In the smoke of war, it is so easy to assume that lies are true, deliberate fabrications accidental. As is often the case, the world demanded Israel answer for the claims made by Hamas and so-called Palestinian human rights organizations. How could Israel answer claims when it was in the middle of fighting a war…and other than soldiers in the field, didn’t have easy access to the very evidence that would prove Israel innocent?
As expected, as the war ends and the smoke clears, the so-called facts are proved to be lies, the fabrications proved to be exaggerations (at best) and outright falsehoods in even more cases. An amazing organization that watches the media and human rights organizations and calls them on these errors, is CAMERA. CAMERA examined the claims made of huge numbers of civilian casualties and found outright fabrications, missing information, inaccurate numbers – in short, all that is claimed is now suspect given the huge campaign by organizations that were so busy attempting to sway world opinion, they left the truth far behind. As CAMERA shows, the truth, though battered from lies and twisted numbers, still stands.
Here is the beginning of their report (copied without permission, but with gratitude from a soldier’s mother, and a link and a hope that this is acceptable):
Gaza Casualties: Civilian or Combatant?
(correct as of January 29, 2009 – more information may be available so please use the link at the end of this snippet for more information)
In the aftermath of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, controversy rages over whether Israel used indiscriminate and excessive force. Israel defends its actions claiming that ¾ of the fatalities were Hamas members or other combatants opposing Israeli forces. The Palestinian claim, echoed in much of the media coverage, is that the vast majority of the fatalities were unarmed civilians.
A complicating factor in quantifying the number of civilian casualties is the call by Hamas leaders for their members to shed their uniforms and fight in civilian clothing ( “Gaza War Full of Traps and Trickery,”New York Times, Jan. 11, 2009).
CAMERA examined the data collected by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), which provides the most comprehensive tally of casualty figures in Gaza. The results of CAMERA’s analysis are summarized below.
- By cross-checking with other sources, CAMERA has identified a number of Hamas fighters and members of other Palestinian terrorist groups who were either misclassified by PCHR as civilians, not identified as combatants, or omitted entirely from their tabulations. This raises serious questions about the accuracy of PCHRs casualty statistics.
- An analysis of the fatalities by age and gender shows that the majority of civilian fatalities recorded by PCHR are males between 15 and 40 years old, the same age profile as the combatants. This also should raise concern that significant numbers of combatants may have been misclassified as civilians.
PCHR represents a partisan source that favors Hamas over Israel. This is evidenced by the terminology and tone it uses in its reports – for example, labelling the Israeli Defense Forces as the “Israeli Occupation Forces” and describing Israeli military operations as “war crimes.” Despite PCHR’s clear bias, its data is widely cited by the media.
The data examined here covers the period of Dec. 27, 2008 through January 21, 2009. PCHR produces both daily updates and weekly reports on Palestinian casualties in Gaza. CAMERA’s study examined both types of reports, but the report focuses on the weekly updates.
Omissions and Inaccuracies in PCHR Data
PCHR data is quite extensive and detailed, yet a sampling of newspaper accounts and a cursory review of items posted by the Maan News Agency, another Palestinian source, uncovered a number of omissions and misclassifications of combatant status. The following individuals, described by PCHR as civilians or without any classification information, were identified in Maan announcements as members of militant groups:
- Jihad Abu Medif (Medyiff) – identified as member of Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade
- Haitham Abu al–Qumsan – identified as member of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades
- Hamdi Fareed Abu Hamada – identified as member of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades
- Eyad al–Maqqousi – identified as member of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades
- Mohammed ‘Abed Hassan Brbakh – identified as DFLP commander
- Tariq Nimer Abu Amsha – identified as member of Islamic Jihad al–Quds Brigades
- Shams Omar – Al-Quds (Islamic Jihad) commander in Gaza
Maan also released the names of eleven Fatah loyalists it claimed were executed by Hamas during the fighting. One of these, Hasan Hijazi, was listed in PCHR’s report as having been killed by Israeli artillery shelling on Jan. 7. The other ten could not be matched to any names listed on PCHR’s reports.
CAMERA’s examination of PCHR’s reports found no mention of several senior commanders from Hamas whose deaths were widely reported in the media:
- Mahmoud Shalpokh on Jan. 4
- Ayman Siam on Jan. 6
- Amir Mansi on Jan. 10
- Muhammad Hilou on Jan. 4 (a man with a similar name was listed but with no indication that he was a member of Hamas or a combatant)
- Abu Zakaria al-Jamal on Jan.3
The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center reported that Hamas explicitly forbade the publishing of the names of Hamas fighters killed in combat. Is PCHR abiding by this demand? CAMERA found the following examples to suggest that it is in many cases.
A Hamas announcement on Jan. 19, 2009 (Military Communique, Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades Information Office) names three fighters killed on Jan. 5:
- Muhammad Farid Abdallah
- Muhammad Abdallah Obeid
- Iyad Hassan Obeid
These fighters were named in PCHRs weekly update for Jan. 15-21, but were not identified as combatants even though others included in the same group were identified as combatants.
For the rest of this impressive report (and probably updates), please go to:
All credit for this important work belongs to CAMERA and as the mother of a soldier, I thank them for these efforts.