|Beyond Images - Briefing 11
||Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict
FIGURES: Why are there more Palestinian than Israeli victims
of the conflict?
|London - published Friday 23 August 2002
"The Palestinians have suffered nearly three times
as many deaths since the intifada began in October 2000
as the Israelis. This shows that Israel is the aggressor
and that the Palestinian people are the victims of this
Summary of Response
- The comparison is very
- Most Palestinian casualties
have been young men who have been involved in violent
attacks against Israelis at the time they died.
- Most Israeli casualties
are men, women, children, teenagers and the elderly
going about their daily lives who are deliberately targetted
by Palestinian terrorist groups.
- Most Palestinian attacks
are intercepted - were it not for this, the Israeli
casualty figure would be much higher.
- Furthermore, the method
of operation of the Palestinian groups exploits Palestinian
civilians in a cynical way and makes it inevitable that
the Palestinians will suffer greatly.
- The greater number
of Palestinian casualties does not mean that they are
the "victims" and Israel is the "aggressor".
The toll of human life
Since October 2000, over 600 Israelis have
been killed and over 4000 injured by Palestinian violence,
with over 10,000 live-fire incidents against Israeli targets.
During the same period, over 1500 Palestinians
have been killed and several thousands injured.
Israel's armed forces are equipped with
some of the best military hardware in the world - the F16s,
Merkava tanks, Apache helicopters etc.
These facts have led many people to assume
that Israel is the aggressor and that the Palestinian people
are the victims.
However, this is a misconception. While
each death and each injury is a tragedy in human terms, the
losses which Israel and the Palestinians have suffered have
completely different explanations.
Most Palestinian casualties since October 2000 have
been young men, killed in the course of involvement in acts
Most Palestinian casualties have been young
men who were involved in acts of violence at the time they
The Palestinian casualty figure includes
162 suicide bombers by the end of June 2002; armed infiltrators
who have been intercepted at Israeli checkpoints or while
attempting to break through the fences of kibbutzim or settlements;
bomb-makers whose weapons have exploded prematurely in their
weapon labs; snipers who were shot by Israeli soldiers who
returned fire; and mortar squads which have been detected.
The figure also includes over 100 self-declared
terrorist leaders who have masterminded the series of attacks,
and squads of heavily armed Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP and
Tanzim fighters who have fought against Israeli forces.
According to an Israeli think-tank which
researched the events surrounding every fatality between October
2000 and June 2002, fewer than half of Palestinian victims
were non-combatants. By contrast, almost 80% of Israeli victims
were non-combatants (survey reported in the Jerusalem Report,
July 15 2002).
Only 5% of Palestinian killed have been
women. Over 30% of Israelis who have been killed are women.
Other Israeli groups which have suffered heavily are Israeli
teenagers and the elderly. Many Israeli Arabs, Beduin and
migrant workers have also lost their lives.
Most Palestinian attacks are prevented. Thousands of
Israelis would have been killed if the attacks had "succeeded"
Most Palestinian attacks are prevented
by Israeli security forces.
Israel's defence minister claims that over
80% of Palestinian attacks fail. Israeli soldiers or border
police intercept the attackers, or their missions fail for
technical or operational reasons. Virtually every day the
Israeli media describe the latest "miraculous" escape.
The latest series of attempted Palestinian
attacks include so-called "mega-terror" attacks.
The purpose of these is to kill hundreds or even thousands
of Israelis in massive atrocities (see Beyond Images Briefing
3 - Mega-Terror: The Escalating Threat to Israel)
It is only because of Israel's constant
vigilance, and sheer miracles, that the death toll among Israelis
is not much higher.
For this reason, it is misleading for journalists
or Palestinian spokesmen to claim that the higher casualty
figure of the Palestinians "proves" that they are
right and the Israelis are wrong. It is only because of Israel's
security measures (which those same journalists and spokesmen
of course condemn) that Israel's casualties have not been
It is a matter of the parties' intentions,
as well as the results.
Israel does not target civilians - the Palestinian
terror groups do
Israel does not target deliberately Palestinian
civilians (see Beyond Images Briefing 7). Its military
operations are directed against the Palestinian groups which
have aimed their violence in a terrible and indiscriminate
way against Israeli society. Israel has been forced, reluctantly,
to use its military power to quell the attacks on its citizens,
and to seek to minimise Palestinian civilian casualties while
By contrast, the Palestinian terror groups
deliberately target civilians, aiming to kill and maim as
many as possible. These groups have adopted violence against
civilians as a doctrine. It is premeditated, their chosen
It is misleading to compare the number
of Israeli victims of the Palestinian groups which have chosen
violence, with the number of Palestinian victims of Israeli
forces which have been forced to respond to that violence.
