Guardian story on the Jerusalem light rail is an excuse to bash Israel

Non-apartheid Israeli bus

Non-apartheid Israeli bus

Harriet Sherwood has produced a seemingly innocuous article about the Jerusalem light rail and the diversity of passengers who ride in it. This could have been the perfect way to show how Israel is not an apartheid society, but as with so many of Sherwood’s articles, she lets her biases leak through.

The problems start with the title: “Commuting with a rifle through the conflicted city” and goes downhill from there.

She describes the passengers in a way that makes them seem weirdly exotic but we can let that pass:

There are few places where the distinct tribes of Jerusalem mingle: the main hospital, the shopping mall, the Biblical zoo, sometimes even at McDonalds. Latterly, there has also been the light railway. The different groups rarely interact, or even make eye contact, but they attain an uneasy co-existence.

Men dressed in ultra-orthodox monochrome, under hats and coats even in the Middle Eastern summer, squeeze on board, averting their eyes from young women tourists in shorts and skimpy t-shirts. Religious Jewish mothers, hair bound in long winding scarves, with a brood of small children clutching at their ankle-length skirts, stand alongside Palestinian women in skinny jeans and elaborate hijabs framing carefully made-up faces and groomed eyebrows.

She then misrepresents the history of Israel’s liberation of Jerusalem thus:

Israel seized the Arab eastern part of Jerusalem in the 1967 six-day war, later annexing it in a move deemed illegal under international law. It declared that the city – whose eastern sector the Palestinians want as the capital of their future state – was henceforth “indivisible”. The following year, a “masterplan” was published, which stated its “first and cardinal rule was to ensure [Jerusalem’s] unification … to build the city in a manner that would prevent the possibility of its being repartitioned.”

Over the ensuing 46 years, Israel has established numerous Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem to fulfil this aim. A network of roads has been constructed to connect them to the city centre; the light railway, once complete, will perform a similar purpose.

As we all know, the story is slightly different. To quote one of the commenters:

Considering the UN partition resolution of 1947, it would be more correct to state that the West Bank and Gaza were OCCUPIED by Jordan and Egypt, respectively. Otherwise, it would follow logically that the West Bank has been GOVERNED by Israel since 1967, a description that the Guardian never uses.

For almost 20 years, Jerusalem was bisected into the Jewish west and Arab east, with a border marked by barbed wire, patrolled by soldiers and punctuated by watchtowers.

i.e the residents of west Jerusalem could not cross into East Jerusalem, including the Western Wall.

Sherwood does mention some positive aspects of the train’s route, but then misses the point:

According to Danny Seidemann, an Israeli lawyer who focuses on political issues concerning Jerusalem, the impact of the railway has been huge for Palestinians in the city. The planners were disinclined to route the railway through Shuafat and Beit Hanina, he says, for fear of deterring Israeli passengers and fuelling fears of terror attacks. “But were it only to go through ‘Israeli’ areas, they would be open to the charge that it was a racist railway. So it was routed this way with great reluctance.”

The unintended consequence has been to make it much easier for Palestinians to get to the Old City. “It’s brought Haram al-Sharif [the site of the Dome of the Rock] closer to Beit Hanina and Shuafat,” says Seidemann.

And not just the Muslim holy sites, he adds; Palestinians are more visible in the west of the city than previously. “Has that united the city? No, but it’s an interesting change in the patterns of movement.”

The reverse is not the case. “The light rail has not brought Israelis into Palestinian areas of East Jerusalem. On the Israeli side, the patterns of movement have not changed at all.”

She misses the point by not explaining WHY Israelis don’t visit the Palestinian side – because they would be lynched. She makes no mention of the extreme danger to Israelis on entering Palestinian areas, so much so that this is forbidden by law.


After the required moan about the lack of public transport for Palestinians on Shabbat, ignoring the fact that secular Israelis too are lacking such transport, Sherwood expands on Israel’s bus service. However instead of linking to the Ministry of Transport or to the Egged bus company’s website, she links to an anti-Israel website called “visualising Palestine”. No, I won’t link to it here. It’s at the Guardian which is quite enough. All I will say is that this site imputes the worst possible motives to even the most mundane or innocuous of Israel’s deeds, e.g. The bus service, which by its very nature – gasp! – serves both Israelis and Palestinians. Why, the very thought! How dare they?!

Sherwood’s constant weaving the settlements/occupation/Green line/poor Palestinians/armed Israelis into the story demonstrates clearly that Sherwood is not really writing about the light rail at all. That is simply the hook upon which to hang her obssessions about Israel.

