Leveling the Playing Field: An order of ten both ways

I have often tried to argue that the situation is the Arab-Israeli conflict is not only exaggerated by the media, but inverted, and that statistics play a critical role in this process.

Now we have two key pieces of evidence of how this works.

Exhibit A: Exaggerate Israeli-inflicted damage by an order of ten.

Palestinians constantly make wild statistical claims, as in when Mahmoud al Zahar of Hamas accuses Israel of killing 8000 in the first, “peaceful” intifada, when the Israelis and the Palestinians killed about 1000 each.

Or when al Zahar accuses Israel of imprisoning one quarter of the Palestinian people.

The Palestinian “human rights” NGO, Adalah gives a number to the fraction: 700-750,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons since 1967. This figure, absurd by any careful statistical analysis – was cited by an Adalah representative who testitifed before the Goldstone Commission. Again the figure is off by an order approaching ten.

But the Goldstone Report took the figures and rounded them down by a mere 50,000 (making the real number of prisoners since 1967 a statistical error):

¶1444. It is estimated that during the past 43 years of occupation, approximately 700,000 Palestinian men, women and children have been detained under Israeli military orders. Israel argues that these detentions are necessary on grounds of security


And now, Martin Kramer noticed that in the Goldstone report, the number of factories knocked out by Israel resulted in 40,000 jobs lost, when the original report only stated 4,000.

One can see the “factoid” given birth before our very eyes. In his testimony, Amr Hamad, speaking for the Palestinian Federation of Industries declared:

The industrial sector that was destroyed, for example, the 324 factories that were destroyed, that we[re] destroyed used to employ four-hundred thous-, uh, 40,000 workers. And these have lost their uh, jobs, uh, forever.

Apparently 4,000 seemed too small a number, and perhaps the Mission members had already shown themselves so gullible (this was the same session where Colonel Travers asked psychiatrist el Sarraj why the Israelis kill kids in front of their parents), that they’d swallow anything. So Amr Hassan corrected in mid-flight and switched to 40,000, when he knew full well the report upon which his testimony was based read 4000. And he read the panel right: they didn’t check the report and bought his invented number.

In this they followed in the footsteps of such sterling journalists as the NYT’s Ethan Bronner, who, recycling Hamas casualty statistics which had taken an in-flight adjustment of claiming 2/3 civilian casualties as opposed to 1/3, ended up having more civilians die between January 6 and 10, than all the casualties for that period.

So classic Pallywood pattern: Palestinians make it up on the go; Western “specialists” recycle it uncritically.

Exhibit B: Underreporting others’ casualty figures by a factor of ten.

(HT Chaim Sonnenfeld, who is now working on a major study of this issue, and whose material he has generously shared with me.)

It may come as a surprise to some of the less informed that Marc Garlasco, recently accurately smeared as an avid Nazi memorablia collector, long known for his harsh condemnations of Israeli targeted killings, and strong proponent of outside, independent investigations where the Israelis are concerned, was a) the decisive player in over 50 targeted assassinations carried out by the US military in Iraq in 2003, and b) wrote the report for Human Rights Watch on his own work. There he summarizes the impact of 50 failed aerial attacks targeting Iraqi figures:

All of the fifty acknowledged attacks targeting Iraqi leadership failed. While they did not kill a single targeted individual, the strikes killed and injured dozens of civilians. Iraqis who spoke to Human Rights Watch about the attacks it investigated repeatedly stated that they believed the intended targets were not even present at the time of the strikes.

This may well be an underestimate of an order of 10, possibly 100. It’s altogether possible that these 50 strikes, in one case on a restaurant with four one-ton bombs that destroyed over a block in a residential area, killed dozens each, in some cases, hundreds. Garlasco himself admitted as much in an interview on 60 Minutes:

“Garlasco says, before the invasion of Iraq, he recommended 50 air strikes aimed at high-value targets — Iraqi officials. But he says none of the targets on the list were actually killed. Instead, he says, “a couple of hundred civilians at least” were killed.”

Still probably off by a factor of 5-10. Garlasco apparently illustrates the classic pattern of defensive admission and aggressive accusation: he admits to the minimum and accuses to the max.

Indeed, the whole history of other Western armies’ targeted killings is under-reported, even though it is roughly close to 10-50 civilians for every target acquired, in comparison with 2:1 for the IDF in the last decade. (Garlasco, in illustrating how much the US cares about not harming civilians, mentions proudly that if there will be more than 30 civilian casualties, you need to get permission from the president or the secretary of Defense: NPR interview at 14:30) And in the meantime, the NGOs and news media like the Guardian, demonize Israel for its criminal record in targeted killing.

As a result, Israeli generals avoid certain European capitals like London, for fear of arrest for war crimes whose numbers don’t even approach those of other European countries like England. The press and the NGOs hound Israel for her war crimes, and the NATO powers, like the USA, blow off light criticism with comments about how “it’s the only game in town.

