Harriet Sherwood channels her inner Baghdad Bob in story on human shield ‘claims’

The Guardian, as with a relatively small but vocal and influential segment of the Western Left, is defined ideologically by their insistence that all people – and all political movements – are reasonable, and share more or less the same values regarding the sanctity of human life that they do. This dynamic – characterized by one academic a liberal cognitive egocentrism – is most pronounced in the Guardian’s coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, particularly when focus turns to the actions of Islamist extremist groups in the region.

Within their coverage of the current war, their correspondents (Peter Beaumont, Harriet Sherwood, and others) seem to process undeniable evidence of Hamas war crimes, such as their long-time use of human shields, as something akin to Zionist propaganda – ‘smears’ against the Palestinians which they seem determined to refute. (Indeed, such Guardian obfuscations about human shields are not deterred by the fact that Hamas spokespersons have admitted that the practice is effective.)

Harriet Sherwood’s July 24th article, In Gaza, Hamas fighters are among civilians. There is nowhere else for them to go‘ represents a classic example of this dynamic.

Her article begins thusly:

Israel‘s accusation that Hamas is using civilians as human shields has grown increasingly strident as the war in Gaza worsens.

The charge is laid relentlessly by political and military leaders and media commentators, repeated in conversations by members of the public and echoed in the comments of foreign politicians and diplomats. On the other side of the conflict, the accusation is vigorously denied by Hamas and others in Gaza.

The truth is lost amid the propaganda battle being waged alongside the shells, bombs, guns and rockets. What is certain is that the picture is more complicated than either side claims.

Then, Sherwood writes:

Israel claims Hamas routinely uses hospitals, mosques, schools and private homes to launch rockets at Israel, store weapons, hide command and control centres, shelter military personnel, and conceal tunnel shafts.

Here’s a video demonstrating Israeli “claims” that Hamas uses schools to launch attacks:

Sherwood continues:

On Wednesday, the IDF released a series of maps purporting to show Hamas military sites close to – but not in – schools, hospitals, mosques and residential buildings. It also released video, which it said showed militants using an ambulance to flee after coming under attack by IDF troops, and said the grounds and vicinity of al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City had been “repeatedly utilised by Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a command centre, rocket-launching site, and a post enabling terrorists to open fire at soldiers”.

But the hospital’s director rejected the Israeli assertion that the hospital had been used for military purposes by Hamas or other militant groups

It’s likely that neither hospital director, nor Sherwood, saw the following video:

Additionally, reporters covering the war have reported that another hospital, al-Shifa, has been used as a command center for Hamas.  

William Booth wrote the following in a July 15th column for the Washington Post:

the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, crowds gathered to throw shoes and eggs at the Palestinian Authority’s health minister, who represents the crumbling “unity government” in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The minister was turned away before he reached the hospital, which has become a de facto headquarters for Hamas leaders, who can be seen in the hallways and offices.

The Jerusalem correspondent for the Financial Times (a publication not known for its pro-Israel sympathies) Tweeted this:

Then, Sherwood’s article takes an even stranger turn, seeming to suggest that even if Hamas fires from civilian areas, it’s arguably justified by their asymmetrical nature of the war.

The current war is not being fought on a conventional battlefield. Israel is pounding Gaza from the air, and its troops are increasingly fighting battles against a guerrilla army in densely populated urban areas – which constitute much of the Gaza Strip. As Israeli tanks and troops push further into the towns and cities, it is increasingly likely that Hamas will launch attacks from positions close to civilian buildings.

The separation between “civilian” and “military” in Gaza is much more blurred than with a conventional army – both physically and in the Gazan psyche. Hamas and other militants are embedded in the population. Their fighters are not quartered in military barracks, but sleep at night in their family homes.

Of course, the Geneva Convention prohibition against the use of human shields doesn’t grant a loophole for “guerrilla armies” operating in “populated urban areas”.  If there was such an exception, every terrorist group in the world would exploit it to ‘legally’ put innocent civilians in harm’s way when carrying out attacks on Western targets.  Additionally, Gaza’s population density (exaggerated though it is) seems to have little relevance in Hamas’s decision (over the course of several wars) to use mosques, hospitals and schools to hide arms and fire rockets. 

