No Stone Left Unpunished

January 31, 2012 by Emily Gian
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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”…writes Emily Gian.

Emily Gian

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” (see more).

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.

Emily Gian is the Israel Advocacy Analyst at the Zionist Council of Victoria and a PhD Candidate in Israeli Literature at the University of Melbourne

Comments

10 Responses to “No Stone Left Unpunished”
  1. Gary says:

    I see the arc angel for Palestinian youth, Larry Stillman, speaks up on behalf of children illegally detained by Israeli Police.
    What a hero for children you are Larry. Shame you don’t go a step further to speak out against the caring Palestinian parents that send their kids out into the streets with stones, molitofs & belt bombs to become little martyrs. Try finding a Jewish parent to act in such an animal fashion. What about those brave terrorists that take cover in family apartments hiding behind women’s skirts & children whilst firing rockets indiscriminately into Israeli neighbourhoods!
    I am so happy to see that in true journalistic form Larry you are obviously bias in any shape or form.
    What a blatant disgrace to your profession. What an absolute hypocrite.
    Seeing as you are such a defender of youth, why don’t you check out the education system they have in Palestinian schools. Check this out if you dare – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIBNRVgq59Y&feature=related. I challenge you to try finding a Jewish education equivalent.

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    I read the Harriet Sherwood article in The Age last Thursday and felt the same towards it as Emily Gian. I submitted a letter to The Age ‘Letters’ section immediately and am hoping it appears tomorrow, but doubt that it will. Please see the following for my letter content:

    “A full page article by Harriet Sherwood (Focus, 26/01/2012) on the Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian children throwing stones continues ‘The Age’s’ penchant for focussing on the negative behaviour of Israel without full context. Nobody can condone brutal treatment of young people or the traumatised state that would ensue from that. However, with a full page at your disposal surely we could expect in depth reporting instead of a story writ large for the sake of its subject matter. To speak in one breath of the 700,000 Palestinians detained under Israeli military orders since the West Bank was ‘occupied’ by Israel more than 44 years ago, without reference to the wars initiated by Arabs on Israel within that timeframe and the death and destruction wreaked by Palestinian suicide bombers, is blatant misrepresentation. Palestinian children (and this article keeps emphasising ‘children’) are also traumatised by their own people when taught to hate Israelis and Jews and trained to become suicide bombers – perhaps Abu Amsha could consider this when he talks of the vicious cycle of violence and increasing hatred caused by the Israeli authorities. Oh, and the throwing of stones is no small thing – it can kill.’

  3. Otto Waldmann says:

    Rita’s allusion to Age’s infantility is so pertinent that I could only think of it coming of …age and maturing into something respectable.
    The “skilful” use of children on the barricades of terror may have some sickening speculative reference to a certain Gavroche “revolutionary” spirit, but the way in which the palestinians are breeding hatred-incarnate should be the real concern for journalists of all Ages.
    As about the perennial Larry Stillman chewing venom and writing at the same time, we see him here as the boys scout leader of batallions of “justified”, oppressed future scientists, musicians, doctors, but ONLY if the IDF will not clip their intellectual wings….The old adage ” we create our enemies” is taken by Mr. Larry so far that he has abandoned way behind the clear line of reality as we ALL know it and resides happily in a distorted Hamas designed abode, internet line included.

    (Geeez, ain’t I so nice and polite this morning !!!)

  4. Clap Hammer says:

    The Guardian is no longer what it was. It is now simply a shell propaganda organ for the radical delusional extreme left.

    It’s negative obsession with Israel is well accepted among the rational left and it will only revert from a blatant propaganda rag to being a Left orientated newspaper, when the whole of the existing editorial management are ‘let go’.

    They have no shame.

  5. Larry Stillman says:

    You really mean to say that there is no abuse of children detainees many of whom have committed no crime, or held in conditions that break all protocols?

    Whether or not a child has committed a crime or not is irrelevant to their detention prior to sentencing, yet abuse is endemic, including threats of violence, sleep deprivation and so on. This has gone on even though the police have been stupid enough to do it in front of the video camera.

    With respect to “a solution to the problem of children becoming embroiled in the violence of the conflict.”– ever considered that coming up to 45 years of military occupation have something to do with it.

    http://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/2011-no-minor-matter

    http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2012/01/04/israeli-police-illegally-detain-7-year-old-child-interrogate-him-without-a-parent-or-adult-for-hours/

  6. Anna says:

    Emily, what a great rebuttal. It would be wonderful if The Age or The Guardian were courageous, fair minded and decent enough to publish it. I think I’m destined to stay disappointed.
    Anna Berger

  7. Betty says:

    Sherwood has been shown by CIF watch and “honest reporting “over and over to have skewed her articles and even to pervert the truth to make any propaganda point possible against Israel, Yet she still is quoted and her articles continue without scrutiny by other mainstream media journalists. Tell a lie often enough and the truth becomes a lie .

  8. Michael Burd says:

    Another rehashed piece of Palestinian propaganda from al’ age’s Guardian angel in UK.

    Some one has to ask the question , why are al’ age Editors so obsessed with anything Jewish or Israeli>

    Another one page story on the Jewish community today on Jewish security and how the Jews live under siege from radicals and extremists , of course they quote a Jewish representative on the left who believes we are immune from attacks that we see all over the world and the money is wasted.
    Do the Australian public really give a sh-t what the small Jewish community does or for that matter what happens in the ” Muddle East” and what Israelis get up to?

  9. Rita says:

    The Guardian wants to be like “Der Stuermer” when it grows up. As to the Melbourne Age, perhaps it wants to be like “The Gardian” when it grows up.

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