Sherlock’s Ship of Fools

Ruth Sherlock’s latest piece in the Guardian, August 6, is entitled Gaza Aid Flotilla set to sail from Lebanon with all-women crew.

The piece was introduced with this image:

The photo included this caption:

“Israel’s deadly assault on a Gaza aid flotilla in June led to anger in the Muslim world and beyond.”

So, right off the bat, we’re told everything the Guardian wants us to know about the flotilla incident on May 31: that Israel launched a deadly, unprovoked, and vicious assault on innocent “activists” which angered the Muslim world – a community which (one would presume from the passage) was, up until that event, friendly towards Israel and downright philosemitic.

Nothing in Sherlock’s essay included even the most rudimentary information or context regarding the events on that fateful day: certainly nothing on the proven terrorist affiliations of the “activists” on-board; nothing pertaining to the ugly invectives hurled at the Jewish soldiers, such as one suggesting that they shouldgo back to Auschwitz“; certainly not the video showing that the IDF crew was savagely attacked with metal bars (and other deadly weapons) immediately upon boarding the ship, before finally defending themselves; and nothing informing the readers that Israel, after all, was merely requesting the ship dock in Ashdod, so the supplies could be inspected for weapons before being sent to Gaza.

The caption, casually informing us that the “Muslim world” was angered by the incident on-board the flotilla, repeats one of those facile and horribly misleading narratives that the Guardian is so adept at disseminating.

Their failure to report on, or even nominally mention, for instance, the plethora of widely reported, and easily attainable, evidence demonstrating the raw Jew-hatred, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, routinely peddled in the Muslim world – a hostility towards Jews (and not merely Israelis) that is normative behavior in many parts of the Arab world – represents, at best, an egregious example of journalistic bias.

Historian Robert S. Wistrich has argued persuasively that:

The scale and extremism of the literature and commentary available in Arab or Muslim newspapers, journals, magazines, caricatures, on Islamist websites, on the Middle Eastern radio and TV news, in documentaries, films, and educational materials, is comparable only to that of Nazi Germany at its worst. Yet the Western world largely turns a blind eye to the likely genocidal consequences of such a culture of hatred…

Further in Sherlock’s essay, we are informed:

The participants [of the new flotilla] are aware of the dangers, having followed the fate of another flotilla carrying aid for Gaza that was attacked by Israel in May. Israeli forces landed on the Mavi Marmara…killing nine activists on board. Al-Haj [co-ordinator of the flotilla] reminded the women to be prepared for a confrontation.

Sherlock then makes a clear contrast between Israel’s propensity towards aggression and the “peaceful” “international”, “multi-faith” composition of the new flotilla’s all-female crew:

The Saint Mariam, or Virgin Mary, has a multi-faith international passenger list, including the Lebanese singer May Hariri and a group of nuns from the US. “They are nuns, doctors, lawyers, journalists, Christians and Muslims.”

Yes, anti-Zionism is so apolitical, bipartisan, and ecumenical!

Of course, more and more reports have come out demonstrating that there is nothing approaching a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  In fact, even Mahmoud Daher, a World Health Organization official in Gaza, acknowledged recently that:

“There is food in Gaza. It’s not a humanitarian crisis. There is no hunger, there is no starvation.”

When reading such Guardian essays, I occasionally ponder how writers such as Sherlock would react if such relevant evidence (mentioned above) was presented to her.

If I were to show her videos of some of the thousands of vile anti-Semitic commentaries which are widely disseminated in the Arab/Muslim world (and often broadcast on state-run television!), would it change at all the narrative of her future reports about Israel?

Would such information make her essays more balanced, with a greater understanding and empathy for Israeli/Jewish fears of the radical movements on its borders?

Would empirically based research demonstrating that there is not a “humanitarian crisis”  in Gaza influence her to report on future aid ships with a bit more skepticism?

Or, do writers at the Guardian already know such things?

If so, one has to wonder: Is it possible that their bias and hostility against Israel is so deep and reflexive that, even if presented with new information challenging their pre-conceived notions, they simply wouldn’t care?

There are actually quite a few terms that effectively describe such a dynamic – of assuming the absolute worst intentions of a group, regardless of the evidence: The most simple, and apt, word is  BIGOTRY.

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