The Guardian tells a porky about the Golan Heights

A guest post by AKUS

(“to tell a porky” — tell a small lie, to fib – rhyming slang? Porky pie/tell a lie)

As we have watched Harriet Sherwood wrestle with the problem of reporting from Israel while possessing very little knowledge about the country and region (and unable to speak Hebrew or Arabic), it has become apparent that she also has a problem with statistics and geopolitics.

Even if Sherwood and the Guardian’s sub editors have all ten fingers and all ten toes, it seems it’s difficult for them to use numbers greater than 20 with any accuracy at all. She and the Guardian also have trouble remembering which bits of Israel are “occupied” and which are annexed, like Jerusalem and the Golan. They also have a major problem simply checking the facts behind the porkies they tell about Israel.

Recently Sherwood bravely ventured up on to the Golan Heights, reporting from Majdal Shams, only 40 km from Damascus, that the Golan Heights [are] divided by support for Assad’s Syria.

She (or, as often seems to be the case, one of the lazy, biased sub-editors at Guardian HQ in London) wrote in the sub-header:

In the Israeli-occupied area, where most people call themselves Syrian, Bashar al-Assad opponents say they are being intimidated.

One problem with that sub-header is that Golan is not “occupied” but, rather, annexed by Israel – a part of the state. Just as the Guardian has had problems finding Israel’s capital, it seems to have a problem understanding which bits of Israel’s territory go where.

A second problem is with the math. A very good estimate for the population of the Golan is that there are approximately 40,000 people living in the towns, villages, kibbutzim, and moshavim there. Of those, Sherwood mentions, correctly, that about 20,000 are non-Druze Israelis (she refers to them incorrectly as “Israeli Jewish settlers”), and therefore about 20,000 may be Druze. 

But this is a much bigger number than the number of fingers and toes Sherwood or a sub-editor at the Guardian most likely has, so a porky creeps in.

As Sherwood could easily have discovered, as many as 10% of the Druze have Israeli citizenship, so only a possible 18,000 do not have Israeli citizenship and may be “Syrians”.  

Additionally, children born to Druze automatically have Israeli citizenship.  So, if they are included in the count of all Druze, the number of adult Druze may be less than 18,000.  

Also, a very reliable source has informed me that the real number of Druze adults secretly holding Israeli citizenship for convenience or “just in case” has been rising, especially during the last 18 months as they’ve gotten a better idea of what it might be like to live in Syria rather than in the “Zionist entity”.

So, taking into account 20,000 non-Druze Israelis (Jews and others) plus 2,000 Druze Israelis, only about 18,000 potentially “Syrian Druze” can be counted on the Golan. With a high degree of confidence I can say that it would be hard to find enough non-Druze and Druze Israelis calling themselves Syrian to make Harriet’s (or the Guardian’s) claim that  “most people [on the annexed Golan Heights] call themselves Syrian” true.

Now, you may think this is nit-picking. But the reason for this porky is that it is rather easy to ignore those “other Israelis” and tell your biased little fib when you do not really see Israelis as “people”, but only as amorphous “settlers”.

This is the third problem for Sherwood and the drones back in the UK. Not only do they struggle with simple math and geography, they find it difficult to remember that Israelis are people too.

So it is time for yet another shame-faced Guardian correction. To help them, I’ll write it for them:


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