Harriet Sherwood’s Double Standards on Racism

As time progresses and the Guardian’s latest Jerusalem correspondent finds her feet, I am finding Harriet Sherwood’s double standards increasingly both offensive and revealing.

Just over a month ago she reported from Tsfat (or Safed, as she calls it) with a story about the edict issued by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu aimed at preventing Arab tenants from renting property in the town.

“Eliyahu, son of a former chief rabbi of Israel, advocates the expulsion of all Arabs from land he says God gave to the Jewish people. Now an Israeli cabinet minister is calling for Eliyahu to be removed from his post. Avishay Braverman, the minister for minority affairs, last week lodged a formal complaint with the justice ministry, saying Eliyahu’s “continual incitement against the Arabs in the Galilee harms the fabric of relations between Jews and Arabs and does not serve the interests of the state”.

The rabbi, along with 17 others, signed a letter this year ordering Jewish landlords not to rent to Arabs, saying: “Their way of life is different to that of Jews … [they] are bitter and hateful towards us.” Neighbours should ostracise such a landlord, “refrain from doing business with him [and] deny him the right to read from the Torah”.

A conference held last month under the banner of “Quiet War: Combating Assimilation in the Holy City of Safed” attracted 400 participants, including extreme rightwing activists.”

I think most of us would agree that trying to prevent a person or persons from living in a particular place because of their race, religion, skin colour or sexual orientation is indeed offensive and represents archaic attitudes which have no place in the modern world.

Fast forward to January 9th and Sherwood is back, this time objecting to a plan to create housing for a specific group of people in a certain place because they are not of the ‘right’ race.

Only this time the prospective tenants happen to be Jewish and the place happens to be the neighbourhood of Shimon HaTsadik (or Sheikh Jarrah as Sherwood calls it) in Jerusalem.

“Nasser Isa Hidmi, of the Jerusalem Committee Against Demolition and Deportation, said the international community should act to prevent Jewish settlers moving into Palestinian neighbourhoods: ‘We don’t want sympathy – we want them to stop Israel from doing what it’s doing.'”

So, just to clarify the situation for those of us not entirely fluent in Guardianista-speak: objecting to Arabs renting or buying property in a predominantly Jewish town which once had a substantial Arab population is bad, but objecting to Jews renting or buying property in a predominantly Arab neighbourhood which once had a substantial Jewish population is good.

People who advocate the former scenario are ‘extreme right wing activists’, whilst people who advocate the latter are presumably ‘progressive’ or ‘peace activists’.

And whilst Arabs wanting to live in Tsfat are just prospective tenants, Jews wanting to live in Simon HaTsadik are ‘settlers’.

Only a seriously convoluted mind could fail to see the offensive double standards being brought into play in these two stories; anti-racism is a concept which loses all value if exceptions are made for political or ideological reasons, and Harriet Sherwood and the Guardian are doing precisely that.

So much for “the world’s leading liberal voice”.

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