Scribblings: Truth about Palestinian deaths could help stop them
Feb 27, 2023 | Tzvi Fleischer
Last month in this column, I took on the media tendency to make much of the fact that there was a sharp increase in Palestinians killed in clashes with Israel in the West Bank last year – without noting that those killed were overwhelmingly (at least 85%) armed terrorists or individuals killed while carrying out acts of violence.
Following up on that story, please look at the image below showing the 36 Palestinians “martyred” in January of this year, as assembled by a Palestinian news channel:
Now have a look at the annotations to that image produced by Abu Ali, an Israeli blogger with a background in military intelligence:
All those marked in red – 31 out of the 36 – are either acknowledged members of terrorist groups, or died while carrying out attacks or participating in armed clashes with Israeli troops. The symbols identify the terror group they belonged to, and Abu Ali provides detailed information on each case, including sources.
And what of the five innocent victims? Four were residents of Jenin, where the most intense firefights took place between the IDF and militant groups, and died in the exchanges of gunfire.
The fifth innocent victim, Nayef Eiweydat, 13, sadly died of complications from wounds he received during Israel’s clashes with Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza last August.
So the evidence is again overwhelming, as the data for last year also showed, that more Palestinians are getting killed simply because there is more Palestinian terrorism and violence.
Another frequent misuse of data on Palestinian casualties is emotive but misleading claims about numbers of Palestinian “children” being killed. For instance, reports on casualties last year often noted that around 30 of the 150 or so Palestinians killed in the West Bank in 2022 were “children”.
Of the 36 Palestinians killed in January, six were minors under the age of 18. That sounds bad – but except for the sad case of Nayef Eiweydat mentioned above, every single one of the “children” killed was acknowledged as an armed fighter in a terrorist group, or died actively taking part in armed clashes with IDF troops. They are: Adam Ayyad, 15, fighter with the PFLP terror group; Amer Abu Zaytun, 16, fighter with the al-Aqsa’s Martyrs Brigades terror group; Wadih Abu Ramuz, 17, no known terror affiliation, but participated in an armed clash with IDF forces; Omar Khamour, 14, fighter with the PFLP terror group; and Muhammad Ali, 17, fighter with the Hamas terror group.
It is undeniably and deeply tragic that these young lives have been cut short through violence. But simply citing the number of Palestinian children killed obscures why these young people have been dying – it is because Palestinian groups are committing the horrific war crime of recruiting children as young as 14 as armed fighters.
To put a stop to these tragic deaths, this war crime is the primary reality that needs to change. And by focusing on raw numbers of Palestinian deaths, especially of children, without explaining why and how, NGOs and media outlets are preventing that reality from coming to light. They are thus inadvertently contributing to perpetuating such tragedies.
In late January, the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network hosted a “Palestine Solidarity Conference” in Melbourne. According to Green Left Weekly, US-based activist and comedian Amer Zahr told the conference not to engage in “complicated debates about ancestry, revisionist history and contested indigeneity to the land” with Zionists. Instead, Palestinian activists should “keep it simple: they [Israel] kicked us out; they stole our land; and they won’t let us back.”
Zahr did a good job of revealing the main strategy of the pro-Palestinian movement – tell a simple story, and reject the complexity introduced by things like facts, actual history and competing moral claims.
It’s hard to deny that this strategy can be quite effective in places like social media, where short emotive soundbites and graphic images rule the roost.
But simplifying in the way he proposes is tantamount to lying – even if many Palestinian activists doubtless believe the lies. This applies to all three elements of his formulation. Most Palestinian refugees fled during the 1948 war without seeing a Jewish soldier; Jews have always lived in the land Palestinians say is exclusively theirs, but which has never been a Palestinian state or nation; and the Jews who arrived in the early 20th century bought the land they lived on from its legal owners – they didn’t steal it. And while most refugees were not allowed back after the war because the Arabs were openly genocidal towards the Jews – and because this is what happens when you lose a genocidal war – Israel did offer compensation to land owners who abandoned their land in the war’s aftermath, even if only a few accepted.
Yet it is no wonder the Palestinians have failed to establish a viable state in the 75 years since then. Like Zahr, they insist on a narrative of “simple” untruths – lying to both others and themselves – making dealing successfully with the reality of their situation all but impossible.