What Harriet Sherwood didn’t tell you in her report on JK Rowling’s anti-BDS letter

The Guardian’s former Jerusalem correspondent Harriet Sherwood penned an article (Star authors call for Israeli-Palestinian dialogue rather than boycotts, Oct. 22) about an anti-BDS letter in the Guardian published the previous day signed by scores of British artists and authors.

The letter, signed by JK Rowling, Simon Schama and others, was itself a response to a February 2015 letter from UK artists in the Guardian announcing their intention to boycott Israel.

The new Rowling-led anti-boycott letter includes the following passage:

Cultural boycotts singling out Israel are divisive and discriminatory, and will not further peace. Open dialogue and interaction promote greater understanding and mutual acceptance, and it is through such understanding and acceptance that movement can be made towards a resolution of the conflict.

Sherwood evidently couldn’t resist raising questions about the motivations of Rowling’s anti-boycott effort in the following paragraphs:

Some of the network’s supporters are closely aligned with Israel. Loraine da Costa, who chairs Culture for Coexistence, was on the executive board of Conservative Friends of Israel until last year. She has also been involved in One Family UK, an organisation “dedicated to helping all those in Israel whose lives have been blighted by terror”, according to its website. Da Costa said her involvement in both organisations was “irrelevant” to the network.

Among the signatories is Eric Pickles, a former cabinet minister and chairman of the Conservative party, who is currently chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel. Several other Tory MPs who have signed the letter are members of or associated with Conservative Friends of Israel.

Michael Dugher, the shadow culture secretary, and another signatory, is a vice-chair of Labour Friends of Israel.

There is a striking absence of Palestinian names on the list of Culture for Coexistence supporters.

However, there’s a striking omission in Sherwood’s own article.  She failed to note her own support for boycotts against Israel, a position she made clear in her swan song at the Guardian in April of 2014.


Sherwood is of course entitled to her view that Israelis are “shielded from the [daily grind] of occupation”, and so perhaps only the “economic pain, isolation and global opprobrium” of boycotts will force Israelis “to take notice”.

However, Guardian readers, it seems, deserve to know that the author of a report critical of JK Rowling’s decision to prioritize Israeli-Palestinian co-existence over “discriminatory” boycotts is herself on record supporting a campaign of exclusion against the Jewish state.

13 replies »

  1. But when she was in Jerusalem she loved using the resturant Luciania in Emek Refaim as her office – I sat at the next table whilst she phoned her friends in the PA/PLO/Hamas etc trying her best to besmirch Israel .

  2. “There is a striking absence of Palestinian names on the list of Culture for Coexistence supporters.”

    Yes there is. And that says nothing good about the Palestinians.

  3. And why did The Guardian choose Dear Harriet to comment on the letter? Maybe they’re trying out a replacement for Saumas Milne as anti-Israel Liar-in-Chief?

  4. She is trying to pick holes in the contributors: she wouldn’t dream of doing that with the usual pro-Pal worthies who have a lease on the top left hand corner of the Guardian letter page

    her report on the Gaza war last year was disgusting: Israelis were presented as a cruel, money driven caricature .

  5. “There is a striking absence of Palestinian names on the list of Culture for Coexistence supporters.”

    Perhaps they aren’t for coexistence. This would never occur to black pot Hattie.

  6. Israel is NOT Under occupation. Jews occupy THEIR land legally with international law support, History and this is all it needs. Therefore their crap and bds and other pressures will NOT make any difference except …THE OTHER WAY AROUND showingt them only transferring arabs over to jordan will stop antisémites trying to replace jews with arabs in the JEWISH PROVINCES. Of course a stupi cow like her cannot underzstand that but never mind IT WILL COME SOON.

  7. Well spotted, Adam.
    To be honest after pretty much the opening paragraph I immediately clicked on the link to the actual letter.

    a) Sherwood is full of it.
    b) See Barry above.