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9 Responses to Guardian story on the Jerusalem light rail is an excuse to bash Israel

  1. Brian Goldfarb says:

    Oh dear, I thought we were shot of Sherwood (aliteration deliberate). That is , I thought she had been replaced by an equally appalling replacement. (Sigh) At least we’d have had a different bigot to get used to.

    That might have been refreshing…for a while.

  2. LL Cheung says:

    I have been on the Jerusalem light rail on the last day of a week’s tour in Israel last October. I did not feel any “uneasy coexistence” or “distinct tribes” in it. In fact I found it no different from the subway or light rail in other parts of the world, such as Hong Kong (where I’m from), China, Singapore or London that I have taken before. The sight of rifles casually carried by young men and women in green-uniform at bus stations and in the streets did catch my attention on the first day. But they were mostly travelling like everybody else and nobody around were paying any attention at all. So I guess they are just like policemen we have in the streets who also carry guns and special forces in the airport who carry rifles. By the way, during my tour in other parts of Israel where many Arabs live, such as Acre and Bethlehem, I never felt the kind of tension between Jewish people and the Arabs that the media like to portrait (as I so often read here). Our Jewish tour guide has Arabic friends all over Israel. People go about their business and lives whatever “distinct tribes” they are from. And I did see the Israeli government (and the young people in green uniform) trying hard to protect everyone’s life, whatever “distinct tribes” they are from. It is truly unjust that the Western media make so much negative and untrue propaganda against this nation and people, to the point of using the word “Apartheid”, which anyone who has been to Israel knows is a blatant lie.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful and incisive comment Mr/Ms Cheung. I’m glad you had such a positive experience in Israel. I hope you come back soon for another visit.

      Welcome to my blog!

      • Brian Goldfarb says:

        Dear LL Cheung, a few months ago, Anne kindly posted an article by me on a trip to Israel (some items might coincide with some of your experiences) to be found here:

        While we didn’t take a ride on the Jerusalem light railway, we did make a visit to the Knesset, and this was part of our experience there: “we went on a booked English-language tour of the Knesset. As well as a lesson in Israeli democracy, what was equally impressive was that our guide was a young lady in a smartly tailored trouser suit, bare-headed, who, when she joined the 4 of us for a late breakfast in a Knesset cafe, turned out to be a Moslem. S asked (he has no shame!), and we all took this as a good sign for life inside the Green Line, irrespective of what happens elsewhere.”

        Sounds like your experience on the light railway.

        • LL Cheung says:

          Dear Brian and Anne,

          Oh sorry I didn’t know there would be replies to comments and so have missed your words. I’ll surely read Brian’s article about the Knesset. I think our tour van passed outside the building but we didn’t get a chance to get inside.

          Although my tour in Israel was only 6 days guided tour + 3 days on my own alone, it seemed like I was there a year. I had put many photos (over 400) of Israel in Facebook and taken time to write captions to each photo to remind myself of the things I’ve learned from the tour, many of which were about Israel’s history and people. Can I include the link here for anyone interested to see the photos (though I’m not a good photographer)?
          If it is not appropriate, please just remove this comment.

          By the way, I am a “Ms “. I also have an English name “Amy”, and I was amazed to learn that “ami” means “my people” in Hebrew 🙂

          • anneinpt says:

            Hi Amy, I’m so glad you’ve introduced yourself. You have a beautiful name in English and Hebrew; 🙂

            I just took a quick look at your facebook photos and they’re fabulous! I sent you a private message there too.

            I’m so impressed by how you have taken the trouble to educate yourself and learn about Israel and Judaism. I wish that others would do the same, rather than just let themselves be brainwashed by propaganda.

  3. Reality says:

    I just went on the light rail on Jerusalem day ,where it was filled with every type of person imaginable. If I would’ve wanted to go through East Jerusalem to get to the Wailing Wall I probably wouldn’t be able to sit here today & write about my experiences-I’d be 6 feet underground.The light rail doesn’t reach all areas of Jerusalem where Jews live either-it goes in one straight line cutting the city in half.It goes from one side to the other. As for mentioning Arab women in their skinny jeans-where else in the mid east would Arab women be able to dress like that? Certainly not in the fanatical Islamic countries. As for the Palestinians always moaning about their poor lot in life-we have an Arab town about 20 minutes from where I live. Arabs from there come shopping in our high street, go to hospitals , shopping malls ,pools,beach all where we live. I wouldn’t dare show my face there as I’d be lynched to death as happened quite a few years ago when 2 people strayed by mistake into an Arab village(admittedly not the one near me) & were pulled from limb to limb until their hearts were ripped out of their (still alive) chests. Thats apartheid for you

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