Skewing the Death Tolls

As Israel reels from today’s terror attack near Emanuel, the media resorts to the old scoreboard technique of reporting that “1,500 Palestinians have been killed, compared to about 550 Israelis.”

HonestReporting protests this method of reporting casualties, which makes no distinction between civilians and armed combatants, it lumps suicide bombers with their innocent civilians, and it reports Palestinian “collaborators” murdered by their own compatriots as if they had been killed by Israelis.

A new comprehensive study by the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) reveals some startling trends by breaking the death tolls down into sub-segments — e.g. age, gender, and whether or not they were combatants.

The study shows that while the majority of Palestinian deaths in the conflict are combatants, Israeli fatalities are 80 percent noncombatants.

Researchers also found that Palestinians are directly responsible for the deaths of at least 185 of their own number — one out of every eight Palestinians killed in the conflict thus far. (In the previous wave of Palestinian violence during the late 1980s, about 800 Palestinians were killed by other Palestinians as “suspected collaborators” — amounting to about one-third of the total death toll.)

ICT researchers also found that the proportion of women in the Israeli death toll is about 30 percent. By contrast, Palestinian fatalities are overwhelmingly 95 percent male. All total, 61 Palestinian females have been killed, compared to 160 Israeli females.

Another great disproportion exists amongst noncombatants aged 40 and over, where 154 Israelis have been killed, compared to 69 Palestinians.

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Unfair reporting of the casualty count has long been a thorn in the side of media watch groups. Scores of Palestinians have been wounded by Palestinian-perpetrated bus bombings. Other Palestinians have been killed or wounded while making bombs which detonated prematurely. Other Palestinian deaths were later discovered to be due intra-Palestinian crime-related activity, or even to traffic accidents.

Last year, The New York Times published an illustrated graph, comparing Jewish deaths and Arab deaths in the conflict. Many HonestReporting readers wrote to complain that the graph was misleading, and the response from Bill Borders of The Times was surprisingly curt and dismissive: “The graphs are correct because everyone that they count as dead is in fact dead. All of them.”

Teen Newsweek, a magazine distributed to middle school students across America, published a chart illustrating the number of Palestinian and Israeli children killed since 1987. The Palestinian numbers, represented in bright red, many times exceed Israeli losses, shown in a less visible yellow. There is no explanation of circumstances how these children died. The implication is that there is equivalency — even though the Palestinian children were killed while attempting martyrdom in the context of violent attacks on Israeli forces, while the Israeli children were killed while sitting on a public bus or in a cafe, blown up by a Palestinian suicide bomber.

Some media outlets simply have a hard time counting. A recent BBC article featured a photo of a burned-out Israeli bus, with the caption: “Suicide attacks have killed dozens of Israelis.” Shouldn’t that be “hundreds”?

The ICT report is an excellent and thorough statistical analysis, complete with comparative charts and graphs. HonestReporting recommends that you refer editors to this report, and encourage them to list casualty figures more accurately.