequent, along with military raids and the constant threat of forcible removal from their land

The gratuitous evocation of “settlers and soldiers” inspiring fear in Palestinian “cave dwellers” befits a fairy tale – a facile moral paradigm which suggests parody.


Like Nawal, 12-year-old Ahed Tamimi boldly asserts that she, too, has no fear of soldiers, before quietly admitting that sometimes she is afraid. Ahed’s apparent fearlessness catapulted her to a brief fame a year ago when a video of her angrily confronting Israeli soldiers was posted online. The girl was invited to Turkey, where she was hailed as a child hero.

Sherwood’s tribute to Ahed, the young girl cynically exploited by her parents and pro-Palestinian activists for propaganda purposes, is classic Guardian.  See the following video about Tamimi (dubbed “Shirley Temper”) produced by Israellycool:


Amid tree-covered hills almost three hours’ drive north of Jinba, Nabi Saleh is a village of around 500 people, most of whom share the family name of Tamimi

Sherwood fails to mention the most notorious resident of Nabi Saleh, Ahlam Tamimi, the Palestinian who escorted a suicide bomber to a crowded Sbarro pizzeria in Jerusalem in 2001. The resulting massacre when the bomb exploded left fifteen people dead, including Malki Roth, the daughter of Arnold and Frimet Roth, who was only fifteen years old at the time.

Aftermath of Jerusalem Sbarro bombing in 2001


When settlers appropriated the village spring five years ago, the people of Nabi Saleh began weekly protests. Ahed’s parents, Bassem and Nariman, have been at the forefront of the demonstrations, which are largely nonviolent, although they often involve some stone-throwing

Sherwood fails to tell readers that Palestinian coordinators of the protests often instruct Palestinians teens as young as 14 to throw rocks at police, and that the weekly orchestrated violence includes Molotov cocktails and other explosive devices routinely thrown at Israeli security personnel. 


Nowhere in the West Bank do Israeli settlers and Palestinians live in closer proximity or with greater animosity than in Hebron. A few hundred biblically inspired Jews reside in the heart of the ancient city, protected by around 4,000 soldiers, amid a Palestinian population of 170,000. 

Hebron is the oldest Jewish community in the world. 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 forbidden 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. Shortly following Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, the Jewish community of Hebron was re-established, and Israelis live there today in accordance to the terms of the 1997 Hebron Agreement signed by the Palestinian Authority.


[A Palestinian named] Muslim, now 14, is well-known to the Israeli security forces in the East Jerusalem district of Silwan. A few minutes’ drive from the five-star hotels around the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City, Silwan is wedged in a gulley, a dense jumble of houses along steep and narrow streets lined with car repair workshops and tired grocery stores.

It has always been a tough neighbourhood, but an influx of hardline settlers has created acute tensions, exacerbated by the aggression of their private armed security guards and demolition orders against more than 80 Palestinian homes. The area’s youths throw stones and rocks at the settlers’ reinforced vehicles, risking arrest by the ever-present police.

Jewish residents in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah are in fact often attacked without cause.

A Jewish Israeli friendly with this writer named Yaacov was stoned by Palestinians outside of his Sheikh Jarrah  home in 2011


Mousa describes his own detention while trying to prevent the police arresting his son. “They carried me in my underwear from here to the Russian Compound [a cell and court complex in central Jerusalem]. Can you imagine more humiliation than this? We are religious people – we don’t even let our children see us without clothes. If you gave me a million dollars, I would not go outside in my underwear.”

Of course, anyone even casually aware of Palestinian on Palestinian violence can likely conjure a scenario more cruel than being arrested in your underwear:


2012: Hamas drags body of Palestinian (after he was summarily executed for ‘treason’) through the streets of Gaza

Finally, here are few quick stats about Sherwood’s piece, highlighting the degree to which it is devoid of any semblance of fairness or balance:

The total number of paragraphs in the report: 55

  • Number of paragraphs devoted to the Palestinian view or clearly sympathetic to Palestinians: 55
  • Number of paragraphs devoted to the Israeli view or clearly sympathetic to Israelis: 0

Even by Guardian standards, Sherwood’s latest pro-Palestinian advocacy marketed as professional journalism is especially appalling. 

