Fatah arrests 8 Hamas members. Israel arrests 1. Which do you think Harriet Sherwood reported?

On Jan. 9, the Palestinian Times reported that Fatah arrested 8 Hamas members, including a journalist, in the West Bank over several days.  The report also alleged that Fatah arbitrarily extended the detention of other Hamas members, and of firing a teacher who is a member of the group.

Fatah arresting Hamas members in the West Bank

On Jan. 19th, Israel arrested one Hamas member Aziz Dweik , on suspicion of involvement with terrorist activity.

On Jan. 20th, Harriet Sherwood rushed to advocate on behalf of the Hamas terrorist arrested by Israel, posting a piece titled “Israeli jails Palestinian parliament speaker without trial“.  However, further in the article, even Sherwood acknowledges that Dweik is a Parliament speaker in name only, as the Palestinian Legislative Council has not sat since the summer of 2007, when Hamas – which had won elections the previous year – took control of Gaza in a bloody battle with Fatah.

The Guardian also posted a video on Jan. 20 championing the cause of the Hamas speaker of the non-existent Parliament.

Yet, strangely absent from the Guardian’s Israel, Palestinian Territories, or Gaza pages are any mention whatsoever of Fatah’s arrest of eight Hamas members.  Nor mentioned, in service of providing background to Sherwood’s story, was the fact that in 2008 PA security forces aligned with Abbas arrested hundreds of Hamas members and supporters and, further, in 2009, nearly all Hamas-controlled municipal officials were replaced by Fatah officials.

Context similarly missing from Sherwood’s report is the fact that Hamas arrested thousands of Fatah loyalists in Gaza  in 2010 alone, including PA legislators. And, a report in the Palestinian Press as recently as Dec. 30, 2o11 noted that such arrests of Fatah members continued through 2011.

Sherwood characterized the arrest of Dweik as an effort by Israel “to undermine democratic institutions in Palestine”, and hinder reconciliation between the two groups.

Yet, the Palestinians, by any measure, have failed miserably on their own at establishing anything resembling genuinely democratic institutions, as President Mahmoud Abbas is currently serving the seventh year of a four year term, and, per Freedom House, the PA is listed as not free“.

“In the Palestinian Authority administered territories, political rights rating declined from 5 to 6 [7 is the worst score] due to the expiration of President Mahmoud Abbas four-year term in January 2009, the ongoing lack of a functioning elected legislature, and an edict allowing the removal of elected municipal governments in the West Bank.”

So, while the arrest of one Hamas member by Israel elicits a storm of criticism by the Guardian, scores of arrests by Fatah of Hamas officials, and Hamas members by Fatah officials, is evidently considered insignificant to contextualizing the lack of a functioning democracy in the Palestinian controlled territories.

More broadly, both this latest report, and Sherwood’s continuing reports from the region, seem to possess a unique capacity to blame Israel in some manner for every conceivable Palestinian failure, while similarly denying Palestinians basic moral agency (the definition of liberal racism) – a journalistic dynamic which prevents honest reporting on the I-P Conflict.  

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