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August 5, 2013 9:00 am

Western Media Ignores Hamas Crackdown on Journalists

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

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A Hamas rally. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Poor Harriet Sherwood, missing the big picture while obsessively reporting about the latest round of Middle East peace talks that promise to end the six-decade-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a mere nine months.

While Sherwood, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, breathlessly relayed US President Barack Obama’s praising of the rebooted peace process, the Hamas-led government in Gaza – located a mere 50 miles away from Israel’s currently undivided capital city – was shutting down uncooperative media outlets in the territory.

n a July 29 post by the Guardian’s media blogger, Roy Greenslade, Gaza’s Attorney General Ismail Jaber was quoted as saying that the broadcaster Al-Arabiya and news agency Maan “fabricated news” that “threatened civil peace and damaged the Palestinian people and their resistance” to Israel.

Thankfully for freedom loving journalists such as Sherwood, this latest human rights violation by the demopathic Hamas movement is expected to be temporary – although when precisely the offices will actually be allowed to resume operations remains a question mark.

Sherwood’s unwillingness to shed a bright light on Hamas’ latest crackdown on ‘counter-revolutionary’ voices represents a glaring and dangerous ideologically driven moral blind-spot – denying her significant readership access to uncomfortable facts about the neighborhood bullies who share a volatile border with Israel.

According to the independent watchdog organization Freedom House, the media in Gaza are not free. Following its takeover of Gaza, Hamas replaced the PA Ministry of Information with a government Media Office and banned all journalists not accredited by it; authorities also closed down all media outlets not affiliated with Hamas, whose security forces have allegedly tortured detainees.  Furthermore, Hamas has significantly restricted freedoms of assembly and association, with security forces violently dispersing public gatherings of Fatah and other groups.

Now, none of this is meant to imply that Sherwood can’t find Gaza on a map. Bright, curious and well-read, the Guardian’s intrepid Jerusalem correspondent has indeed filed reports about the goings-on in Gaza. Yet, she seems impervious to any news item that may distract her readers from the Israel-as-Goliath fable – and often fails to adequately fact check claims made by her Palestinian protagonists.

Yet, the broader issue is Sherwood’s chronic myopia vis-à-vis alleged human rights violations by Hamas against its own people.

And when facts prove to be stubborn and persistent, Sherwood simply tortures the English language in an attempt to whitewash any pesky Palestinian human rights abuses. Indeed, it takes an imagination most fertile to conceive of a group a group recognized as a terrorist movement by the United States, the European Union, the UK, Australia, Canada and Japan as merely “conservative“.

Indeed, Sherwood’s selective reporting is taking place at a most inopportune time. Try as she may to turn a blind eye, human rights violations in Gaza – not to mention the Palestinian Authority – are reportedly increasing. According to the Palestinian Independent Commission For Human Rights (ICHR) report, 2012 saw a 10 percent increase in the number of complaints about human rights abuses by the PA and Hamas, compared with 2011.

According to, Randa Siniora, executive director of ICHR, many complaints were related to arbitrary and political detentions, as well as torture and mistreatment.  The organization recommends that the PA and Hamas stop violating freedom of expression by interrogating Palestinians who are simply expressing their political views.

Why hasn’t Ms Sherwood followed up on the findings and recommendations of this report? Are not the alleged human rights violations of Israel’s presumptive peace partners of any relevance to the final configuration of a Palestinian state?

Whilst Sherwood relentlessly reports every slight endured by Palestinians at the hands of Israelis, she evidently sees nothing newsworthy about severe abuses perpetrated by Hamas against its civilian population.

Lying by omission is lying by either omitting certain facts or by failing to correct a misconception, and it appears that Sherwood has made a career out of overplaying news stories about every conceivable Israeli miscue, while leaving out information that would detract from the Palestinian victim narrative.

Her ho-hum reaction to the horrific treatment of her cherished Palestinians effectively perpetuates the racist assumption that Palestinians lack moral agency.

And now…back to the negotiating table!

Gidon Ben-Zvi is a Jerusalem-based writer. This article was originally published by CIF Watch.

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