It may be four weeks later, but we now have some important information from the Israeli army on civilian casualty figures during Operation Cast Lead. They weigh in with a highly detailed report.
See Yaakov Katz: World duped by Hamas’s false civilian death toll figures
David Horovitz: Analysis: Counted out: Belatedly, the IDF enters the life-and-death numbers game
The Elder of Zion: The UNRWA school story was a lie
Basing its work on the official Palestinian death toll of 1,338, Levi said the CLA had now identified more than 1,200 of the Palestinian fatalities. 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.
The CLA said 580 of these 1,200 had been conclusively “incriminated” as members of Hamas and other terrorist groups.
Another 300 of the 1,200 – women, children aged 15 and younger and men over the age of 65 – had been categorized as noncombatants, the CLA said.
In other words, in terms of identifiable dead according to this report, two-thirds were valid targets of the assault, one-third collateral damage. This is the opposite of the impression given by the claims of the PCHR:
While the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, whose death toll figures have been widely cited, reports that 895 Gaza civilians were killed in the fighting, amounting to more than two-thirds of all fatalities, the IDF figures shown to the Post on Sunday put the civilian death toll at no higher than a third of the total.
The implications here are enormous, particularly given the vast expressions of hatred of Jews and Israelis that the MSM coverage of this conflict — what Shmuel Trigano called a “media progrom” — provoked around the world, much of it based on imagining and believing the damage caused to civilians was “absolute carnage.”
If, indeed, both in the specific figures now presented — two-thirds military death rate, rather than the two-thirds civilian mortality rate as reported by both Palestinian “human rights groups” and journalists — then the situation changes dramatically.
Actually, given how often the media told us that Gaza was the most densely-concentrated population in the world, and that an aerial attack could not help but cause great collateral damage to the civilians, we would expect a very high rate of civilian casualties. Perhaps one of the reasons that the Palestinian figures strike so many as reliable, is that they are actually fairly conservative in terms of collateral damage in aerial attacks on areas densey populated with civilians.
If we compare them with WW II (Dresden, Tokyo) or even Vietnam, these casualty figures are astoundingly low for civilian casualties, which run in the 80-99% range. Even if we compare them with NATO in Belgrade or the US in Mosul, the lowest figures for such activity on record outside of Israel, then the Israeli army outperforms virtually every military on record in the world for its ability to minimize civilian casualties.
(It’s not clear whether the rough comparison the study makes with American figures in Iraq is a sop to American sensibilities, or a fair equivalence. My impression is that acceptable US collateral damage rates, certainly in target killings, is considerably higher than Israel’s.)
When we add to that, the well-known practice of Hamas to hold civilians captive in areas of conflict in order to increase the number of their fatalities, one might consider the Israeli achievement in Gaza — how to minimize civilian casualties while attacking an insufferably vicious enemy who hides in their midst while attacking you — one of the most extraordinary in the relatively recent history of international humanitarianism under conditions of war.
The report presents a revealing difficulty in establishing figures (all statistics are sketches of reality, no more):
Counted among the women, however, were female terrorists, including at least two women who tried to blow themselves up next to forces from the Givati and Paratroopers’ Brigades. Also classed as noncombatants were the wives and children of Nizar Rayyan, a Hamas military commander who refused to allow his family to leave his home even after he was warned by Israel that it would be bombed.
Now there’s a category to identify: Palestinian civilian casualties directly caused by Palestinian initiatives. It could include everything from this case and others of holding civilians hostage, to actual murdering of Palestinians by other Palestinians.
It is, alas, a safe bet to predict that this is a form of warfare that the rest of the world will be seeing a great deal more of in the coming years and decades, all along the bleeding borders of Islam. In that context, it’s probably safe to say that the Israeli achievement will hold up remarkably well in comparison even with military operations in the 2010s and 20s.
So again, I ask the epistemological questions: “Why should the outside observer attribute more credibility to the figures provided by the Israeli army?” Why credit these figures? When will the report be released? Or will it?
How much epistemological priority do we accord, for example, to this revision of the casualty figures from the now notoriously-misreported UN School massacre from 43, most civilians, to 12, three civilians?
As an example of such distortion, he cited the incident near a UN school in Jabalya on January 6, in which initial Palestinian reports falsely claimed IDF shells had hit the school and killed 40 or more people, many of them civilians.
In fact, he said, 12 Palestinians were killed in the incident – nine Hamas operatives and three noncombatants. Furthermore, as had since been acknowledged by the UN, the IDF was returning fire after coming under attack, and its shells did not hit the school compound.
“From the beginning, Hamas claimed that 42 people were killed, but we could see from our surveillance that only a few stretchers were brought in to evacuate people,” said Levi, adding that the CLA contacted the PA Health Ministry and asked for the names of the dead. “We were told that Hamas was hiding the number of dead.”
What are the criterion of reliability we accord the findings of this report, and of others? What direct and indirect indices help us appraise the evidence?
Finally, notes Aussie Dave,
I don’t think Israel have handled this particularly well at all. For a start, why is this being revealed to the Jerusalem Post only? The profile of the average Jerusalem Post reader is someone who already doubted the palestinian version of events. Why hasn’t Israel called a press conference for this, inviting the world’s media? Why aren’t Israeli representatives going on CNN, Fox and the like to present the findings?
Secondly, why didn’t Israel announce beforehand that it is in the process of investigating the palestinian death toll, and initial indications reveal that the figures have been distorted? As usual, I fear much of the damage has been done, and these findings come too late. Israel needs to learn to strike while the iron is hot.
Similar sentiments from David Horovitz.