Letter in The Australian, 1 September 2014
In her belated apology for the use of photos of dead children from the Syrian conflict to represent purported Israeli slaughter in Gaza (29 August), Sonja Karkar of Australians for Palestine claims the statistics alone tell the story. There is no question that large numbers of civilians, including children, have been killed in Gaza, and this is a tragedy. However, the oft-quoted statistics are also very dubious. They come from Gaza health authorities, under the control of Hamas, which has a clear interest in exaggerating the civilian numbers, and are passed on to UN agencies.
Israeli analyses conclude that around 50% of those killed have been known fighters.
Studies by the BBC and New York Times study found the oft-used casualty numbers to be unreliable, and that those most likely to be fighters, men between 20 and 29, make up 9% of the population but 34% of the death toll, while women and children under 15 are 71% of the population, but were only 33% of the casualties.
Furthermore, reports are now emerging that slain fighters have been wrongly listed as children and children as young as 15 have been active combatants, while Hamas blames Israel for the deaths of those who have died of natural causes, been killed by Hamas rockets falling short and striking Gaza, and even those summarily executed by Hamas as “collaborators”.
If Ms Karkar’s organisation is truly “for Palestine”, it should direct its “outrage” at Hamas, which, through its indiscriminate attacks on Israel and its contemptible human shield tactics, is ultimately responsible for all deaths in Gaza.
Senior Policy Analyst
Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council