Requisite photo of Palestinians behind bars accompanies “report” by Harriet Sherwood on anti-BDS bill

Last year, Akus commented on the Guardian’s use of often highly inappropriate photos, in Israel related stories, in service of reinforcing a desired narrative.

He noted the debacle of the Guardian’s use of the following pre-disengagement picture from Gaza in 2005 to illustrate an article by Leila El-Haddad – which they eventually removed – to reinforce the narrative of Gaza, in 2010, as a place worse than a prison camp.

Indeed, Honest Reporting issued an excellent report in December on the use of bars in images (by the mainstream media) to enhance the impression of Palestinians suffering as “prisoners” of Israeli occupation and brutality.

So far, Harriet Sherwood has posted three pieces on Israel’s controversial new anti-BDS law in as many days.  And, while the latest (Israelis divided over new law that backs business hit by trade boycotts, July 15th) is actually not as one-sided as the first two (as it actually marginally presents the views of some who support the law), the editors’ choice of a photo to advance the paper’s desired narrative regarding the broader conflict is quite transparent.


It’s fair to ask why this photo – which, based on a search I did from the image’s URL, turns out to have been taken in February of 2007 – was chosen to illustrate the story.

Sherwood’s piece, after all, is about attempts by Israel to fight efforts to isolate the state, by use of boycotts and other means of delegitimization, and it’s unclear what a photo of Palestinians passing through a checkpoint along Israel’s security fence in 2007 has to do with either the recently passed Knesset bill, or the broader issue of BDS.

If this was a commentary attempting to demonstrate Palestinian suffering in service of a broad moral defense of BDS against Israel, then the image (though still highly problematic) would at least have been contextually consistent.

However, as Harriet Sherwood is the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, and the piece does not purport to be a polemic, it’s clear that the editor who chose to insert that stock photo was making an editorial decision to show Israel in the worst possible light, and highlight Palestinian suffering – the only narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict which has any credibility among Guardian readers.

As Guardian Assistant Editor Michael White acknowledged, in a remarkably frank blog post in March, regarding the paper’s disproportionate criticism of Israel:

“[editors] strive much of the time to tell [Guardian readers] what [they’d] rather know rather than challenge [their] prejudices and make [them] cross.”

The Guardian: reinforcing their readers’ egregious biases against Israel – one story, and one image, at a time.

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