The other day I was looking at a chart in an American newspaper showing the death statistics of the current Israel-Palestinians war. The numbers were provided by the Israeli “human rights” group B’Tselem. As I looked them over, I began to feel that sinking feeling one gets when somebody with an agenda tries to pull the wool over your eyes.
So first of all, B’Tselem continues to call this war the Al Aqsa Intifada. The name suggests that this war continues to be the result of Arik Sharon’s visit to the Haram al Sharif in 2000. This war was not an instantaneous uprising, but a well-planned response that was put into effect subsequent to the international drubbing the Palestinians, and Arafat in particular, were experiencing after their refusal to negotiate in good faith at Camp David II.
Not only was this a well planned response, but this war was militarized from the beginning. Unlike the intifada of 1987, which was truly a popular uprising of local Palestinians who needed to voice their rejection of the status quo and did so using bricks and stones, the war of 2000 was the construct of a Palestinian government in control of a majority of the Palestinian population and of the land in Gaza and the West Bank. The war of 2000 immediately involved the Tanzim, an arm of Arafat’s Fatah, as well as other groups including the Al Aqsa Brigades and of course, Hamas. Along with armed warfare, the Palestinians began a grotesque orgy of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians within the Green Line. The nature of the attacks also belied intelligence and sophisticated strategy: using sophisticated bombing materials; spreading over various geographic areas in Israel and affecting many public spheres of life such as transportation and retaurants; and attempting to target the largest number of Israeli civilians as possible.
The idea of an uprising suggests some form of grass roots rebellion. Perhaps what happened in 1987 resembled this, but the 2000 war was an event orchestrated by the upper echelons of Palestinian society and executed by their soldiers.
Now here’s where we get to B’Tselem’s unfortunate misrepresentation of facts. Tanzim are fighters and militants. When they purposely attack civilians, they are terrorists. Hamas, Al Aqsa Brigades, PFLP and Fatah militants are no different. Words that describe them include gunmen, militants, fighters, and terrorists. Essentially, they are soldiers for the Palestinian cause. In some cases, they fight fair – as in the successful attacks against the Merkava tanks. In some cases – most cases – they fight as terrorists, targeting and attacking civilians.
But B’Tselem calls them civilians.
B’Tselem has an ongoing tally of the dead in this war. It is from their charts that the American publication I read found the stats that represented the number of dead on each side in this war. The totals:
In the “Occupied Territories” (of course, they mean to say “Disputed Territories”):
Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces : 2778
Palestinians killed by Israeli civilians: 32
Foreign citizens killed by Israeli forces: 10
Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians: 208
Israeli security forces personnel killed by Palestinians: 201
Foreign citizens were killed by Palestinians: 7
Palestinians killed by Palestinian civilians on suspicion of collaborating with Israel: 96
Of the 96, the number killed while held in the custody of the Palestinian security forces: 18
Palestinians killed by members of the Palestinian security forces: 29.
Of the 29, number killed while held in the custody of the Palestinian security forces: 9
Within the Green Line:
Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces: 49
Israeli civilians killed by Palestinians: 424
Israeli security forces personnel killed by Palestinians: 83
Israeli civilians killed by foreign citizens: 3
Foreign citizens killed by Palestinians: 32
So…did you see it?
Did you see it?
Notice how Israelis are divided into civilians and “security forces personnel” while the Palestinians are, well, merely Palestinians? Yup, in B’Tselem’s world, a Hamas member supporting a terrorist suicide bomber is the same as any other Palestinian. After all, terrorists are people too. Not so, Israeli “security forces personnel.” Nope, they get their own special category. Of course, what B’Tselem is really saying is that they deserve it but Palestinian militants don’t.
This is not a small distinction because the international media uses these statistics to describe the conflict and its results. Thus, the Palestinians have lost 3000 people while the Israelis have lost about a 1000. But the Palestinians have lost 3000 PEOPLE and the Israelis have lost 500 people and 300 SOLDIERS. Those damn Israelis.
The Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya addressed this issue as far back as 2002. In a methodical study, they showed that already back then, over half of the Palestinians killed were militants. Anybody following the results of the targeted killings in recent months would recognize that the number now is closer to 3 militants out of every 4 killed. Is this relevant? Sure it is. If you look at the numbers again, you will note that the percentage of Israeli civilian victims is far higher than the percentage of Palestinian civilian victims.
Of course, you wouldn’t know that looking at B’Tselem’s terminology.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’d rather not a single person died in this conflict. But they are dying. It is important to evaluate who is dying and why so that we can get to a resolution much faster; lying by playing semantic games only exarcebates the problem.