Will Guardian amend ‘feel-good’ Palestinian teacher story to note husband’s terror attack?

A recent article by Harriet Sherwood (Palestinian Global Teacher victor: ‘My students are the true prize winners’, March 18) had that quintessentially Guardian feel – replete with “peaceful” Palestinian protagonists turning the other cheek amidst the daily humiliations and cruelties meted out by the Israeli ‘occupation’.

Indeed, at least on the face of it, the story (by the Guardian’s former Jerusalem correspondent) about Ramallah resident Hanan al-Hroub, who was named as this year’s winner of “an award described as the Nobel prize for teaching”, certainly seems inspired.  Hroub won the award out of recognition for her use of classroom games which “reward positive non-violent behaviour” – a topic she’s written a book about.

Hroub reacts after winning the award

However, red flags appear when the story pivots to her husband, Omar:

Hroub only began working as a teacher in 2007. After leaving school, she was forced to abandon her plans for further education when Palestinian universities closed during the first intifada, or uprising, between 1987 and 1993. Instead she got married and had five children.

In 2000, when her youngest was established at school, Hroub resumed her education part-time at Al-Quds University. Within months, her husband, Omar, and two of her daughters were shot at by Israeli soldiers at a checkpoint near Bethlehem. Omar was injured in the shoulder and the girls were traumatised.

“This incident changed my life. We were in shock. My children were suffering, and the teachers were not trained to deal with trauma. At that point I decided to commit my life to teaching.”


Omar, Hroub’s lawyer husband, said he had never doubted that his wife would win. “I was totally confident, and I was right. I was very happy,” he said, flanked on a sofa by four of the couple’s five children

As reported by Israellycool, the Guardian failed to reveal that Hroub’s husband was a major accomplice in a deadly attack in 1980 which killed six peaceful Jewish worshipers in Hebron (and injured 16 others) as they were walking home from Sabbath prayers.

Israeli victims of 1980 terror attack in Hebron

The victims had been “walking in a narrow alley” on their way home from the Cave of the Patriarchs when “PLO terrorists attacked them from the roofs of two buildings, first by hailing them with bullets from the rear and then by hurling hand-grenades and explosives at them from several directions”.

The story about the role of al-Hroub (also spelled Kharoub) in the killing was reported in both the Israeli and US media at the time of his arrest.  A New York Times article on September 17, 1980. (Israel holds 10 Arabs for Hebron slaying of 6 Jews in May, David Shipler) noted the following:

Only one of the six Palestinians accused of helping the terrorists was identified: He was said to be Omar Kharoub, 30, a resident of Beit Jala and a graduate of Beirut University in chemistry, who worked in blood banks in Hebron and East Jerusalem.

An article in the old Israeli Labor paper Dvar on Sept. 17, 1980 went into further detail about Omar’s role in the murders.

Together with the four members of the [terrorist] squad, their principle accomplice is Omar Harub, resident of Beit Jala, 30 years old, graduate of Beirut university a chemist by profession. He worked at the blood bank in Hebron and East Jerusalem and enlisted in “Fatah” in 1978. By order of the Command HQ in Beirut he drove the squad in his car from one hiding place to another, and provided them with chemicals to prepare the explosives thrown on the worshippers on the night of the murder. (translation of the original Hebrew by CAMERA)

Now, just a few days ago, Associated Press (AP) published a story (Foundation Defends Award to Palestinian Teacher, March 31st) citing an AP story (published at the time of the 1980 attack) noting that Omar in fact served 10 years in an Israeli prison after being convicted of being “an accomplice” in the attack.  The March 31st AP story also reported that the foundation that awarded Hroub the $1 million prize for preaching nonviolence is sticking by its choice following the revelations about her husband.

In light of this new information, which significantly compromises Sherwood’s narrative of an innocent Palestinian family overcoming Israeli violence and oppression, the Guardian should consider either publishing a new story noting the terror background of Omar, or amending the original article to take these details into account.

We’ve contacted Guardian editors and Ms. Sherwood to see if either an addendum or a new article will be forthcoming, and will update you if we receive a reply.

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