Since the conflict in Gaza began, many in the media have become obsessed with publishing “body count” casualty statistics, especially showing the number of Gazan civilian casualties. This data has been used to support those accusing Israel of committing “war crimes.” They say that the huge numbers of “civilian” deaths proves that Israel is being indiscriminate in its military operations.
The BBC’s head of statistics Anthony Reuben, asks:
If the Israeli attacks have been ‘indiscriminate,’ as the UN Human Rights Council says, it is hard to work out why they have killed so many more civilian men than women…
…In conclusion, we do not yet know for sure how many of the dead in Gaza are civilians and how many were fighters. This is in no sense the fault of the UN employees collecting the figures – their statistics are accompanied by caveats and described as preliminary and subject to to revision.
But it does mean that some of the conclusions being drawn from them may be premature.
The New York Times did their own analysis.
The Times analysis, looking at 1,431 names, shows that the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll.
Just one of the problems cites by the Times is that:
Human rights groups acknowledge that people killed by Hamas as collaborators and people who died naturally, or perhaps through domestic violence, are most likely counted as well.
But how many people who have been following the conflict in the Times and seeing every day the Gazan civilian casualty figures are aware that these include those killed by Hamas?
During the last conflict in Gaza, Israel was accused of war crimes. At the time, statistics had shown a disproportionate number of civilian casualties. But analysis done after the fact proved that these statics were incorrect. At least with stories in the BBC and Times, the media are already aware that these statistics should not be relied upon.
Now we have to see if their own reporters believe what their employers have written.