Dubious Facts

In their September 23 dispatch, “Suicide Bomber Kills 2 Police Officers in Israel; Young Woman Targeted Busy Jerusalem Bus Stop, the Scene of Previous Attacks,” Washington Post correspondents John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore force facts through Post filters. The result is an incomplete report that accepts questionable Arab figures, intimates a justification for Palestinian violence, and insinuates an Israeli responsibility for it.

According to Anderson and Moore:

Since the Beersheba attack [August 31 bombings of two buses, killing 16], Israeli forces have conducted major operations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in what the military described as efforts to target militants. The incursion and attacks have left 46 Palestinian dead, many of them civilians. In the past week, Israeli forces have killed 24 Palestinians — the highest one-week death toll in two months, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. [emphasis added]

In the Real World …

* The large majority of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces following the attacks in Beersheva have been combatants. For example, Moore herself reported (“Israeli Forces Kill 10 In West Bank Attacks,” September 16) that “Palestinian medical officials identified the dead as an 11-year-old girl struck in the head by a bullet, six militants and three Palestinian security officials. A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said troops killed nine militants. She said she had no information on the death of the child.”

Moore is describing the death of 10 people, nine of whom are not civilians. According to the Associated Press that day, “among those killed were at least seven armed fugitives …” The AP report by Karin Laub in Jerusalem also quotes the dead girl’s uncle as saying she was shot near the end of the fighting, after most troops had left. An Israeli commander in the area states that his men did not fire while withdrawing, suggesting that the girl was killed by Palestinian shots.

Similarly, Anderson (“Israel Hits Hamas Training Camp in Gaza; At Least 13 Dead As Missiles Strike In Early Morning,” September 7) describes an Israeli strike “killing at least 13 fighters and injuring 25 other people, many critically, Palestinian hospital officials and witnesses said.”

That is, given the time of day and nature of the place – a Hamas training camp – all those killed and most if not all the wounded were not civilians but members of Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement), designated by both Israel and the United States as a terrorist organization. As Anderson reports, Hamas claimed responsibility for the Beersheva murders:

In fact, according to news reports (including those in The New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, Associated Press and several briefs in The Post), Israeli counter-terrorist activities in the Gaza Strip and West Bank on September 3, 4, 9, 19 and 20 killed 15 more Palestinians. Among them were at least three Hamas leaders, an Islamic Jihad member, nine others – most if not all terrorists/gunmen or suspects – and two children.

Another Palestinian was shot on the West Bank on September 20 while hundreds, including children watched. He was murdered by members of Yasir Arafat’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade on suspicion of being an Israeli informer. The body a second Arab, another alleged informer, was found nearby.

So, as reported by The Post and other U.S. news media, there were 40 Arabs killed in the Gaza Strip and West Bank between August 31 and September 23 — 35 of whom were confirmed or likely terrorists/gunmen, three children (at least one perhaps shot by Palestinian fire), and two adults murdered by other Palestinians. According an Israeli government official, an review of Israeli press reports from September 1 – 22 shows 59 Palestinians died in Arab-Israeli violence in the territories and Israel. As for the Post’s “46 dead, many of them civilians,” the number is unsubstantiated, the description suspect. As the official noted, “Of course they [Palestinian sources] describe civilians — the terrorists don’t wear uniforms.”

Dubious Facts

Anderson and Moore write:

The bombing occurred with the Palestinian uprising about to enter its fifth year. About 2,760 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the conflict, and Palestinian guerrillas and suicide bombers have killed 998 Israelis and foreigners.

In The Real World

When The Washington Post reports casualty figures for the past four years, it almost always does it this way — using undifferentiated totals. This implies similarity between Israeli and Arab fallen and – because of the greater number of Palestinian dead – Palestinian victimization by Israelis. The Post also relies on sources such as the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, noted above. Such sources sometimes fudge distinctions between combatants and non-combatants (e.g., counting suicide bombers as civilians). The Post avoids more rigorous authorities, such as the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism (www.ict.org.il) at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel.

According to ICT, from the start of the second intifada on Sept. 27, 2000 through May 1, 2004, of the 2,806 Palestinian dead, 47% were combatants killed by Israel, another 13% Palestinian killed by other Palestinians. Thirty-five percent were non-combatants killed by Israelis, usually by accident. Three percent of Palestinian non-combatant deaths were female; 3% were people over 45.

However, of the 921 Israeli dead, 78% were non-combatants killed by Palestinians. Thirty percent were female; 25% were people over 45. They were targeted intentionally, in violation of international law. The Post continues to hide this reality.

Facts Out of Context

The Post reported that “the suicide bombing was the second in Israel in the past month after a five-month hiatus in such major attacks [the first being the August 31 Beersheva strikes].” It did not explain that the “hiatus” was due “solely to offensive operations by the Israeli security forces” and construction of the West Bank security barrier (Aryeh O’Sullivan, Jerusalem Post, September 23), that five other female would-be suicide bombers had been captured in the week before, or that a 15-year-old boy with a large bomb had been caught in the Galilee on September 21.

Neither did The Post note that the relentless campaign of anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish incitement, in which suicide bomber Zainab Abu Salem grew up, continues to be fomented by the Palestinian Authority and terrorists groups including Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Nor did the paper cite a recent Palestinian public opinion survey that shows 60 percent of West Bank and Gaza Strip Arabs support suicide attacks inside Israel proper.

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