It’s now official: the casualty counts you heard for the Palestinians during the recent war in Gaza were wild fabrications put out by the Hamas terrorist organization and its allies, and eagerly accepted and circulated by Western media.
The Jerusalem Post reported this week that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has at last opened its detailed dossier on the Palestinian fatalities during the war. It shows a picture radically different from the one that keeps sparking so much righteous outrage against Israel.
According to the widely cited figures of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights — which NGO Monitor describes as “pressing [an] anti-Israel agenda in media and international organizations” with its “reports condemning Israel policy often lack[ing] credibility” — some 895 Gaza civilians were killed in the war, or about two-thirds of the total Palestinian death count. But according to the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration (CLA), the truth is the reverse: about two-thirds of the dead were fighters from Hamas and other groups.
Out of the 1,338 Palestinian fatalities, the CLA has now identified over 1,200. The Post notes that “its 200-page report lists their names, their official Palestinian Authority identity numbers, the circumstances in which they were killed and, where appropriate, the terrorist group with which they were affiliated.”
Of these, the CLA has conclusively established that 580 were members of Hamas and other terror organizations. Another 300 were noncombatants — women, children younger than 15, men over 65. Another 320 names are yet to be classified; all were men and the IDF estimates that about two-thirds were terrorists.
Col. Moshe Levi, head of the CLA, says Hamas’ “false reporting” was behind the distortions and gives an example: on January 6, about halfway through Operation Cast Lead, Hamas claimed IDF shells had hit a UN school in Jabalya and killed over 40 including many civilians. The claim was widely disseminated and further stoked already mounting diplomatic pressure on Israel, with the UN Security Council calling two nights later for an immediate ceasefire by a 14-0 vote on which the United States — despite Israeli expectations of a veto — abstained.
It turns out, though, that the actual number of Palestinians killed at the school was 12 — nine of them Hamas gunmen, three civilians. The UN itself has since admitted that the IDF was returning fire and that none of its shells hit the school itself.
In light of all this, the IDF is now “considering setting up a ‘response team’ for future conflicts whose job would be to collect information, analyze it and issue reports as rapidly as possible that refuted Hamas fabrications.”
Israel has never excelled at presenting its case and can always try harder. Indeed, during Operation Cast Lead it tried harder than ever before, with the IDF itself making liberal use of its YouTube channel to show Hamas’ cruel exploitation of Gaza’s civilian population. For all that, the accusations flew and Israel now faces a wave of lawfare against its leaders and fighters while worldwide anti-Semitism has reached levels not seen since the 1930s.
Meanwhile, last week Israel held entirely peaceful, orderly elections amid ongoing shelling from Gaza and mounting threats from Hezbollah in southern Lebanon and from Iran. All this after experiencing two wars and relentless rocket and mortar attacks over the past three years. Hamas, for its part, was accused last week by Amnesty International of “killing, torturing, maiming and abducting people it accuses of collaborating with Israel,” with, “since the end of December, during and after the three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza … more than 20 men … shot dead by Hamas gunmen and scores of others kneecapped, beaten or otherwise tortured.”
Amnesty charges that “most people abducted … have been taken from their homes and later dumped, dead or injured, in isolated areas or at the morgue. Some were even shot dead in the hospital while they were receiving treatment for injuries.”
The difference between Israel and Hamas, in other words, is there to see and always has been: on the one hand a Western democracy upholding the highest standards of human rights, its army making unprecedented efforts to minimize civilian casualties; on the other a terrorist organization with a genocidal charter that systematically targets Israeli civilians and systematically exploits Palestinian civilians as human shields.
So when a conflict erupts between a party such as Israel and a party such as Hamas — and the same holds true for the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon — those reporting on the hostilities should bear in mind the fundamental difference in moral level between the two sides. A democratic state should not be assumed to have the same or — more often — less credibility than a terrorist organization. An onslaught of bloody images from hospitals together with claims of hundreds of children senselessly slaughtered should — when put out by a group like Hamas — be treated with, shall we say, skepticism.
Israel’s problem — and it is a problem that is very difficult to overcome no matter how diligent its own efforts to convey the truth — is that the MSM reliably and consistently fails to make that fundamental distinction and goes on unperturbed by how many times the grotesque accusations against Israel have turned out to be, with even a body like the UN admitting that they were false.
With Israel continuing to face a difficult security environment as Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran build or rebuild their forces, the country unfortunately has no choice but to count the MSM as well among its deadly enemies.