And so, product of this distorted universe, Goldstone, at his inimitable credulous best, thinks oh-so well of the Americans, even as he accuses the Israelis of deliberately targeting civilians.

Why not? After all, he’s just following closely in the steps of auto-apologist Garlasco.

Of course, it’s important to remember that both the US and Israel, no matter what their flaws, are on one side of a continuum that has, at the far end, the “weak” and vicious asymmetric armies of Jihadis who deliberately target not only their enemies’ civilians, but also their own.

UPDATE: Tzipi Livni cancels trip to England for fear of arrest by Scotland Yard.

UPDATE: Good post at Le·gal In·sur·rec·tion

8 Responses to Leveling the Playing Field: An order of ten both ways

  1. Michelle Schatzman says:

    I’m so glad you are back, Richard, and using numbers!

    I read the analysis on the Elder of Zion blog. It looks OK (meaning that the order of magnitude look right), but it can be improved.

    So, I am rephrasing it in a more precise way : how to jail 750 000 differenty Palestinians in 43 years.

    In 43 years, there are 15,695 days. If Israel had arrested 750 000 Palestinians during the 43 years since the six days war, its average rate of arrest per day would be 750,000 / 15,695 = 47.79 prisoners per day, i.e. 334.50 per week.

    The sample given in EoZ blog is 19.66 per week, which is 17 times larger.

    The Palestinian sources say that 60% of the prisoners have been arrested more than once. Therefore, if 750,000 distinct Palestinians have been arrested, it means that at least 750,000 multiplied by 1.6, i.e. 1,200,000 arrests have been performed.

    Therefore, the weekly average of arrests should be 334.50 times 1.6 = 535.20 arrests per week. Now, we get a factor of 535,20/19,66=27. Even if this is a time of low activity in terms of arrestations, and there are times when instead of 19,6 arrests per week, the average number of arrests is 60 per week, this is still way off the 535 arrests, by a factor of about 9.

    Besides that, the number of 750 000 is quite absurd, with respect to the Palestinian population.

    Let me perform an estimate of the number of people per age in the Palestinian population. This is a population that increases very fast, with a 35 per thousand yearly birth rate. Therefore, the generations are far from being constant in numbers. I am going to take a highly simplified model, where the mortality is constant per age and equal to 15 per thousand, therefore assuming that the life expectancy is 66.66 years. Then, the rate of increase is 20 per thousand. If I assume that there are 4 million Palestinians in the territories, and if I consider only males, because the immense majority of Palestinian prisoners are male, I find that now, there are 53 379 baby boys aged less than a year among the Palestinians.

    I also find that there are now 324 183 young men between the ages of 18 and 30, presumably the ones who might be most susceptible of being arrested. Now, if we believe the Palestinian figure and assume a constant arrest rate, we would have 1,200,000/43 = 27,907 arrests per year, i.e. 8.6 % of the population. If we rather think that the number of arrests must be in constant proportion to the population, then the number of arrests would be 40,456 for the period of one year finishing on June 11, 2009.

    This is a large number, since it is 12.5% of the young male Palestinian population.

    But can the Israeli prisons hold so many prisoners? I went to a web page in hebrew of the Israeli service of prisons and found that there were 7791 inmates on Aug. 31, 2008.

    Since there should be some regular criminals in the israeli prisons, ordinary rapists, thieves and crooks, I cannot estimate the number of Palestinian prisoners at a given time. Say that Israel is an absolutely awful place and there are 4000 places for Palestinian prisoners. In order to jail 27,907 people per year, in 4000 places, you have to keep them on average no more than one month and three weeks or so. If you want to jail my higher number, i.e. 40,456, you have to keep them no more than one month and five days on average.

    So, there is no way to
    (1) arrest many Palestinians
    (2) keep them a long time in jail
    (3) practice elementary arithmetic correctly.

    By the way, I found other figures on Wikipedia in english

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_prisoners_in_Israel

    with a figure of 600 000 arrested since the six days war (Palestinian center for human rights) and 28 000 arrested between thre beginning of the second intifada and April 2003.

    The comparison between the two figures is interesting. There are 31 months between the beginning of the second intifada and April 2003, so we have a little less than 1,000 arrests per month (exactly 903), leading to 466 064 over 43 years, assuming a constant rate of arrests. Well, 1,200,000, 750,000, 600,000 or 466,00, that’s about the same, isn’t it? Even if there were calm periods, when the number of arrests was way below 1000 per month, as now, when it is more around 80 per month.

    Ok, I’ll give you the recipe for number inflation. Take an unverified peak number of arrests, i.e. 5500 in April 2003. Multiply this number by 12, and then by 43, you obtain 2,838,000 arrests in 43 years. I wonder why this is not the number claimed by Adalah.

    Now, you, fluent hebrew readers, is there a way you can find the number of arrests of Palestinians, not including ordinary criminals, in the administrative literature of the state of Israel?