Then, Sherwood audaciously attempts to impute moral equivalence between Hamas and the IDF:

Israel, meanwhile, does not have an unblemished record in the use of human shields. In 2010, two soldiers were convicted in an IDF military court of using an 11-year-old Palestinian boy as a human shield in its 2008-09 operation in Gaza. The pair ordered the child to search bags they suspected of being booby-trapped.

Investigations by news organisations and human rights groups have suggested the IDF has used Palestinians as human shields in operations in both Gaza and the West Bank.

Of course, the key words in this passage about this solitary instance of using human shields are “two soldiers were convicted”, unwittingly demonstrating that such acts run completely counter to IDF policy. Indeed, as the article Sherwood linked to noted, “IDF protocols strictly prohibit the use of civilians as human shields.”  Moreover, like any good propagandist, Sherwood uses this one example – representing the rare exception in the context of any army which goes to unparalleled lengths to protect Palestinian civilians  – to impute a moral equivalence which any sober commentator would know is patently absurd. 

Here’s Former Col. Richard Kemp, who led British forces in Afghanistan, talk briefly about the media’s complicity in parroting the Hamas PR strategy:


Much like Baghdad Bob, the Iraqi diplomat most known for making comically inaccurate claims during press conferences with Western reporters in the early stages of the 2003 War, Sherwood’s obfuscations on behalf of the terrorist movement (which cynically exploits its own civilians to gain such propaganda victories) will likely one day be treated as a case study in the kind of propaganda which serves to defend the indefensible. 

18 replies »

  1. correction: “liberal cognitive liberal egocentrism”. the word ‘liberal’ is repeated

      • @Adam.

        Hi Adam – why don’t you write about the targeting of Palestinian infrastructure? Any ideas on the power plant? Is it perhaps producing ‘terrorist electricity’?

  2. The verbal and logical somersaults employed the the Guardian and its minions have no bounds. Just a few examples:

    1) Every fact and development that supports Israel’s claims or can be seen as pro-Israeli will be always be reported as “Israel says X”, while from Hamas’ side it will always be reported as fact.

    2) Cause and effect can and will be reversed. If Hamas attacks, and then Israel retaliates, it will be reported as “Israel attacks Gaza as Hamas fires at Israel”

    3) Hamas cannot break ceasefires. Only Israel can. If Hamas breaks a ceasefire, then it is reported as “Ceasefire breaks”, without mentioning who broke it.

    4) Israel is always reported in the active, while Hamas in the passive. Example: “Israel attacks/ bombs/ pounds/ demolishes Gaza”. As opposed to “Rockets fired from Gaza”. the verbs for Israel will usually be aggressive- pounding, etc.

    5) Numbers of air strikes on Gaza will be reported. Numbers of rockets into Israel will not.

    6) All casualties in Gaza are civilians. There will be no mention or estimate to the numbers of Hamas combatants killed. Regarding Israeli casualties, it will always be mentioned whether they are soldiers. (Similarly, Israeli casualties in the west-bank will always be reported as “settlers”, not “civilians”).

    7) Graphs, charts, and other visual aids will only be employed to visualize casualties in Gaza, not on any other subject or conflict in the world. Graphs showing strikes from both sides along a timeline will be set on monthly or weekly points, so as not to show the cause and effect of Israeli retaliations, which will usually be in the hours after a Hamas attack. This is another way to eliminate cause and effect.

    One can go on and on. The Guardian should be investigated for their lack of ethics and honest reporting.

  3. Adam thank you for posting these video’s showing how Hamas uses Gazan’s as human shields.
    Harriet should be a human shield for Hamas.

  4. Of course Hamas doesn’t use human shields – here is a video on them forcing civilians to leave the area.

  5. But the hospital’s director rejected the Israeli assertion that the hospital had been used for military purposes by Hamas or other militant groups

    LOL As if he would dare admit it.

    • So human shields used to protect terrorists, but Israel blew everyone up anyway, not much of a strategy then was it, good for Israel though, this idea , otherwise they would just look like murdering scumbags killing civilians to punish them all for voting Hamas in, oh dear

  6. Never ever heard of a steam shower enclosure up until I stumbled
    upon this website, so thankful I did so want to have one right away and funds permitting will
    likely be going to get one very soon