Monday, October 25, 2010

Gaza War Civilian Casualties: Not So Disproportionate After All?

From the BBC: As Israeli troops surrounded a mosque in Beit Hanoun to force out gunmen,
scores of women answered a Hamas call to form a human shield.
Evelyn Gordon, knows how to read the newspaper. She mined a very important statistic in the last paragraph in last week's NY Times article on the WikiLeaks Iraq War log on civilian deaths. Interpolating from this statistic, one sees that the Gaza War civilian casualties were not dispropotionately out of the norm. In fact they were on the low side, especially considering Hamas' use of civilians as human shields. Try telling that to the Israel Deligitimization Committee.

"The New York Times tucked a remarkable statistic into the tail-end of an article on WikiLeaks’s latest document dump, one with ramifications for the ongoing delegitimization campaign against Israel: for most of the last century, the normal civilian-to-combatant wartime fatality ratio has been 10:1.
Civilians have borne the brunt of modern warfare, with 10 civilians dying for every soldier in wars fought since the mid-20th century, compared with 9 soldiers killed for every civilian in World War I, according to a 2001 study by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
This elicits an obvious question: if civilians routinely account for 90 percent of all casualties in modern warfare, why is the world up in arms about the civilian casualty rate in last year’s Israel-Hamas war in Gaza — which, by even the most anti-Israel account, was markedly lower?
If one accepts the Israel Defense Forces’ statistics, then noncombatants accounted for only 39 percent of Palestinian fatalities — less than half the standard 90 percent rate noted by the ICRC. Nongovernmental organizations obviously cite a much higher civilian casualty rate. But even they put it below 90 percent.
According to B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Israeli forces killed 1,390 Palestinians in the war, including 759 noncombatants, 349 combatants, 248 Palestinian policemen, two in targeted assassinations (bizarrely, these aren’t classified as either combatants or noncombatants), and 32 whose status it couldn’t determine. The policemen are listed separately because their status is disputed: Israel says the Hamas-run police force served as an auxiliary army unit; Palestinians say the policemen were noncombatants.
Omitting the 34 whom B’Tselem didn’t classify, these figures show civilians comprising 74 percent of total fatalities if the policemen are considered noncombatants, and 56 percent if they’re considered combatants. Either way, the ratio is well below the 90 percent norm."

Please read the rest of her post, but don't get your knickers in a twist about which publication she writes for:
The NYT article:


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