Casualties of Truth: Elder of Ziyon’s unpublished editorial on Gazan casualties

For reasons unknown (as of yet), this critical piece did not make the newspaper for which it was written. Please make sure that as many blogs as possible mention it. It not only lays out the case for questioning the statistics offered by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, but it emphasizes the bald-faced abandon with which Palestinian sources openly lie to the West.

Casualties of Truth

(This is the article that I wrote as an op-ed, that was inexplicably not published as planned. Much of it was beautifully rewritten by a prominent writer and author.)

For three weeks in December 2008-January 2009, Israel and Hamas fought a war in the Gaza Strip after Hamas announced it was abandoning the ceasefire and began escalated rocket and mortar attacks on Israel.

There is one fact about that war which people around the world think they know: there were about 1400 Palestinians killed in the war and most or almost all of them were civilians, mainly women and children.

This claim, however, is false and demonstrably so on the basis of careful research using publicly available and reliable materials. Indeed, a group of bloggers, including the author, have shown already that more than 30 percent of the claimed “civilian” casualties were in fact, to use the polite word, armed militants or members of Hamas-led security forces. And the number of such combatants we are discovering is rising every day.

While Hamas and other Palestinian political groups were using alleged civilian casualties to bolster their case with international public opinion, they demonstrably knew otherwise. In fact, they publicly bragged about the military activities of those they labeled innocent civilian bystanders.


The basis for many claims about the distribution of casualties was in a March report by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR). Widely covered (and credulously accepted) in the Western media, the report was a seemingly comprehensive, detailed list of every death. The bottom line: the name, gender, age, location, and job of each person is detailed. Most importantly, the PCHR claimed 1180 of the alleged 1414 victims were civilians.

Our team cross-checked the names listed by PCHR with lists of “resisters” compiled by the Al- Mezan Center for Human Rights, lists of “martyrs” published by Hamas, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), and other militant groups in Gaza, as well as from the Ma’an News Agency, and other Palestinian sources.

The IDF released its own report on casualties from Operation Cast Lead, saying that there were 1166 killed in Gaza, of whom 709 were known Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants. The IDF did not release their list of casualties, so we could not check specifics against the PCHR claims.

Our results so far show that at least, if all armed police are counted, 389 of the 1180 people who PCHR classifies as “civilians,” were, in fact, militants.

PCHR’s criteria to determine exactly who is a “militant” are unclear. Sometimes they speak of “active combatants” but at other times they state, accurately, that any members of armed groups, such as the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, would be considered legitimate targets under international law.

The team has identified members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, the PFLP and the DFLP considered “civilians” by the PCHR. Examples include Adib Harb (brigade commander for the PRC), ‘Eid ‘Oda al-Shandi (field commander in the al-Qassam Brigades) and even senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan.

The IDF has categorized most or all of the Hamas police force as “Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives” and therefore as legal targets. The PCHR takes strong exception to this categorization, saying that Hamas policemen are civilians.

Even by the PCHR’s own criteria, our research has detailed proof identifying over 64% of the police killed in Operation Cast Lead some 179 of them out of 283, were also members of militant groups, predominantly the al-Qassam Brigades acting as combatants against Israel.

Certainly, the PCHR is aware of the affiliations of many of not all of the victims in Gaza . For example, the PRC al-Nasser Salah Addin Brigades — the most extremist group in Gaza which has been reportedly linked to al-Qaida–published a list of its 18 of its “martyrs” on January 22. Yet nine of them, including two commanders, were classified as “civilian” by the PCHR months later. Similarly, an al-Qassam Brigades’ leader famous for developing the Qassam rocket, Amir Yousef Al-Mansy, was also called a “civilian.” It strains credulity to think that the PCHR was unaware that they were militants engaged in fighting Israel.

Why, then, did they classify so many known militants as civilians? One can only conclude that the reason is to deceive the media.

Such a high number of Al Qassam members among the police killed indicates that Hamas itself does not distinguish between its so-called civilian and military wings. Effectively, Hamas considers its police to be the same as its military force. If Hamas does not make such a distinction, why shouldn’t everyone else conclude that its entire police force is a legitimate target?

In addition to the police, we have identified 115 other militants that the PCHR classified as “civilian.” None of our findings are inconsistent with the IDF report on Gaza casualties.

While the PCHR misrepresents the facts about Palestinian casualties it makes other statements which reveal the highly politicized nature of the group that show it is not a human rights organization. For example, it consistently uses the phrase “IOF” (“Israel Occupation Forces”) instead of Israel Defense Forces, the proper name of Israel’s military, in trying to make Israel look as bad as possible.

The PCHR’s influence cannot be overstated. UN groups routinely quote PCHR figures and reports. News media around the world rely on organizations like the PCHR to give them accurate information about what happens in Gaza. The PCHR presents itself as an unbiased party and is taken as such in media reports. The truth, however, is quite different.

