Wash. Post maligns Israel with misleading battlefield statistics

Benjamin Disraeli is credited with the saying that there are three kinds of lies -- lies, damned lies and statistics.  The legendary British statesman could have spotted another example of his adage in an article in the March 28 edition of the Washington Post about Israel's deployment of an anti-missile system to intercept rockets fired by terrorists in Gaza against civilian populations in southern Israel ("Israelis put in place anti-rocket system" by Janine Zacharia, page A6).

As historical context for the deployment of an anti-rocket battery near Beersheba, Zacharia writes the following:

"Israel launched a widely criticized bombardment of the coastal territory (Gaza Strip) in late 2008 to try to put an end to rocket attacks.  The conflict left an estimated 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead."

That's a simple, provocative, but highly misleading way of suggesting that the fatality count was 100 "Palestinians" for every single Israeli.  A stark 100-to1 statistic to depict the Israeli Defense Forces as unsparing in an all-out assault against "Palestinians" in Gaza.

Except, it's a mendacious statistic.  What Zacharia fails to point out is that a sizeable majority of these "Palestinian" dead were operatives of Hamas and other terror groups engaged in aggression against Israel -- the firing of tens of thousands of rockets and mortar shells against civilian targets.

Totally missing from Zacharia's dispatch is the fact that for every 10 "Palestinians" killed during Israel's offensive, more than 6 were terrorist operatives.  When one adds the fact that Hamas and Islamic Jihad used Gazans as human shields in firing their rockets against Israel, this shows a quite different picture from the one conveyed by Zacharia's inciteful statistic -- namely, a sustained effort by the IDF to keep fatalities of civilians to a minimum.  The exact opposite of the impression left by Zacharia.

Of course, the Israeli offensive was "widely criticized," as she reports.  But that's because Western media, including the Washington Post, didn't bother to break down Palestinian fatality counts between combatants and non-combatants.  Like her, they just lumped both categories into a nicely rounded, overall number of "Palestinian" dead.

After months of painstaking research, amid all that wide criticism of Israel, the IDF ended up reporting a total count of 1,166 fatalities -- not the higher 1,300 loose estimate still used by Zacharia.  Of this total, 709 were identified by individual names as operatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.  295 were Palestinian civilians (25 percent of the total dead).  A third group of fatalities -- 162 men between the ages of 16 and 45 -- were put in a separate category of impossible-to-identify whether they were combatants or non-combatants.

Thus, the number of Palestinian civilian fatalities might have been as low as 295 or as high as 457.  Either way, substantially less than half the total count of Palestinian dead.

But one doesn't have to accept the IDF figures to demonstrate that most Palestinian dead were terrorist operatives.  Hamas itself now corroborates the basic finding of the IDF report.

Last November, Hamas' Gaza interior minister, Fathi Hamad, acknowledged that as many as 700 Palestinians killed in Israel's Gaza offensive belonged to Hamas and other terror groups.  The rest, he said, were "from the people" -- i.e. civilians.

Of course, during and immediately after Israel's military operation, Hamas sang a totally different tune with a propaganda campaign that the vast majority of fatalities were civilians and that it had lost fewer than 100 of its own operatives.  Most Western media and self-declared "human rights" groups swallowed this propaganda hook, line and sinker.  It then was picked up by the infamous UN Goldstone report that falsely accused Israel of attacking civilians.

However, Hamas's lies -- that it lost only a small number of operatives -- eventually backfired.  Rival groups seized on Hamas's claims that civilians bore the brunt of fatalities to chastise Hamas for running away from Israeli forces and leaving Palestinian civilians to shoulder the preponderance of the "resistance." 

So, having achieved its propaganda aims against Israel with full media and UN backing, Hamas belatedly turned around five months ago and effectively accepted the IDF report that most of the dead were operatives belonging to Hamas and other terror groups.

But as far as Zacharia and the Washington Post are concerned, battlefield truths don't matter.  What matters instead is to tar Israel with highly misleading numbers -- the kind that Disraeli would have recognized as "lies, damned lies and statistics."