Guardian’s Harriet Sherwood misleads by omission in story on extremist group Lehava

Though Harriet Sherwood is no longer the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, she continues to find ways to mislead readers about Israel. Sherwood, now the paper’s Religion correspondent, published an article (‘US anti-extremism group asks Israel to curb rightwing Jewish activist’, May 27) based on a statement by Anti-Defamation League calling on Israel to use all legal means possible against the leader of an extremist group called Lehava.  

However, Sherwood fails to provide any context on the extremely marginal anti-Arab, anti-gay and anti-Christian hate group, and advances a highly misleading narrative suggesting that the group is representative of a ‘rising tide’ of right-wing extremism. 

Here’s the entire article:

A US-based organisation that campaigns against antisemitism has taken the unusual step of calling on the Israeli government to act against an extreme rightwing Jewish activist with “abusive, racist, inflammatory and violent” opinions.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has urged Israel’s attorney general to use all legal means possible against Bentzi Gopstein, the leader of Lehava – an extremist Jewish organisation that allegedly incites hatred against Arabs.

The activities of Gopstein and Lehava have “destructive implications to Israeli society and the Jewish people”, said a letter from the ADL’s Israeli executive director, Carol Nuriel, to the attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit.

“From our point of view as an organisation based in the United States, we see this hateful discourse as harmful not only to Israeli society, but also to the reputation of the state of Israel,” the letter says. The discourse is “used as a weapon by Israel’s enemies, who use it as a basis for their rushed conclusions and generalisations about Israeli society”.

The ADL’s move follows the launch of a petition by the Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) asking Mandelblit to take action against Gopstein. By Friday, it had been signed by about 12,000 people.

Both the ADL and the IRAC say Gopstein and Lehava have encouraged “price tag” attacks on Palestinians and their property in response to moves by the Israeli authorities which the perpetrators view as hostile to settlers.

According to the IRAC, Lehava activists post more than 200,000 statements on social media every year, many of which are offensive and some of which include calls to violence.

“Gopstein’s Facebook page is filled with unequivocal expressions of hate, mostly towards the Arab population [but also towards the gay community, for example]. The opinions expressed on his page, by him and his followers are extremely abusive, racist, inflammatory and violent,” said Nuriel’s letter.

She also pointed out that Gopstein had advocated the burning of churches and has called Christians “bloodsucking vampires”.

The move by the ADL, an organisation known for its support of Israel, indicates the degree of alarm over the rise of the extreme right in the country, particularly among hardline settlers.

In April, Gopstein was acquitted of assaulting two leftwing activists after a judge said he could have mistaken them for Palestinians.

Lehava was launched in 2009 with the aim of preventing relationships between Jewish women and Arab men.

Sherwood fails to explain that Lehava has negligible support, and has been condemned by Israeli leaders from across the political spectrum. Within Likud alone, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and former Defense Minister Boogie Ya’alon have all called for the group to be banned.  President Rivlin once characterized Lehava demonstrators as “rodents gnawing under the shared democratic and Jewish foundation of Israel”.

Even the right-wing group Im Tirtzu condemned the group as an “anti-Zionist, right-wing extremist group”.

In 2015, Ya’alon and the Shin Bet consulted with legal experts to determine if there was sufficient evidence to ban the group.  Later that year, three Lehava members were found guilty in a Jerusalem court for their role in an arson attack on a school promoting Jewish-Arab co-existence.

Of course, the fact that Lehava is allowed to legally operate in Israel is no more indicative of a ‘rising tide of rightwing extremism’ than the fact that the Ku Klux Klan is legal in the US is suggestive of the growth of racist extremism in that country.

Sherwood’s focus on Lehava again demonstrates the Guardian’s tendency to exaggerate the relevance of isolated incidents and marginal Jewish voices in Israeli society in order to promote the desired narrative of a country heading towards the political abyss.

41 replies »

    • You would give yourself a 5-star rating for that irrelevant opening salvo. The article isn’t about the ADL, Intrepid Reporter, but about Harriet Sherwood’s treatment of the statement.

      But then the Jews are wrong to be skeptical of the media, right? Can’t imagine a scenario where the Media might manipulate the truth in order to sell some scare monger bullshit, can you?

      And that’s why you’re considered a moron.

    • “So you also condemn the ADL’s statement against Lehava?”
      It does not logically follow that Adam would also condemn the ADL’s statement.

      So after reading Adam’s article why does it raise the query in your mind that Adam would ‘also condemn the ADL’s statement’?

    • Not really. But I do object to the way the information was contextualized by Sherwood. All democracies, including Israel, have some extremists. However, the narrative advanced by media outlets – such as the Guardian – over the years that there’s a “rising tide of extremism” in Israel is not accurate. The truth is that the centre continues to hold.

      • “However, the narrative advanced by media outlets – such as the Guardian – over the years that there’s a “rising tide of extremism” in Israel is not accurate. The truth is that the centre continues to hold.”

