Harriet Sherwood story in Guardian quotes Richard Falk in accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing

Unlike Arab nations in the Middle East, who, since 1948, permanently expelled 99% of the nearly 900,000 Jewish citizens who resided in their territory, Israel has shown itself remarkably inept at the “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians which Harriet Sherwood suggests they’re engaged in. (Israel stripped 140,000 Palestinians of residency rights since 1967, document reveals, Guardian, May 11.)

Indeed, as even a cursory look at Israeli population statistics could have demonstrated to Sherwood, Israel’s Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian populations have all dramatically increased since 1948.

In 1949 there were 159,000 Arabs living in Israel.  Today, there are roughly 1.4 million.  In fact, Arabs represent a greater percentage of Israel’s total population today, 20%, than they did in 1949, 14%.

In the West Bank, the Arab population has risen from 462,000, in 1948, to roughly 2.4 million today.

The Muslim population in Jerusalem rose from 58,000 from the time Israel took control of the city, in the aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967, to about 250,000 today. (And, indeed, Muslims represent a greater percentage of Jerusalem today than they did in 1967).

Of course, we’re unable to examine the main statistic cited in Sherwood’s article, the supposed 140,000 Palestinian non-citizens who were stripped of their residency rights in the period in question, because she fails to provide a link to the “freedom of information” document which is the basis for her charge.

However, beyond the narrow question of whether her numbers are accurate, the broader political conclusions she reaches need to be dissected.

Sherwood acknowledges that, for instance, Palestinians in the East section of Jerusalem were, following the Six Day War, given residency status and permitted to apply for Israeli citizenship, “but the vast majority refused [to apply for Israeli citizenship] on political grounds”, before adding that (per Israeli policy) “if they leave the city for more than seven years, their east Jerusalem residency rights are revoked.”

Sherwood’s report, however, representative of the Guardian’s reporting on Israel more broadly, isn’t content with an objective analysis of the fairness of Israeli policy regarding the residency rights of its non-citizens, nor does she deem it necessary to contextualize Israeli policy by providing comparisons with residency rights for non-citizens in other countries.  For instance, she may have found it relevant to note that, in the US, permanent residents can lose their residence status if “he or she moves to another country [and] lives outside the USA for more than 365 days

Instead, Sherwood assigns maximum malice and dutifully cites the most hysterical characterizations of Israeli policy.

Saeb Erekat, who never misses an opportunity to accuse Israel of engaging in war crimes, is trotted out to opine:

“This policy [represents] a systematic policy of displacement [and] should…be seen as a war crime as it is under international law”

But, the most vile accusation, and the charge which supports Sherwood’s desired narrative, comes from Richard Falk, the investigator for the United Nations Human Rights Council, who is quoted as saying:

“the forcible eviction of long-residing Palestinians … [which] can only be described in its cumulative impact as a form of ethnic cleansing”. 

And, this is where Sherwood’s  journalistic malfeasance and recklessness is most acute.  

Falk, recently revealed to be a ‘Truther” (he explicitly stated his belief that the attacks on 9/11 were an inside job), is on record leveling the most insidious charges and hate-filled invectives against Israel, which has included accusing Israel of having “genocidal tendencies” and even comparing Israeli actions to that of Nazi Germany in a 2007 essay titled, “Slouching Towards a Palestinian Holocaust”, as well as accusing Jewish “tribalism” of generating, in Israel, “a societal license to kill, even to exterminate.” [emphasis mine]

That Sherwood views a man who has leveled such hideous charges against Israel (including comparisons with Nazi Germany which are codified as anti-Semitic) as a moral authority on Israeli policy, delegitmizing the Jewish state as a polity which “ethnically cleanses” its minority population, speaks volumes of her anti-Israel bigotry.

While I’ve noted in the past that though Sherwood’s reporting indicates a reporter largely in sync with the Guardian Left anti-Zionist zeitgeist, she didn’t quite seem to possess the visceral animosity that other Guardian contributors did, this recent legitimization of the most unhinged, and morally unserious, vitriol against Israel would suggest that I may have grossly underestimated her malice towards the Jewish state. 

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