Israel’s war in Gaza was not aimed at causing civilian losses, nor was it a war of “occupation,” as the PCHR would have it, but of defense. The fact that the casualty figures are being misrepresented is a demonstration of the fact that charges made against Israel are false. We are confident that as our research continues we will find many more soldiers of Hamas and other groups waging war against Israel disguised as civilians.

9 Responses to Casualties of Truth: Elder of Ziyon’s unpublished editorial on Gazan casualties

  1. Chaim says:

    We expect human rights orgs to lie to the Western Press. But we shouldn’t expect the Western Press to accept as fact such propaganda. Further, when faced with facts that correct the record, we should at the very least expect that the Western Press should get the story right and issue retractions.

    Israel should start treating the Western Press as a hostile enemy.

  2. Chaim says:

    Elder’s findings show that the majority of Gazans killed were combatants. So much for the claim that most killed in Gaza (like 2/3) were civilians.

  3. Lorenz Gude says:

    I just want to back up a little and say that as a blogger and as a student of the media the hold of the MSM on Western public opinion is proving more robust that I had hoped. I think the response of both US parties to the collapse of a credit bubble has been more credit. Keep the illusion going at all costs. How much simpler a task it is to pretend that peace in the Middle East is road mappable, and negotiable. People know if they can’t pay the mortgage but most have no real experience of the Middle East. They have no first hand experience – only a duplicitous media that invites them to project their own tolerant Western values on the Palestinians and for too many still, and once again, their dark side on the Jews. Put another way human being attempt to understand people they don’t know based upon what they know of themselves through the mechanism of projection. What RL calls LCE. All good storytellers, writers of fiction, and the propagandists that pass for journalists depend upon manipulating those projections – inviting, seducing, cajoling, appealing to what we already know in our hearts is true. Just watch Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will. It’s on YouTube, naturally.

  4. oao says:

    But we shouldn’t expect the Western Press to accept as fact such propaganda.

    and if we did would that change their behavior, you think?

    Israel should start treating the Western Press as a hostile enemy

    would make very little difference.

    Elder’s findings show that the majority of Gazans killed were combatants.

    where are the trackings down of the combatant/civilian ratios of american actions in pakistan and afghanistan? has anybody bothered to consider the difference from israel’s? why can hillary get away with “sorry, we did not mean it” without any reactions?

    Keep the illusion going at all costs.

    this is the instinct of a collapsing society unable to handle collapse. there is no exception for america and the west.

    People know if they can’t pay the mortgage but most have no real experience of the Middle East.

    other than their own experience they know nothing, because even what they used to learn via education has been eliminated.

  5. Diane says:

    I suspected the same pattern was at work in the Lebanon War, where we were told by the media that 1,100 people were killed. In a couple of JPost stories, I noticed passing reference to an IDF claim that Hizbollah had lost 500 fighters. Later the whole war was written off as an abject failure. Heads would roll, we were told.

    Having learned nothing from the Al Durah blood libel, the IDF, as far as I can tell, NEVER made the argument that the widely reported 1,100 dead might well include the 500 militants they had counted among the dead – a militant-to-civilian kill ratio of nearly 1:1 (pretty damn good). Instead we had endless unanswered stories about IDF atrocities.

    Now we see that the IDF is playing possum again. In Gaza, they tried to keep the reporting honest by barring journalists from Gazthe battlefield, by maintaining a YouTube channel where they posted daily briefings and tell-tale video from bombing runs. But after the ceasefire, nothing.

    Why does the IDF refuse to defend itself? At the very least, why not save the Elder of Zyon some trouble by making their Gaza kill list available?

  6. oao says:

    Why does the IDF refuse to defend itself? At the very least, why not save the Elder of Zyon some trouble by making their Gaza kill list available?

    having lived in israel and served in IDF, my guess is that they don’t see much point in it. israelis are very practical people, they know that attitudes towards them won’t change no matter what they do. and they are right.

  7. Eliyahu says:

    LG, I do take heart from the fact that the NYT is in financial trouble. But I guess you know better than I that the MSM are keeping their hold on the public willy nilly.

  8. Cynic says:

    Diane,

    When the IDF invited Erlanger of NYT to go into Lebanon and see what was being done he refused saying that the story did not interest him.
    These journalists are very picky about getting their “message” out.
    As oao wrote they know that attitudes towards them won’t change no matter what they do. and they are right.

  9. oao says:

    As oao wrote they know that attitudes towards them won’t change no matter what they do. and they are right.

    there is another aspect to their practicality on this: it may well be that the demonization serves them well in constant war when the whole world tries to annihilate you: those crazy israelis, they’re capable of anything. not a bad idea given the kind of enemy they have.

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