        What planet do you live on ? If you want to condemn Sherwood for inaccuracy at least do it with some accurate statements. You could start by mentioning that a long list of Israeli politicians, generals, etc have recently made the same observation about the “rising tide of extremism”, the most recent being Avi Gabbay, the Minister of Environment who resigned last week and Yuval Diskin, the former head of the Shin-Bet. .

      • @Adam Levick –

        RE: ‘…the narrative advanced by media outlets – such as the Guardian – over the years that there’s a “rising tide of extremism” in Israel is not accurate. The truth is that the centre continues to hold.’

        Perhaps you should start studying Israeli media reports/commentaries with the same eagle-eye you cast on European/American ones…

        There has been increasing willingness over the past few years to acknowledge the “rising tide” phenomenon – thanks very largely to prominent figures in military, security, and political spheres sounding alerts and placing their concerns on public record.

        Unlike you, they don’t seek to brush aside groups like Lehava as mere “marginal” mavericks but instead see them as part-and-parcel of a much more widespread extremist jigsaw.

        Among recent Israeli reports that support the “rising tide” narrative:,7340,L-4688640,00.html

        And for just one highly vocal, physically aggressive example of “marginal” extremists (in addition to Lehava and a multitude of other Kahane-inspired groups) in action:

        • When Israeli prominent figures express their worries they don’t compare Israel to other countries because this is not their job and don’t say that thanks to the Israeli political culture this phenomenon is much weaker here than it is in the rest of the world.
          When in the Western world extremists from both fringes of the political spectrum are marching victoriously to power (Austria, Greece, US, Holland, Denmark, Germany, France, Spain (not ot forget the UK main opposition party) the Sherwood style “analyses” of Israeli society are very transparent Israel-bashing lacking any factual basis and nothing else. Were you only a bit less of a Jew-hating moron you would know that here the center is very strong and even extremist politicians can’t keep government posts without showing centrist credentials. But don’t worry the key words here are “were you” so just keep up with your ignorant rantings.

        • “And for just one highly vocal, physically aggressive example of “marginal” extremists (in addition to Lehava and a multitude of other Kahane-inspired groups) in action:”

          Mad Cow Miranda so to support your claim you post a video about football fans.
          This may come as a surprise to you but the World over there are countless videos of football fans behaving in a violent and racist fashion.
          Your desperation to find some stick to beat Israel with is becoming increasingly pathetic.

          You should start supporting football, at least then you could mingle with other like-minded swivel eyed anti-Semitic loonies.

          • Any football fans who bombed passenger planes, hijacked passenger planes and flew them into buildings, bomb London transport as Muslims did on 7/7?

            Any football fans who beheaded British soldiers on the streets of London, bombed the Boston Marathon, murdered people at Charlie Hebdo and Bataclan, murdered people at Brussels airport, threaten the UK with 9/11 scale attacks?

            No. But Muslim Terrorists have.

          • @Gerald –

            Sure, there are racist football fans all over the world. But how many explicitly trumpet allegiance to a terrorist organisation proscribed by their own state as Beitar’s “La Familia” fans do?

            What would your response have been if I’d posted a video of Palestinian football supporters flourishing Hamas insignia while roaring “Death to Jews” and throwing stones at Jewish players from the terraces? Blithe dismissal as just another bunch of “racist hooligans” – or fury that they’d not been long ago been shut down and arrested en masse as terrorists and inciters?

            Anyway … since you’re so determined to turn a blind eye to Beitar’s particular brand of Kach/Kahane rallying, now try these for size instead:

            • Basner obviously you are interested in football hooliganism/racism only when Jewish racists are involved. In the UK antisemitism is a huge problem on the football fields, so maybe you should take a look into the mirror before criticizing others. In Israel these Betar fans are a tiny minority while in the UK (and many other EU countries) the phenomenon is widespread. While in Israel there is a decades old hostility and war between Jews and Arabs (this is not to justify the racism) but what is the reason behind UK and EU antisemitism/racism on the football-fields? One of the reason is the self-righteous justification served for these animals by your kind of wannabe SS camp guards. And now that you consecrated some minutes of your invaluable time to study racism in your own country (just joking) you can crawl back to your attic and salivate on your copy of the Protocols.

            • “But how many explicitly trumpet allegiance to a terrorist organisation..”
              Quite a few.

              Mad Cow Miranda are you not aware that a section of Glasgow Celtic fans used to wave pro IRA banners as well as singing pro IRA songs and chants? And as for Glasgow Rangers some of their loyalist chants and anti-Catholic songs led to uproar and resignations at the club.
              What about Lazio Ultras with their anti-Semitic chants and regular use of the ‘Roman’ salute.

              Your lack of knowledge of the shocking and racist behaviour of some football fans all over the World is clear confirmation of your desperation to find any stick, even a broken one, to try and beat Israel with.

