A note to Harriet Sherwood on the difference between a rock and a spitball

A guest post by AKUS

Approximately two years ago an ugly incident in the Israeli town of Bet Shemesh drew wide – in fact, global – attention.  An ultra-Orthodox fanatic spat on a little (orthodox) girl on her way to school.  Hillary Clinton was even moved to condemn the incident.

Of course, Harriet Sherwood reported for the Guardian on the truly outrageous behavior of the ultra-Orthodox in Bet Shemesh. Her first article, ‘The battle of Bet Shemesh‘,  appeared on October 31st, 2011. On December 27th, 2011 she published an article about additional incidents in the town, titled ‘Shimon Peres condemns ultra-orthodox extremists as tensions escalate‘.  There was also a video report on December 28th, 2011 about a protest against ultra-Orthodox extremism in Bet Shemesh.  

(More recently, Giles Fraser wrote a column at the Guardian about attempts by some to force women to sit at the back of buses in Israel, titled ‘Ultra-orthodox attitudes towards gender segregation go to the core of what Israel is all about‘, outrageously drawing the inference that these minority attitudes are “at the core” of Israeli attitudes towards women.)

So, when I read that a two-year-old Jewish toddler had almost been killed by a rock thrown by Arab teens at the car her mother was driving, I naturally assumed this would receive considerable coverage in the Guardian. After all, a toddler being hit by a rock is surely more serious than an 8 year being spit upon, as horrible as that is.

Photo of the location where the rock struck the vehicle

However, Harriet Sherwood, now barely managing to turn in one story a week, evidently found the matter so mundane that it was not worth an article.  Giles Fraser has not drawn the conclusion that this kind of violence goes to ‘the core’ of what Arab society is “all about”.

In fact, the attack and its consequences were only mentioned in passing.  The reference is at the end of an AP article (‘Seven Israeli Arabs jailed for lynching IDF soldier who went on shooting spree‘, Nov. 28) about an entirely different incident:

Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, a two-year-old girl was moderately wounded when she was struck in the head by a stone hurled at the car in which she was traveling. A police spokesman, Micky Rosenfeld, said the attack appeared to be nationalistic in nature as Jewish vehicles are often targeted in the area by youths in nearby Arab villages.

The baby girl was taken to hospital, where the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, called on authorities to crack down on a recent wave of stone-throwing attacks in the city. “It’s about time we start treating a stone as a weapon,” he told Israel’s Channel 10 TV.

The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, wished the girl a speedy recovery. “We will find these criminals and bring them to justice,” he said.

But perhaps the “moderate” injuries the little two-year-old sustained were not worth noting. After all, her mother Shirin Ben-Zion told Channel 2

“Avigail will be fine. She has a fractured skull, and we wait. I never thought that something like this could happen. Initially, I thought it was an accident, but then I realized very quickly that what crashed into us wasn’t any vehicle.”

So a fractured skull, if it belongs to a two-year old Jewish toddler, merely represents a “moderate wound”. How, I wonder, would AP and the Guardian report a similar attack in which an Arab toddler was dangerously wounded in the same manner?

Experienced Guardian readers, I am sure, will have no difficulty in imagining the outpouring of articles and comments below the line in that event.

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