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16 replies »

  1. “Muslim, now 14, is well-known to the Israeli security forces in the East Jerusalem district of Silwan”

    Sherwood manages not to mention (or is ignorant of) Silwan’s long-standing Yemenite Jewish community, cleansed by Arab intimidation in 1938.

  2. I can’t agree with you Adam. Harriet is not pro-Palestinian at least if you take this story (sic) as being representative of her attitude

    Had she really cared for the welfare of the Palestinians she would have connected the poverty-stricken lives of the inbred Tamimis with the EU statement published last week that the PA ‘squandered’ 1.95 billion euros in aid between 2008 and 2012. and she could have called for an accounting from them and an undertaking that future aid money would be distributed in a more even-handed manner..

    I do agree with you that this is propaganda and that her sole intention is to demonise Israel by using exaggeration and imagination

  3. Sherwood:

    “Silwan is wedged in a gulley, a dense jumble of houses along steep and narrow streets lined with car repair workshops and tired grocery stores.”

    Sounds like much of Israel’s mountain side’s cities.
    from Haifa to Tsfat or Tverya.

  4. Sharwood reporting Mousa:

    “If you gave me a million dollars, I would not go outside in my underwear.”

    Now I don’t know about you but poor people tend to do much worse for far less.
    Not saying that this, if true, is justified, but it should sure raise an eye brow in the writer’s mind, right?

  5. “she’s still firing a few parting shots”

    This phrase is derived from the arrows fired by Parthians looking back as they they fled the battle – “a Parthian shot”. As wiki has it:

    “The Parthian archers mounted on light horse, while retreating at a full gallop, would turn their bodies back to shoot at the pursuing enemy.”

    The Parthians are gone, and Israel has the field. Harriet is or soon will be gone, and Israel remains. Mind you, Beaumont has not been selected for his even-handedness either, specially in his mis-reporting about the Phalangist massacre in Sabra and Shattila.

    She knew nothing about Israel – certainly was one of the most ignorant people the Guardian could have sent to Jerusalem – and learned nothing. There were times when it was not clear if she was deliberately lying or simply ignorant and stupid.

    And, of course, when Israel sets up housing for Bedouin living in similar conditions, and insist they move from their cave to a community with running water, electricity, sewage, roads, buses, etc – Harriet could write an article about how Israel was destroying their ancient way of life in their cave.

    This pathetic last shot of hers to give the impression that Palestinians live in caves is typical. Rather than celebrating the fact that West Bank youngsters go clubbing in Ramallah, use the Internet, study at their universities, etc. etc., she falls back on her view of them as the eternal victims doomed by Israel to a life of poverty.

    • She knew nothing about Israel – certainly was one of the most ignorant people the Guardian could have sent to Jerusalem

      Gasp! Surely not. Guardian employees ignorant??

      Hate filled. Yes. Ignorant? Debatable. Wilfully misrepresenting?? Yes indeed. They are experts at that.

  6. Considering that she condemned the fact that Jerusalem’s light rail also serves Arab neighborhoods, I do not believe she has pro-Palestinian sympathies.

  7. One of the things that I find curious about Harriet is that she doesn’t respond to this site. She is surely aware of it and other journalists whose stories Adam has exposed as propaganda have posted here to defend themselves. It would seem that Harriet realizes that she isn’t objective.

    • She is obviously a typical Guardianista besotted by rabid hate for the one Western Liberal Democracy in the Middle East.

  8. Re.Sherwood’s general reporting: has she ever posted an article about the almost daily rocket attacks coming out of Gaza (i.e. when, as in the majority of cases but unlike this morning, there is no response from the Israelis)?