  2. Smoke_and_Mirrors says:

    I remember a similar report from a couple of weeks ago. I am not versed on the statistics, but only offer a possible explanation for the number of arrests being quoted by Palestinian groups.

    My guess is that this number includes anyone who is ever cuffed by the IDF/Police. In other words, that rock thrower who Israel caught, brought to the station to interrogate, then released that same day is considered a Palestinian prisoner. With this taken into consideration, the numbers provided can be seen in a way that makes sense.

  3. Soccer Dad says:

    Goldstone’s innumeracy…

    Martin Kramer recently wrote a devastating post about one aspect of the Goldstone report. The most important sentence in this section of the Goldstone Report is this one: “Mr. Amr Hamad indicated that 324 factories had been destroyed during the Israel…

  4. E.G. says:

    Oriental imagination is a well known cultural feature. The relation between the story told and data or facts is usually far from direct, accuracy not being valued, except in transactions.

    There is more than one kind of prisoners, and detention length varies between hours and years. But who cares? When Gaza is “a concentration camp” and “massacres” frequently occur, and homicide-bombing is “struggle for independence”… does it really matter that the Israeli tax-payer funds her enemy’s education, physical and mental well-being, social networking and political ambitions?

    What do “Human Rights” and other NGOs have to say about detention conditions of illegal immigrants in 21st century Europe? How do they compare with the detention camps, say, for American Japanese in the US during WW2?

    Indulgence and credulity to such blatant lies is a display of racism.
    All Humans lie, but in different degrees. Pretending that Arabs only tell the truth turns them into inhuman.

    Oh, and speaking of demographics, here’s an older lie:
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/75192

  5. Eliyahu says:

    RL, this is a very powerful piece. It would be a shame not to post it widely, first of all, on the site http://www.goldstonereport.org .

    Now, I think that the usually self-righteous British Israelophobes are more hypocritical than the Americans. They have been vociferously calling for boycotts of Israel in all sorts of forms and all possible forums.
    But we never hear them calling for a boycott of Merry Olde England. Take the “leftist” university teachers and the Trade Union Congress. I guess it’s OK for the UK to do with gay abandon what Israel is forbidden to do. It is also OK for UK “human rights” advocates to almost totally overlook the genocide that has been going on in the Sudan since 1956.

    In line with what you wrote about Goldstone giving the Americans a free pass, he approved of the decision of the ICTY [Yugoslav criminal tribunal] not to prosecute NATO for attacks on civilian locations. There was no question that NATO attacked Serbian civilian locations during the Kossovo war [1999]. But the ICTY accepted NATO’s explanations for these bombings as being given in good faith. The bombings too were in “good faith” [gude feyeth] as a Scottish spokesman for NATO said after NATO planes had killed dozens of Kossovo Albanian civilians, precisely the people whom NATO was supposed to be protecting. See link:

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=12598830&postID=5924706223431643507

    Anyhow, the ICTY can’t charge NATO. After all, who will its bills if not the NATO member states??? Likewise, the UNhrc can’t go after the OIC & the Arab League, who also have the wherewithal to pay bills.

  6. sshender says:

    Here are some (slim) pickings:

    The Van Leer Institute’s report on Security Prisoners dated 2006:

    http://www.vanleer.org.il/Data/UploadedFiles/Files/db_political_prisoners.pdf

    According to that paper, Yossi Alpher, a former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University and a former senior adviser to PM Ehud Barak claims that more than half a million (!) Palestinians have at one time or another been imprisoned by Israel

    Women comprise approximately 1% of the Security related prisoners.

    This is an official IPS report dated 2007 with very good statistics:

    http://www.ips.gov.il/NR/rdonlyres/B696DA63-1D78-4417-ABCC-0DE64B4E71D5/0/bitchonim_heb_2007.pdf

    And here’s a visual representation of the Security prisoners from 2002 till now:

    http://www.ips.gov.il/Shabas/TIPUL_PRISONER/Prisoners+Info/%D7%A1%D7%94%D7%9B+%D7%90%D7%A1%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D+%D7%91%D7%99%D7%98%D7%97%D7%95%D7%A0%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9D.htm

    And this is Addallah’s take (not that I would put much trust in it):

    http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&ct=res&cd=1&ved=0CAcQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.adalah.org%2Fnewsletter%2Fheb%2Fapr09%2Finformation_about_prisoners_-_hebrew.doc&rct=j&q=%D7%90%D7%A1%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D+%D7%95%D7%A2%D7%A6%D7%99%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D+%D7%91%D7%91%D7%AA%D7%99+%D7%A1%D7%95%D7%94%D7%A8+%D7%91%D7%99%D7%A9%D7%A8%D7%90%D7%9C&ei=lWcpS8rgE6DKmgOU1L2uDQ&usg=AFQjCNFZXp2SsGSO7o3Ggm8Zio3_2xHN2Q

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