Sunset over Gaza: A story about Palestinian misogyny Harriet Sherwood won’t report

The Guardian’s obsessively critical coverage of Israel contrasts greatly with the paucity of substantive stories at the paper about Gaza and the Palestinian territoriesother than reports which can characterize Palestinians as being acted upon by Israelis.  Rarely are there reports which frame the Palestinians as complex, imperfect political actors in full possession of moral agency – a good illustration of the liberal racism which inspires so much of their institutionally skewed coverage of the region.   

While every perceived violation of Palestinian human rights by the Israeli government is reported, the routine disregard for the basic human rights of Palestinian women, gays and minorities (and Palestinian journalists) by Palestinian leaders is rarely reported.

Additionally, when Palestinians aren’t portrayed as victims, as such, they are idealized – their culture and land is idealized and romanticized.

The following picture was posted by Harriet Sherwood, the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent, on Twitter in early February:

So, while it’s clear that Sherwood spends time on the ground in Gaza, her journalistic myopia is often on display in the stories she chooses to report, and those she chooses not to.

A recent example of a story, about Palestinians who criticize Hamas or the Palestinian Authority often risking arrest or violence, which Harriet Sherwood ignored, was reported by Palestinian journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, at Gatestone Institute.

Toameh noted that “physical attacks on Palestinian journalists in Gaza are not uncommon”, and that just last month “a Palestinian Authority court sentenced 26-year-old Anas Said Awwad to one year in prison for insulting President Mahmoud Abbas on Facebook.”

Toameh went on to reveal that Palestinian journalists he spoke to wanted the “the world to know that the crackdown on freedom of expression in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip is designed to hide the fact that Palestinians are governed by two repressive regimes that have no respect for human rights and democracy.”  

Regarding the rights of women, Sherwood was one of the contributors in a Guardian report about International Women’s Day published on March 8, 2012, titled “International Women’s Day highlights hurdles obstructing women“.  Yet, she used her space not to report on the culture of misogyny within the Palestinian run territories, but, rather, to focus attention on Israel’s detention of a female Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist named Hana Shalabi.  Meanwhile, as we noted at the time, across the green line, and well beyond Sherwood’s moral sympathy, the Palestinian Authority, using a clause in the Jordanian penal code still in effect in the West Bank, often exempts men from being punished for killing a female relative if she has brought dishonor to the family.

Given Sherwood’s track record, it is likely she will similarly ignore recent news that the UNRWA sponsored 2013 Gaza Marathon (a charity event to raise money for programs aiding the children of Gaza), which was due to be held on April 10, has been cancelled following a decision by Hamas not to allow women to participate.

UNRWA website

Hamas has been cracking down on women’s rights (and all behavior it deems contrary to Islam) since taking over Gaza in 2007.

Finally, it’s interesting to note that Sherwood reported on the 2012 Gaza Marathon in a piece titled “Palestinian runner uses Gaza marathon to prepare for 2012 Olympics’, so she’s clearly familiar with the annual competition. Her report in 2012 began thusly:

Bahaa al-Farra will rise early on Thursday morning, pull on his running shoes and Lycra, and join hundreds of others taking part in the second Gaza marathon, spanning the length of the tiny Palestinian enclave.

For many, including around 2,000 children expected to run the course in 1km relays, it is a day of fun, a break in the bleak daily routine of life in Gaza. Others, mainly visitors from abroad, will be making political statements about the continued blockade by Israel.

As UNRWA’s decision to cancel this year’s marathon, due to the egregious misogyny of Hamas leaders, can’t be blamed on Israel or the blockade, the Guardian’s correspondent for the region will likely not deem such a story worth reporting.

UPDATE: There’s still no word from Harriet Sherwood, but a Guardian report on the marathon cancellation (authored by Phoebe Greenwood and Hazem Balousha) has been published here.

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