Ira Straus

Deadly Media Lies about Israel Killing Civilians

Every day, the Western media deceive people worldwide into thinking that Israel is wantonly killing civilians. They do this by framing their statistics dishonestly.

“More than 28,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory military campaign, according to the Gaza Health Ministry.” That’s the daily lie in virtually all our mass media (in this case, the quotation comes from the January 12 Washington Post). Each time they say this, they make a false insinuation: that these are all civilians, and that they were all killed by Israel.

Hamas says that 28,000 Gazans have died. It wants us to assume that they’re all civilians. It wants us also to assume that Israel killed them, not Hamas-PIJ.

These are both false assumptions. But Hamas is able to count on the Western media to make them, pass them on to the general public, and construct accusations against Israel on the basis of the false premise that this is a number of civilians killed by Israelis.

During the previous war started by Hamas, it ordered its hospitals and health ministry to conflate all deaths, civilian and military. It did this for propaganda purposes: to inflate the number, and give a false impression that they’re all civilians. It was confident already a decade ago that it could rely on the Western media to use its numbers in this dishonest manner.

To give an actual civilian death count, the media would have to find out, first, how many military dead are being counted in this Hamas number, then subtract them from the total deaths. Hamas is not likely to help our media figure that out, Israel would — if Western media would bother to ask it.

In fact, Israel has regularly reported how many Hamas-PIJ fighters it estimates itself to have killed. The number has gone up week by week. It is presently over 10,000.

Do the math.

28,000-10,000 = 18,000. So: 18,000 civilians would have died in this war.

18,000 / 10,000 = 2.

So: the military death ratio would be about 2:1.

I say “would be”, because we don’t know for sure. It could be that not all of those 10,000 are included in Hamas’ 28,000 figure. It could be that the total is dead is more or fewer than 28,000. It could be that more or fewer than 10,000 Hamas-PIJ fighters have been killed. The actual ratio could be anywhere from 1:1 to 3:1.

But what we can be sure of is this: even 3:1 ratio is a low ratio, by global standards.

If the media investigated the numbers and acknowledged the actual best-estimate ratio publicly, it would compel them to withdraw their accusations against Israel. Instead, they would have apologize for having grotesquely smeared it for months. They would have to credit it for its extraordinary care to avoid killing civilians.

Is this why they don’t look into the numbers — that the media don’t want to have to stop accusing Israel?

Having an honest mainstream media would really help here. They would investigate the numbers. They would ask in detail about them. They would look into the sources and methodology for the estimates. They would try to verify the relevant facts. And, whatever the ratio they came up with, an honest media would draw the honest conclusion from it.

Our media don’t do this. They fail to act as news media. Instead they just repeat their narrative about “indiscriminate Israeli bombing”.

Is it an innocent mistake? No. They have the information to know that it is the opposite of the truth. They have been given this information repeatedly, for months. They go on saying what they want to say anyway, with reckless disregard for the truth.

So yes, it is a lie. A very big lie. And a slander, in the common law meaning of the word, shielded though the media usually are from the application of slander law.

Why the constant media lying?

The obvious reason is this: If they did their job of looking into the facts, it would interfere with their preference for accusing Israel. It would undermine their ability thus far to ignore the facts about the ratio.

And even that is not the only deception embedded in the numbers given, selectively, by the media. There is at least one more:

Of the perhaps 18,000 civilians killed, we do not know how many were killed by Hamas-PIJ rockets that misfired and fell inside Gaza, rather than by Israel as insinuated by the media.

What we do know is that Hamas claims that 500 Gazans were killed near a hospital by what turned out to have been a fallen PIJ rocket. Hamas still pretends this was done by an Israeli bomb, so it probably includes this number in 28,000 that it wants the West to blame on Israel.

If one fallen PIJ rocket could kill hundreds of Gazans, how many have been killed by the estimated 200-2,000 fallen Hamas-PIJ rockets? It could easily be in the thousands.

These numbers too have to be subtracted from the total.

Doing the math, we get a military: civilian death ratio of probably less than 2:1.

This is a phenomenally low ratio! We Americans kill disproportionately more civilians in our wars than that.

Other countries are far worse. In most wars around the world in comparable urban fighting circumstances, the average ratio is approximately 10 civilians killed :1 enemy combatant killed, according to a UN study.

“But do we really count as journalists, if we’ve been so totally wrong all this time?”

That is the question that ought to be on the lips of every genuine reporter: “Who are we, in reality? Why have we falsified reality on such a colossal scale? How can it be that we have been accusing Israel daily, for three months, of indiscriminately killing masses of civilians, when in fact Israel is being far more discriminate and protective of civilians during war than almost any other country in the world?”

It is an important question.

How can it be that the news media have deceived the world this brazenly, this consistently, this repeatedly? How could they have made this really big lie, on a daily basis?

It is not an innocent mistake. The media have been fostering global antisemitism every day by this gigantic lie.

Only when the media are willing to answer this question honestly will they truly understand themselves. And only then will they have a chance of ceasing to do so much evil.

About the Author
Chair, Center for War/Peace Studies; Senior Adviser, Atlantic Council of the U.S.; formerly a Fulbright professor of international relations; studied at Princeton, UVA, Oxford. Institutions named above for identification purposes only; views expressed herein are solely the responsibility of the author.
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