Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

A feature of the media’s reporting of the conflict in this part of the world is the tendency to compare the number of palestinians killed with the number of Israelis killed. The following item from today’s Australian clearly illustrates this phenomenom.

An Israeli patrol early Monday killed a Palestinian as he was laying a bomb to ambush them near the town of Tulkarem in the north of the West Bank, an army spokesman announced.

The man “was shot dead by the soldiers and a bomb of several kilograms was found beside him,” the spokesman told AFP.

“The body was left on the scene until daybreak for fear that it might have been booby-trapped or that other bombs were nearby,” he added.

The incident occurred near the village of Farun, not far from Tulkarem.

The death brought to 3,388 the number of people killed since the start of the intifada or uprising at the end of September 2000, including 2,553 Palestinians and 774 Israelis.

According to the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT):

Numbers like these are used to create an image of lopsided slaughter, with Israel cast as the villain. But such numbers distort the true picture: They lump combatants in with noncombatants, suicide bombers with innocent civilians, and report Palestinian “collaborators” murdered by their own compatriots as if they had been killed by Israel.

For instance, on June 22, four palestinian terrorists died when a bomb they were planting prematurely exploded. The palestinians blamed Israel for the deaths, and many media outlets reported the palestinian version of events. You may also recall that several stories blamed Israelis for the beating death of Issam Judeh Mustafa Hamed in October 2000. However, pathologists determined that he had in fact died in a car accident.

According to ICT’s breakdown of fatalities from 27 September 2000 to 22 July 2003, 869 palestinian non-combatants had been killed by Israel, of which 296 were killed by actions of their own side. During the same period, 611 Israeli non-combatants had been killed by the palestinians.

The ICT summarized their findings as follows:

The statistics show that Israeli noncombatants over the last 23 months have been killed essentially at random, as Palestinian terrorists have chosen to attack whichever civilian targets were accessible. Palestinian fatalities, however, have been strongly concentrated within a particular population segment – teenaged boys and young men.

Population segments like women or older people are not military targets; thus their higher prevalence among Israeli fatalities is an indication of the degree to which Palestinian terrorists have killed Israelis simply for the “crime” of being Israeli.

In contrast, Palestinian noncombatant fatalities have been overwhelmingly young (but over the age of 11) and male. This pattern of Palestinian deaths completely contradicts accusations that Israel has “indiscriminately targeted women and children.” It is clear that the vast majority of the Palestinians killed did not die as the result of random Israeli attacks on inhabited areas, or on mixed-sex crowds at roadblocks and the like. There appears to be only one reasonable explanation of this pattern: that Palestinian men and boys engaged in behavior that brought them into conflict with Israeli armed forces. Certainly, at least after the first few days of the conflict, these Palestinian men and boys (or, in the case of the younger ones, their parents and teachers) have to have been aware that they were placing themselves in harm’s way.

In fact, the highly specific pattern of Palestinian noncombatant fatalities suggests that many of these deaths have resulted from an active Palestinian indoctrination campaign glorifying “martyrdom” – effectively encouraging boys and young men to confront Israeli forces and risk death even when there was no real likelihood of causing material harm to Israelis.

The reckless comparison of palestinian and Israeli fatalities only serves to assist the palestinian propaganda machine, and insult the memory of the hundreds of innocent Israelis murdered in cold blood.

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