Wednesday, July 30, 2014

30-Jul-14: Lies, damned lies, statistics and Gazan death tolls

Reporter- Gaza [Image Source]
There's no better designed, authoritative-looking running tally of the human-lives cost of the current war between the Hamas terrorists of Gaza and the State of Israel than the constantly-updated page on the NY Times website.

But - excuse the impertinent question - how truthful is it?

Not so much, according to the aptly-entitled "Palestine Makes You Dumb" op ed by Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal (July 28, 2014):
According to a daily tally in the New York Times, NYT as of July 27 the war in Gaza had claimed 1,023 Palestinian lives as against 46 Israelis. How does the Times keep such an accurate count of Palestinian deaths? A footnote discloses "Palestinian death tallies are provided by the Palestinian Health Ministry and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs."
OK. So who runs the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza? Hamas does. As for the U.N., it gets its data mainly from two Palestinian agitprop NGOs, one of which, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, offers the remarkably precise statistic that, as of July 27, exactly 82% of deaths in Gaza have been civilians. Curiously, during the 2008-09 Gaza war, the center also reported an 82% civilian casualty rate.
When minutely exact statistics are provided in chaotic circumstances, it suggests the statistics are garbage. When a news organization relies—without clarification—on data provided by a bureaucratic organ of a terrorist organization, there's something wrong there, too.
There's some additional good sense expressed over at TIME Magazine, where Steven Stotsky of The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) argues ["How Hamas Wields Gaza’s Casualties as Propaganda", July 29, 2014] that
Hamas-affiliated fatality figures should be viewed with suspicion... Not only do Israeli figures cast doubt on claims that the vast majority of fatalities are non-combatants, but a careful review of Palestinian sources also raises doubts. Analyses of the casualties listed in the daily reports published by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza-based organization operating under Hamas rule, indicate that young males ages 17 to 30 make up a large portion of the fatalities, and a particularly noticeable spike occurs between males ages 21 to 27, a pattern consistent with the age distribution typically found among combatants and military conscripts. Palestinian sources attempt to conceal this discrepancy with their public message by labeling most of these young men as civilians. Only a minority is identified as members of armed groups. As a result, the PCHR calculates civilian fatalities at 82% as of July 26... Its figures closely match those of the Hamas-run Gazan Health Ministry and other groups... Children, here defined as those under age 17, represented 194 of fatalities, 20% of the total. Any child fatality is a tragedy, but it is important to note that children make up over half the population of Gaza.
Then there's the reality of Hamas and its life-negating values. These are routinely ignored in the media coverage of death tolls and innocent victims. But the jihadism at the core of Hamas' existence is salient and must never be permitted to be swept aside. Times of Israel editor David Horovitz commented a few days ago that the terrorist leadership of Hamas
doesn’t care who it kills in support of its declared goal of destroying Israel. It especially likes to kill Israelis, but it has no compunction in killing Palestinians too. It killed many Palestinians when seizing power in Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in 2007. And it has cynically got hundreds of Gazans killed in this conflict, by storing its rockets in Gaza schools, firing from inside hospitals, building ammunition stores, rocket launchers and command centers in the heart of residential neighborhoods. Its leaders — while sending their recruits to their deaths, assuring them that they’re doing Allah’s work and are on their way to paradise — would rather not die themselves, however, and they’re faring reasonably in that effort as well.
None of this augers well for the ordinary people of the Gaza Strip.

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