PROPAGANDA WATCH: TIME Magazine challenges Gaza death toll

2009021823395090_1In a February 18 article in TIME Magazine’s Middle East Blog entitled “Gaza Body Count: Were We Duped?”, Zionist propagandist Scott MacLeod hits new lows by suggesting that the massive Palestinian death toll during Israel’s recent Israeli war against the Gaza Strip may have been exaggerated by “Palestinian propaganda.”

The absurd charge does not deserve rebuttal. There’s more than enough proof — photographic and otherwise — of the unprecedented carnage in Gaza, most of it borne by the defenseless civilian population.

Nevertheless, we would remind Mr. MacLeod — as a propagandist for one party to the conflict — that he could become criminally liable if that party is found guilty of war crimes or crimes against humanity by a legitimate court of law.

There is no question of the numbers — or innocence — of the more than 1300 Palestinians killed during Israel’s recent three-week-long onslaught in the Gaza Strip. Nevertheless, the following article attempts to apologize for Israeli blood-lust by casting doubt on those figures in the minds of the average reader, indirectly suggesting that Palestinian resistance faction Hamas “inflated the number of victims.”

Even though the author pretends to be neutral by appearing to distrust Palestinian casualty figures issued by the Israeli military, his intentions are obvious — one has to look no further than the article’s blatantly loaded title.

If you find yourself falling for the author’s pretended objectivity, just note the quote from the Talmud in the last paragraph: “One who destroys a single life destroys an entire world. One who saves a single life saves an entire world.” Anyone who knows their Talmud can tell you that the true reading of this phrase — which is also heard in the “Holocaust” propaganda piece “Schindler’s List” — is: “One who destroys a single Jewish life destroys an entire world. One who saves a single Jewish life saves an entire world.”
Gaza Body Count: Were We Duped?
TIME Magazine, Middle East Blog

February 18, 2009

By Scott MacLeod

Was the news media — and by extension, world public opinion — outrageously duped by Palestinian propaganda into exaggerating the number of casualties in the recent Gaza war and thus unjustly tarnishing Israel’s image? That’s the line of a report on Gaza casualties released this week by the Israel Defense Forces, prompting debates and questions in the blogosphere including among commenters on our Middle East Blog.

True, most news reports have relied on figures from the Palestinian Ministry of Health or the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

On Jan. 19, Palestinian Ministry of Health figures put the number of dead at 1,314, including 522 women and children, or 39 percent of the total.

On Jan. 22, the PCHR reported that 1,285 people had been killed in the Gaza conflict, including 895 civilians, or 69.6 percent of the dead.

The IDF report on casualties first appeared in the Jerusalem Post on Sunday. Conducted by the IDF’s Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration, the 200-page report identified more than 1,200 Palestinian deaths and listed casualties by name.

According to the Post, the CLA said “580 of these 1,200 had been conclusively ‘incriminated’ as members of Hamas and other terrorist groups.” The CLA said 300 were “non-combatants” — women, men over 65 and children aged 15 and under. The CLA said the remaining 320 were all men, and estimated that two-thirds were “terror operatives,” the Post said.

By this count, according to the CLA, one-third of the Palestinian death toll were civilians — not the two-thirds claimed by the PCHR. “World Duped by Hamas Death Count” read the Post headline on the story.

A controversy over the Gaza toll initially made international headlines on Jan. 22, right after the cessation of major hostilities, when Lorenzo Cremonesi, a reporter for Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper, published a report from Gaza disputing the Palestinian death count. Corriere quoted “a doctor” in Gaza’s Shifa hospital saying the death toll could not be more than 600, reporting that the dead mainly consisted of young Hamas fighters between 17-23 years old. The paper also said that local journalists knew about the fabrication and quizzed Hamas officials about why they were “inflating the numbers of victims.”

So were we duped? Have Corriere and the IDF managed to shine a light on the truth about the war that the rest of us didn’t see?

The media were largely dependent on the Palestinians for the casualty data. It’s worth remembering that Israeli authorities barred journalists access to Gaza until the end of the war, hindering independent accounts of the conflict and its effects. Information from one side can be wrong or even deliberately distorted. I can say, though, that I have high regard for PCHR director Raji Sourani, who I know from my many reporting trips into Gaza. He is a dedicated and courageous activist and recognized as such internationally. Certainly, Sourani is in the pocket of no government, having long tangled with Israeli and Palestinian authorities alike in his defense of human rights.

What is more important to note is that the Palestinian figures were effectively accepted and endorsed by independent organizations such as the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Israeli human rights groups. They effectively corroborated the Palestinian figures, not by doing independent body counts, but in most cases by closely observing the war on the ground in Gaza with scores of their own staff people. The ICRC, for example, had a dozen or so foreign staff working mainly in Gaza hospitals, and another few dozen Palestinian staff. Indeed, the CLA report itself basically corroborates the overall death count of 1,300 plus or minus — and indirectly dismisses the figures contained in the Jan. 22 report in Corriere as off base by half.

What the CLA is really disputing is the Palestinian claim of civilian deaths — two-thirds of the overall number killed. Such a figure is an indictment of Israel’s Gaza operations as well as of the IDF’s commitment to “purity of arms” — the doctrine that vows that “IDF soldiers will not use their weapons and force to harm human beings who are not combatants or prisoners of war, and will do all in their power to avoid causing harm to their lives, bodies, dignity and property.” Some 200 groups including the Palestinian Authority have pressed the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate possible Israeli war crimes for alleged targeting of civilians and non-military buildings.

The issue of combatant deaths versus civilians deaths is murkier business than totaling the overall body count, even leaving aside the question of the methodology that enabled the CLA to “conclusively” identify 580 and inconclusively tag another 200 of the dead as terrorists. One problem is the conflicting definitions of combatant. Are you a combatant if you are a member of Hamas but do not carry arms? Are you a terrorist if you are not a member of Hamas but still went into the streets to defend your neighborhood against Israel’s incursion? The CLA appears to be using the loosest possible definition, which naturally maximizes the number fitting into the category.

“One civilian death is one too many,” said an ICRC official to me this week when I asked about the CLA’s casualty report. Yes, whether there were 895 civilian deaths in Gaza, or “only” 405, the number the CLA seems prepared to acknowledge, most people would agree that far, far too many civilians died and suffered during the brief but violent Gaza conflict.

Most people would include Israeli activists such as Rabbis for Human Rights, to whom I’ll give the last word. The group wanted to hold its annual retreat this year in Ashkelon, to show solidarity with the citizens of southern Israel who were under the bombardment of Hamas rockets. But military orders forbidding big gatherings that could result in large loss of life forced the retreat to be held elsewhere. During the conflict, RHR jointly published newspaper ads in Israel declaring: “Citizens are not cannon fodder — Not in Sderot and not in Gaza.”

In his RHR blog on Jan. 12 at the height of the war, Rabbi Arik Ascherman lamented, “During the first week or so of Cast Lead, we were told that the IDF was not harming citizens. It is perhaps a credit to Israelis that this is what they wanted to believe. However, as the numbers of dead children, reports of the IDF not allowing ambulances to get to the injured for days, etc. are gradually creeping into the Israeli press, the standard response has changed to ‘We have no choice.'”

At the end of RHR’s retreat, the rabbis issued a communique expressing deep distress at the loss of life on both sides. It also emphasized “the ultimate value of human life in the Jewish traditions: ‘One who destroys a single life destroys an entire world. One who saves a single life saves an entire world (Mishna Sanhedrin 4:5).'”

The above article can be found at:

PROPAGANDA WATCH: TIME Magazine challenges Gaza death toll

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