A Questionable Statistic: 'Children' Killed in Gaza War

The Washington Post  runs a front-page article today about numbers of fatalities in the seven-week Gaza War – with Israel and Hamas issuing divergent breakdowns for “civilians” killed.

As author William Booth indicates, there is not much contention about the overall Palestinians killed – about 2,100.  Where the two sides differ sharply is when it comes to breakdowns for “civilian” fatalities.  Israel maintains there was about an even split between combatant fatalities and non-combatant fatalities.  For their part, Hamas and the U.N. allege that seven out of every 10 Palestinians killed were “civilians.”

Here is how Booth relates the U.N. breakdown for civilians: “In its most recent count, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that 2,104 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including 1,462 civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women.  Those U.N. numbers would mean that 69 percent of the total killed were civilians.”

The U.N. breakdown of 495 “children” killed, however, is greatly overblown.  Why?  Because the U.N. deems anyone below the age of 18 a “child,” which is totally unrealistic.  Booth overlooks the fact that in Gaza, under Hamas indoctrination, children transition to adulthood at a much earlier age.  They’re no longer “children”  when they’re 17, 16, 15, or even farther on down for quite some years.  Whether in Gaza schools or summer camps, Hamas transmits its brand of terrorism when kids are still in elementary grades.  They reach adulthood far earlier than at age 18.

Thus, the notion propagated by the U.N. that anyone under the age of 18  automatically is a presumably innocent “child” falls terribly short of reality in Hamas-ruled Gaza.   

Because Booth fails to expose this glaring U.N. error, his article applies the  same “civilian” label to both  an innocent four-year-old and a seventeen-year-old Hamas operative.  This is patently ridiculous when the reality of Gaza is cranked into the equation.  The total of “children” killed, in reality, is far less than the 495 propounded by the UN.  A big chunk of these comprises adults.

In short, when Booth uncritically tells readers that 495 “children” were killed in Gaza, he’s blowing smoke.

In turn, the overblown 495 statistical total for killed children pumps up the breakdown for 1,462 “civilians” killed.  The error about killed “children” falsifies the breakdown for killed “civilians.”

What is more than a bit puzzling is why Booth, supposedly a competent reporter, fails to exercise minimal journalistic skepticism before giving Post readers a demonstrably bogus statistical account.

“Children” in Gaza age far more quickly than in the USA.

Or consider that under Israeli-Jewish tradition, a boy reaches adulthood at 13 years of age, while a girl attains adulthood a year earlier.  These are far earlier ages than the mythical age 18 for adulthood in the U.N. playbook.

Booth engages in bias by omission – a rather glaring omission.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.

The Washington Post  runs a front-page article today about numbers of fatalities in the seven-week Gaza War – with Israel and Hamas issuing divergent breakdowns for “civilians” killed.

As author William Booth indicates, there is not much contention about the overall Palestinians killed – about 2,100.  Where the two sides differ sharply is when it comes to breakdowns for “civilian” fatalities.  Israel maintains there was about an even split between combatant fatalities and non-combatant fatalities.  For their part, Hamas and the U.N. allege that seven out of every 10 Palestinians killed were “civilians.”

Here is how Booth relates the U.N. breakdown for civilians: “In its most recent count, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that 2,104 Palestinians were killed in Gaza, including 1,462 civilians, among them 495 children and 253 women.  Those U.N. numbers would mean that 69 percent of the total killed were civilians.”

The U.N. breakdown of 495 “children” killed, however, is greatly overblown.  Why?  Because the U.N. deems anyone below the age of 18 a “child,” which is totally unrealistic.  Booth overlooks the fact that in Gaza, under Hamas indoctrination, children transition to adulthood at a much earlier age.  They’re no longer “children”  when they’re 17, 16, 15, or even farther on down for quite some years.  Whether in Gaza schools or summer camps, Hamas transmits its brand of terrorism when kids are still in elementary grades.  They reach adulthood far earlier than at age 18.

Thus, the notion propagated by the U.N. that anyone under the age of 18  automatically is a presumably innocent “child” falls terribly short of reality in Hamas-ruled Gaza.   

Because Booth fails to expose this glaring U.N. error, his article applies the  same “civilian” label to both  an innocent four-year-old and a seventeen-year-old Hamas operative.  This is patently ridiculous when the reality of Gaza is cranked into the equation.  The total of “children” killed, in reality, is far less than the 495 propounded by the UN.  A big chunk of these comprises adults.

In short, when Booth uncritically tells readers that 495 “children” were killed in Gaza, he’s blowing smoke.

In turn, the overblown 495 statistical total for killed children pumps up the breakdown for 1,462 “civilians” killed.  The error about killed “children” falsifies the breakdown for killed “civilians.”

What is more than a bit puzzling is why Booth, supposedly a competent reporter, fails to exercise minimal journalistic skepticism before giving Post readers a demonstrably bogus statistical account.

“Children” in Gaza age far more quickly than in the USA.

Or consider that under Israeli-Jewish tradition, a boy reaches adulthood at 13 years of age, while a girl attains adulthood a year earlier.  These are far earlier ages than the mythical age 18 for adulthood in the U.N. playbook.

Booth engages in bias by omission – a rather glaring omission.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers.