Political Activism as Journalism: Harriet Sherwood promotes agenda of radical anti-Israel NGO

On Saturday February 16th 2002, at around 7:45 p.m., an 18 year-old terrorist – wearing an explosive vest containing 25 pounds of nails for added damage – walked into a pizza parlour in the crowded shopping mall in Karnei Shomron and detonated his device.

Two teenagers were killed instantly, some thirty people (many of them children) were injured – six of them seriously – and one died of her wounds 11 days later. Rachel Thaler was 16 years old, Keren Shatsky and Nehemia Amar were both 15 when they were murdered.

One member at that time of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – the organisation which later claimed responsibility for that terror attack – is named Shahwan Jabarin. 

Strangely, (at least according to Western standards) for someone involved with an organisation with such obvious disregard for the lives of either terror victims or the brainwashed teenagers sent to perpetrate terror attacks, he is today active in the field of ‘human rights’ NGOs as director of ‘Al Haq’ and a board member of ‘Human Rights Watch’. He also sits on the board of an organisation named Defence for Children International – Palestine (DCI-Pal).

In June 2007 the Israeli Supreme Court noted that:

“[Jabarin] is apparently active as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, in part of his hours of activity he is the director of a human rights organisation, and in another part he is an activist in a terrorist organisation which does not shy away from acts of murder and attempted murder, which have nothing to do with rights, and, on the contrary, deny the most basic right of all, the most fundamental of fundamental rights, without which there are no other rights – the right to life.”

In 1985 Jabarin was sentenced to 24 months’ imprisonment after having been found guilty of recruiting members for the PFLP (designated as a terror organization by the US, EU and Canada) and arranging PFLP training abroad. In 1994 he was arrested and placed in administrative detention for six months due to the fact that he “had not discontinued his terrorist involvement and maintains his position in the leadership of the PFLP”. In 2003 his PFLP links caused him to be denied entry into Jordan.

The director and founder of DCI-Pal is Rifat Odeh Kassis – another seasoned anti-Israel campaigner who is active in a number of organisations (some of which he founded), including OPGAI, The World Council of Churches, EAPPI, the Alternative Tourism Group, and the Alternative Information Centre (also known for links to the PFLP).  Kassis is the co-author of the notorious Kairos Document, which promotes BDS and suggests that Jewish sovereignty is an affront to God’s plan for humanity.

Last year Kassis took public objection to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s expression of anxiety regarding the future of Christians in the Middle East and used the anti-Semitic canard of dual loyalty to attack the Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal.

Far from confining itself to the objectives of its mission statement (“Promoting and protecting the rights of Palestinian children in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), as well as other international, regional and local standards”), DCI-Pal is active in various Boycotts, Divestment and Sanction campaigns and in lobbying foreign governments and organisations.  It promotes the ‘right of return of Palestinian refugees and lobbied for the UNHRC to endorse the Goldstone Report.

DCI-Pal also supports the Muslim Brotherhood-organised ‘Freedom flotillas’ and promotes the myth of “a large-scale humanitarian crisis” in Gaza, and continues to promote the libel of the ‘Jenin massacre’ on its website.

Snapshot of DCI-Pal website, taken Jan. 24, 2012 (Click to Enlarge)

After Operation Cast Lead, DCI-Pal posted a list of the names of children it claimed had been killed during the war. Other organisations such as B’Tselem and PCHR later identified some of those named as combatants.

Clearly, DCI-Pal is yet another on the long list of organisations which employ the fig-leaf of human rights to advance radical anti-Israel agendas.

It is also the organization that raised the unproven allegations which  Harriet Sherwood has chosen – yet again – to repeat  unquestioningly in no less than two articles and one video report in the space of 24 hours on the subject of Palestinian youths detained by Israel .

Sherwood’s complete failure to make any attempt to verify the claims she parrots in order to make them more than just hearsay will hardly come as much of a surprise to those familiar with her track record. Her symbiotic relationship with an NGO which has a (former?) member of a proscribed terrorist group on its board and an often debatable relationship with the truth should, however, raise eyebrows.

Sherwood gets easy and plentiful material for her ‘special report’ and DCI-Pal gets free publicity for its political campaign – but at what price to the reputation of her profession and its ethics?  

It is precisely the failure to confirm or even question the accusations made by DCI-Pal – even in light of the response she received in advance of publication from the Israel Security Agency (ISA) – which indicates that Harriet Sherwood was not interested in providing her readers with facts, but in supplying a steady stream of emotive pieces consistent with their (and her) stereotypes.  Of course by the by, she is also campaigning on behalf of a cause she apparently either considers worthy of political activism or is too ignorant of the elements at work in the region to identify.

It is long past time for Harriet Sherwood – and her editors – to return urgently to her own words from 2006:

“The first thing we need to be absolutely sure of is the purpose of our news reporting from the region. Our correspondents are there to give our readers accurate information about Israel-Palestine. We are not there to bat for one side or the other, but to report on the situation on the ground as we find it.”

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