Peace: Harriet Sherwood’s Palestinian Caricature

Israel Steals Organs. Cartoon which appeared in PA Daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadid, Jan 13, 2010

One of the seminal books on the subject of Arab anti-Semitism was Peace: The Arabian Caricature, by Arieh Stav. (The PDF is available free online, here)

The book, published in 1996, the height of the chimera of a “peace process” known as Oslo, advanced arguments about the peace talks that, though quite heterodox and counter-intuitive at the time, should, in the aftermath of the 2nd Intifada, and the refusal of “moderate” Palestinian leaders to accept increasingly generous offers by Israeli leaders (which included a contiguous Palestinian state) be uncontroversial.

Stav surveyed Arab anti-Semitic cartoons at a time of relative peace: when Israel had signed a peace treaty with Jordan, had signed a Declaration of Principles with the PLO, and had already declared its willingness to withdrawal from the Golan Heights.  That is, 1996 was a time when Israel was most receptive to making compromises in the spirit of the formula “Land for Peace” – what Shimon Peres referred to as “the painful but necessary concessions for the great reconciliation with the Arab states.”

But, as Stav observed, “a perusal of the relevant [Arabic] literature showed clearly that the basic assumptions underpinning the view…that Israeli concessions would result in Arab moderation [was] nothing more than wishful thinking.”

Israel as Death.PA Daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida June 2, 2010

Stav, citing his own research – as well of that of Bernard Lewis, Rivka Ladin, and Raphael Israeli – showed that, even after the peace accords with Egypt in 1979, there was no demonstrable decrease in the degree or volume of Arab hostility towards Israel as expressed in the media, popular culture or public opinion polls.

As Lewis has stated, “since 1945, the only place in the world where hard-core, Nazi-style anti-Semitism is officially endorsed and propagated” has been the Arab world – a conclusion, I’ve noted repeatedly, also reached more recently by Professor Robert Wistrich.

Concerning Arab anti-Semitism, Lewis argued:

“The level of hostility and the ubiquity of its expression are rarely equaled even in the European literature of anti-Semitism, which only at a few times reached this level of fear, hate and prejudice.  For parallels one needs to look at the high Middle Ages, to the literature of the Spanish Inquisition, of the anti-Dreyfusards in France, the Black Hundreds in Russia, or the Nazi Era in Germany.”

Jew Eating Dome of the Rock. Image broadcast on PA State TV, July 1, 2010

Harriet Sherwood’s recent report (Palestine: the flags are already waving but will a declaration of statehood help?, Guardian, July 16) deals largely with steps taken by the PA to “create and reinforce the institutions of a state”, acknowledges that the diplomatic hurdles to unilateral statehood, in the absence of a formal agreement with Israel, are dim – and cites, as one of the several political hurdles to such a move, the quintessential Guardian bogeyman, and obstacle to all things progressive in the Middle East, the injurious influence of the US “Israel Lobby”, which, Sherwood sagely explains, President Obama doesn’t want to risk alienating in the run up to the 2012 Elections.

Though it’s in Sherwood’s characterizations of Palestinian priorities, during the course of raising the possibility of a Third “Peaceful” Palestinian Intifada, where she cites the Palestinian public opinion poll (by Stanley Greenberg) which we cited in a recent post.

Says Sherwood:

“A recent opinion survey carried out in Gaza and the West Bank by the respected US pollster Stanley Greenberg found that at the top of the priority list for Palestinians were jobs, healthcare, water shortages and education. Mass protests against Israel, and even pursuing peace negotiations, came way down. Asked to choose, two-thirds favoured diplomatic engagement with Israel over violence.”

While the full report will be published tomorrow,  based on what was already released it’s clear that Sherwood cherry-picked the results which advance the desired narrative that she, the Guardian, and the mainstream media try so arduously to maintain – as they’ve done since Oslo (and, even prior to that, since the Camp David Accords) – of a moderate Palestinian population which seeks peace and shares the same values, and practical economic concerns, as those in the West.

Of course, among the results Sherwood evidently found too politically inconvenient to report is evidence regarding Palestinian rejectionism, extremism and support for violence. 

Specifically, to put the stats Sherwood cites, on Palestinians’ alleged preference for diplomatic rather than violent means to achieve a settlement, in context, the following would seem relevant.  Per the Jerusalem Post story on the poll:

66 percent [of Palestinians] said the Palestinians’ goal should not be a permanent two-state solution, but a two-state solution as an interim stage en route to the ultimate goal of a single Palestinian state in all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea – a goal that amply explains their opposition to recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland.

Asked about the fate of Jerusalem, 92 percent said it should be the capital of Palestine, 1 percent said the capital of Israel, 3 percent the capital of both, and 4 percent a neutral international city.

And, as I noted previously.

Seventy-two percent backed denying the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62 percent supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage, and 53 percent were in favor or teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools.


When given a quote from the Hamas Charter about the need for battalions from the Arab and Islamic world to defeat the Jews, 80 percent agreed. Seventy-three percent agreed with a quote from the charter about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.

No doubt, Sherwood had access to the same poll summary as the Jerusalem Post, and it’s evident that she simply chose not report those findings which contradict her caricature of Palestinian peace.

As we’ve demonstrated previously, the Guardian is also quite adept at using photos to illustrate their ongoing tale of Israeli villainy and Palestinian innocence.  As such, her story was accompanied with the following image:

And, really.  Isn’t it evident that only the most cynical Zionists, and those possessing a heart of stone, could possibly have any serious doubts that a Palestinian society which includes innocent flag-waving children genuinely desires peace?   

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