The method of operation of Palestinian terror groups
makes it inevitable that the Palestinian people suffer greatly
Hamas, the PFLP, the Tanzim, Islamic Jihad
and the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade all operate within the West
Bank and Gaza in a way that makes Palestinian "non-combatant"
These groups have established bomb factories
in densely populated residential areas of Palestinian towns
Palestinian homes have been heavily booby-trapped,
for example during the recent battle of Jenin, in order to
kill entering Israeli troops (a practice condemned by both
Amnesty International and the UN).
During the early months of the intifada,
which witnessed many riots of stone-throwing young men and
boys, Tanzim militia gunmen routinely took up position behind
the rioters and used them as cover to fire on Israeli forces
- and then of course accused Israel of "deliberately
killing children" when Israeli forces defended themselves.
Palestinian snipers have used civilian
areas as bases from which to attack, in the apparent hope
of causing Israeli retaliation. For example, the village of
Beit Jala was used through much of 2001 for sniper attacks
against the nearby Jerusalem suburb of Gilo.
Palestinian terrorists have used the easing
of curfews to kill Israeli civilians (See Beyond Images 13
- Moshav Worker Lynched). They then condemn Israeli for tightening
curfews on civilians.
In mid-March, Israeli soldiers stopped
a Palestinian Red Crescent ambulance and upon searching it
discovered a suicide bomb belt being smuggled underneath an
innocent 6 year old boy (the International Red Cross expressed
The use by Palestinian groups of the Palestinian
people in such a cynical way contributes to the casualty figure
on the Palestinian side.
A political culture of "martyrdom" is certain
to escalate suffering
Palestinian society has widely adopted the
suicide bombers as "heroes" of the "resistance"
and "martyrs" to their cause. By their own admission,
Palestinian life may be sacrificed for ideology.
The culture of martyrdom has been echoed
by Mr Arafat himself, in his notorious speech of March 2002
calling for "a million martyrs"
The mass murder of Israeli civilians is
celebrated on the streets. Sweets are handed out to children
in the camps of Gaza. The bombing of the cafeteria at the
Hebrew University, killing 9 students in July 2002, brought
thousands of Gazans onto the streets in jubilation.
Even Palestinian funerals become transformed
into political rallies, containing blood-curdling calls for
revenge and ending with rifle and machine-gunfire.
This culture incites and inflames violence,
and ultimately brings more misery on the Palestinian people.
Those who create this atmosphere are in
no position to complain about Israel's attitude to force.
There is absolutely no Israeli equivalent to this political
The view of David Horowitz, editor of the Jerusalem
David Horowitz is editor of the Israeli
news magazine The Jerusalem Report. He is a well-known liberal.
He advocates a "viable accommodation" between Israel
and the Palestinian people, and therefore can hardly be dismissed
as "anti-Palestinian". Here is his view (written
in April 2002, at the beginning of Operation Defensive Shield):-
"Astoundingly, at a time when Yassar Arafat's strategic
embrace of terrorism is cynically, viciously, bloodily evident
every day, there are still innumerable international leaders,
policy makers and journalists who insist on viewing this escalated
conflict as one between a Palestinian David legitimately resisting
occupation and seeking statehood, and an Israeli Goliath,
knowing its independence.
The more accurate depiction is that Israeli civilians are
being terrorised by gunmen and bombers, themselves incited
to violence by a duplicitous Palestinian leadership which
urges its own Fatah killers to out-murder the Hames fundamentalists
and yearns for peace in English while advocating "martyrdom"
in Arabic. This leadership rejects Israel's legitimacy and
has manipulated its public to the depths of despair by assuring
it that Israel understands only the language of force and
brutality, and by withholding from it the fact that Israel
sought to partner the Palestinians to statehood on almost
all the territory they purport to seek".
Loss of life is a tragedy. But the casualty
figures of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples do not indicate
the rights and wrongs of the conflict, or prove that the actions
of the two parties are morally equivalent.
The Palestinian peoples' suffering in the
last two years is ultimately the result of their leaders'
embrace of fanatical and self-destructive violence