    • Gabriel: you have now experienced the hypocrisy & stupidity of the UKMediaWatch regulars. How dare you even indirectly imply any criticism of anything Israeli, even when it is a racist, fascist, JudeoNazi group like Lehava ? One can only wonder what Adam Levick found to criticize in this article, other than it violates his “rule” that even a short news story like this must include the entire history of the Middle East, the stated position of at least 1000 Israelis, etc, etc.

        • Yet you have nothing to say when thicko racist Edward, regularly uses the equally as absurd term, “Islamofascism”….Interesting!

          • Racist Fascist Migraine, Islamofascism is an apt description of the Muslims (Islam) who wage Jihad (Fascism) in places like New York, London, Brussels, Boston, San Bernardino, Paris, Copenhagen, Ottawa, Sydney, Beslan, Madrid, Bali, Faluja, Tehran, Qom, Damascus

      • “torsion,”
        How would a “new comer” like you know anything at all about UKMediaWatch regulars?
        Gabby’s comments have been appearing here for quite a while, whereas no one has ever heard of you.
        Kind of funny, huh?

      • So maybe you can tell me since Gabby didn’t. How is the point of the article whether Adam condemns Lehava or not? How has the focus on this site shifted from UK Media criticism to questioning the moral character of those of us who, you know, object to the objectification?

  1. The are the Jewish version of the Palestinian Authority. All you have to change the words Muslim and Jew and their attacks are nearly the same.

    I wish the condemnation directed their way was also directed at the entire PA

      • Yes, Lehava is much worse. They claim to be morally superior to the Palestinians, yet they delight in stooping to the same level of morality that they condemn.

        • Most people are morally superior to Islamofascists AKA Pal-e-SWINIANS, Hamass, Hezbullah, Al Qada, ISIS, Taliban, Fascist Iran, Boko Haram, Muslim Brotherhood, Al Nusra, Al Shabab, …

  2. Nice article. Harriet must be wondering where the next pound is coming from with all the cut-backs at The Guardian. I can imagine Harriet going to sleep at night repeating over and over again and again – ‘Israel is evil’, ‘Israel is evil’. Such is her negative obsession with the Zionist miracle state.

    • Clap Hammer’s on to something with Guardian cutbacks. This is where outfits like ukmediawatch should have sister organizations organizing boycotts of their online advertisers, accelerating the Guardian’s demise. It’s a blessing they’re hemorrhaging cash. Soon the print edition will go the way of the Indy. Without such efforts the Scott trust can probably hold out another 10 to 20 years.

  3. Whilst you are all up in arms about Lehava and the comments made about its agenda by the ADL, it is a distinct part of Judaism as laid down in the Old Testament, which incidentally was part of last Shabbat’s Torah reading, that Jewish females should not marry non Jews. As such it is time to recognise that the organisation has a legitimate purpose, despite all the rot spouted by various Israeli spokesmen etc. If you lived in Israel rather than outside you would find a lot of the Jewish citizens support Lehava’s agenda but possibly not its methods.

    As for Sherwood, she used to side in a cafe, Luciani, in Emek Refaim Street in Jerusalem which she used as her private office and she was overheard provoking slanderous comments about Israeli actions based on heresay so she could file her Anti Semitic report. Of course the cafe was Kosher so why did she use its premises?

    As for her knowledge of Judaism and Israel it is probably like a drop in a teacup! .

  4. Here’s the problem as I see it. Here we have Harriet Sherwood writing about this marginal group, but never, ever, ever writing anything about the hate pouring forth from “Palestine,” which is endemic, and supported by its own government. Sherwood believes it is somehow justified, and therefore must not really exist as such. She is a wicked purveyor of humanitarian racism, which always imagines Israel as lurching ever rightward while ignoring almost completely the long triumphalist war of the Middle East’s Arab majority on the Jewish minority trying to survive in its ancestral homeland. They can’t defeat the Jews militarily because they spend too much of their time navel gazing the 7th century, so they enlist the likes of Sherwood to slant the propaganda against the Jews. It’s not about Palestinians.

    The ADL writes, “From our point of view as an organisation based in the United States, we see this hateful discourse as harmful not only to Israeli society, but also to the reputation of the state of Israel,” the letter says. The discourse is “used as a weapon by Israel’s enemies, who use it as a basis for their rushed conclusions and generalizations about Israeli society”.

    But what about the lies and antisemitic and anti-Israel incitement and pouring forth every day from the PA, Hamas, Arab media, the Guardian and other media outlets, European capitals, the EU and the UN which is not just asked for but rewarded. Don’t look to Sherwood or her paper to ever shine a light there.

    The Sherwood’s of this world need to have rabidly “right-wing” Israel to justify their humanitarian racist worldview of third world Palestinian snowflakes seeking a safe space.

  5. Sweet Harriet coming back to haunt us….This woman hangs around like a bad smell…She needs to hop on her Broom and fly away….Far Far Away…..