CAMERA has prompted moderately improved Reuters coverage on Palestinian fatalities since peace talks resumed in July 2013. On March 22, Reuters’ Ali Sawafta reported as fact:
Including Saturday’s incident, Israeli forces have killed at least 60 Palestinians and injured almost 900 since the resumption of negotiations last July.
In communications with the wire service, CAMERA noted that a review of figures from various NGOs do not substantiate the Palestinian claim that 60 Palestinians were killed since the end of July (when peace talks started) through March 22.
Thus, the United Nations’ monthly Humanitarian Bulletins from Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (August 2013 – February 2014, which is the most recent monthly report available, as of press time), reveal that 38 Palestinians were killed during that time period; another two were killed during the week of March 4 -10, one was killed on March 19 (news reports), and three on March 22 (news reports), for a total of 44 Palestinian fatalities since July 30 through March 22.
A tally of the weekly reports from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights comes in slightly higher, with 47 fatalities, including the March 22 fatalities. (This includes several who died from earlier wounds, and an elderly man who died from tear gas inhalation during a clash.)
According to B’Tselem, 34 Palestinians were killed from the end of July through February (latest figures available). Together with six more for March (known from news reports, as detailed above), the total is 40 Palestinians killed since peace talks began through the March 22 fatalities.
In response to CAMERA’s communication, Reuters refiled the article on March 24, attributing the unfounded claim to the Palestinian Negotiation Affairs Department.
Ideally, Reuters should have indicated that the figure cited by the Palestinian officials was higher than that provided by the United Nations and Israeli and Palestinian NGOs. Moreover, Reuters did not need to include a figure that was contradicted by others, and that could not be substantiated.
Nevertheless, the decision to refile the story, and to attribute the figure to the Palestinian government, as opposed to simply citing it as fact, is certainly an improvement.
New York Times Double Standards on Stats
The New York Times likewise used the unfounded figure, but at least attributed it to Palestinian officials, instead of reporting it as fact. The Times reported:
Outraged Palestinian leaders said the episode raised to 60 the number of Palestinians killed since the beginning of American-led peace talks last summer.
The Times’ citation without qualification of this unfounded, inflated figure from Palestinian officials stands in stark contrast to the paper’s earlier (incorrect) claim that an Israeli official “distorted” a the amount of sanctions relief that Iran would get from its deal with the United States.
Who Were the Fatalities?
Of those detailed by B’Tselem (through February), only two fatalities were female (57 years old and 2 years old). The rest were males, mostly spanning the ages of 19 through 35. The exceptions were two teenagers, 15 and 16. According to B’Tselem, the majority of those killed were militants or were engaged in attacks on Israel when they were killed. The NGO acknowledges that the circumstances of the deaths were disputed in many of those that B’Tselem does not clearly identify as militants or being involved in hostilities when they were killed.