Israel fires back at Harriet Sherwood over allegations that Palestinian kids were mistreated

On Jan. 22, the Guardian published Harriet Sherwood’s report, Palestinian children – alone and bewildered in Israel’s Al-Jalame Jail, which included accusations that Israel mistreats Palestinian teens charged with acts of violence, allegations largely based on information provided by one radical, anti-Zionist NGO.

Specifically, Sherwood charged that a substantial percentage of Palestinian children arrested by Israeli soldiers (for acts of violence) have been mistreated while in custody – which, it was claimed, includes physical abuse and long stays of solitary confinement. 

In an over 2700 word long report only 230 were devoted to presenting the Israeli side of the story, and even those few passages curiously omitted the following emphatic denial by Israeli Security officials (which was provided to the Guardian prior to publication):

“The claims that Palestinian minors were subject to interrogation techniques that include beatings, prolonged periods in handcuffs, threats, kicks, verbal abuse, humiliation, isolation and prevention of sleep are utterly baseless.”

As HonestReporting noted, Sherwood also severely downplayed the offences Palestinian teens are charged with, which include:

[The recruitment by terrorist organizations…involvement in suicide bomb attacks, Molotov cocktail throwing, stone throwing and stabbing, grenade throwing, the use of explosives, shooting, car bombs, transfer of weapons, kidnapping, rocket launching, as well as assault and murder.

Today, eleven days following Sherwood’s smear against Israel, ‘Comment is Free’ provided Amir Ofek, press attache for the Embassy of Israel in London, the chance to respond.

Ofek, consistent with the information made available to Sherwood prior to publishing her story, strongly refuted allegations that the torture and humiliation of Palestinian suspects was permitted, and categorically denied that “solitary confinement in order to induce a confession” is employed – all of which, Ofek argued, severely undermines the veracity of the Guardian report.

Moreover, while Sherwood provided meager space for the Israeli side of the story in her original report, she didn’t see fit to include any information on the severity of the crimes Palestinian teens were arrested for, choosing instead to focus on the “emotional scars” inflicted upon those in custody. 

As Ofek noted about the horrific nature of the atrocities that minors, some as young as 12, can be arrested for:

Hakim Awad, 17, is a minor. Last March he and his 18-year-old cousin, Amjad, brutally murdered the Fogel family while they slept. No mercy was shown to three-month-old Hadas, her two brothers (aged four and 11) and their parents. The scene of the crime, including the severed head of a toddler, left even the most experienced of police officers devastated. The duo proudly confessed to their killings, and they have shown no subsequent remorse.

Ofek added:

Between 2000-04, 292 minors took part in terrorist activities…Ismail Tsabaj, 12, Azi Mostafa, 13, and Yousuf Basam, 14, were sent by Hamas on a mission chillingly similar to the one involving the Fogels, aiming to penetrate a Jewish home at night and slaughter a family in their beds. In this case, the IDF fortunately stopped them in time.

Ofek further noted that Sherwood’s dismissive claim that “most [Palestinian children arrested] are accused of throwing stones at soldiers or settlers”, shows a “bewildering disregard for the damage that throwing stones…can cause”, before adding:

“Judah Shoham never reached the age of many of these minors, as he was killed by Palestinians throwing stones, aged just five months. Similarly, Jonathan Palmer never reached his second birthday; he was killed with his father [Asher] when stones were hurled at their car last October.”

Indeed, most tellingly, while Sherwood’s report not only named the Palestinian teens who alleged Israeli mistreatment (and even included an eleven minute video of the teens telling their story), a search of the Guardian’s website didn’t turn up even one mention of the Israelis – Jonathan (Yonatan) Palmer and his father, Asher – murdered by Palestinian teen “rock throwers” who Ofek referred to.  

The only mention of the deadly act of terrorism by Palestinian teens at all was a throw-away passage buried in a story about a mosque vandalized in Northern Israel, on Oct. 3., and a supremely callous characterization by Harriet Sherwood in a story titled “Israel approves new settler homes in East Jerusalem“, which referred to the victims in passing as a “Jewish settler and his son.” [emphasis added]

Wrote Sherwood of the Palestinian teens arrested by Israeli soldiers in her Jan 22 report:

“Following detention many children exhibit symptoms of trauma: nightmares, mistrust of others, fear of the future, feelings of helplessness and worthlessness, obsessive compulsive behaviour, bed-wetting, aggression, withdrawal and lack of motivation.”

As Sherwood continually demonstrates, the “trauma” suffered by family and friends mourning the loss of Israeli victims of terror (such as Asher and Yonatan Palmer) is simply not part of the narrative. 

Palestinian teens profiled in Sherwood's report
Not seen in the Guardian: Asher Hillel Palmer, 25, and his one-year-old son Yonatan, victims of terror committed by Palestinian teens

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