|The Age once carried this cartoon ...|
Emily Gian, Israel Advocacy Analyst at the Zionist Council of Victoria and a doctoral candidate in Israeli literature at the University of Melbourne, has issued a riposte, carried in the latest J-Wire:
Writes Emily Gian:
'An article appeared in last Thursday’s Melbourne Age entitled "No stone left unpunished". Penned by Harriet Sherwood of The Guardian, it told the story of Palestinian children detained by Israeli authorities for committing crimes such as "throwing stones at soldiers or settlers… flinging petrol bombs… [or] more serious offenses such as links to militant organisations or using weapons".
I couldn’t help but sense from the way Sherwood dismissed such activities as stone throwing and flinging petrol bombs as not being serious, that the writer was preparing to unleash what is now becoming stock standard fare from this publication on matters relating to Israel. Plenty of one-sided accusations without context and a token response from the Israeli side usually derided or sneered at by the author in the next paragraph or somewhere further down the line.
In its original incarnation in the Guardian, it was a termed a “special report” but, to its credit, the Age avoided the embarrassment and described it more correctly as an “opinion piece”. Perhaps “propaganda” might have even been more apt.
Dealing with children involved in conflict is a serious issue that needs to be handled responsibly. So does reporting on their treatment and, in this case, allegations of their mistreatment. Sherwood’s piece is problematic on three levels.
In the first place, there is the matter of the veracity of the claims made against the Israelis. Both Honest Reporting and CiF Watch have comprehensively refuted many of the article’s allegations so I will not repeat too much of what they say. However, what is of interest is how little time Sherwood dedicates to the Israeli response to the claims made and the inadequacy of her fact checking. It seems as though she simply wishes the allegations to be true and leaves it at that hoping that nobody (and certainly not the editors at the Guardian or the Age) will detect or care about the shoddiness of her work.
The Israel Security Agency (ISA) responded directly on the claims to the Guardian before the article went to print but the response was never fully published. The ISA states that “the claims that Palestinian minors were subject to interrogation techniques that include beatings, prolonged periods in handcuffs, threats, kicks, verbal abuse, humiliation, isolation and prevention of sleep are utterly baseless”.
The full ISA statement explains how all employees act within accordance of Israeli law and that those detained receive the full rights for which they are eligible. The statement also provided a categorical denial of “all claims with regard to the interrogation of minors. In fact, the complete opposite is true – the ISA guidelines grant minors special protections needed because of their age”.
Sherwood simply chose to ignore much of this statement, and instead used information provided to her by an organisation called the Defence for Children International. The DCI is a BDS supporter that calls for the full Right of Return of Palestinian refugees and previously lobbied for the now discredited Goldstone Report to be endorsed. Given its commitment to causes aimed at deligitimising the Jewish State and ultimately destroying it (a fact not disclosed in the article), the DCI is hardly an objective observer. Interestingly, one of its board members is Shawan Jabarin, a member of the terrorist group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. CiF Watch notes that his position on the board of a group that purports to protect children is strange “for someone involved with an organisation with such obvious disregard for the lives of either terror victims or the brainwashed teenagers sent to perpetrate terror attacks”.
It goes without saying that Sherwood also brushes over the crimes committed by some of the children. Her emotive piece attempts to paint a picture of harmless little pebbles being tossed at Israeli soldiers carrying guns – the old David and Goliath image. Never mind that such attacks have had fatal results such as the instances of Asher Palmer and his infant son Yonatan, who were killed when a rock hit the car in which they were travelling last September.
We see occasional instances of people throwing rocks at cars on Australian roads which have also caused serious injury but there is no reason to make light of such behaviour (see more) let alone of the throwing of petrol bombs which Sherwood doesn’t apparently consider too seriously when those attacked happen to be Israeli.
The second matter is one of timing. The initial Guardian piece appeared on Sunday 22 January. Honest Reporting and CiF Watch both published their rebuttals on Tuesday 24 January reprinting the Israeli response, which had already been ignored by the Guardian. The Age decided to republish the Sherwood article on Thursday 26 January, days after all of the information was available.
One expects that Age editor Paul Ramadge, Foreign Editor Carolyn Jones and Foreign Desk News Editor Maher Mughrabi are intelligent, well-read people, who would have seen the ISA response to the Guardian piece, and yet somehow, it appeared in its original form days later. Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened (see more here and here).
Thirdly, and to their everlasting shame, it seems that neither the journalist nor any of the agencies mentioned in the article appear to have the slightest interest in coming up with a solution to the problem of children becoming embroiled in the violence of the conflict. That their usefulness is measured only as a propaganda tool for those with more sinister motives leaves a stench far greater than that which offended Sherwood so much when she visited Cell 36, deep within Al Jalame prison in northern Israel.'