Washington Post continues to publish bogus Gaza stats

August 8

Now that, as noted in my post below, both the New York Times and the BBC have acknowledged that no one really knows what percentage of Gazans killed in the current fighting are civilians, and that statistics coming from the UN and the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health are unreliable and don’t seem to jibe with the high percentage of adult males of fighting age killed, perhaps it’s time for the Washington Post to stop publishing its bogus “Gaza counter,” which relies  on UN statistics.

The explanatory heading claims that these figures “represent the best available data,” but that is nonsense; they represent unconfirmed propaganda emanating from a totalitarian government, washed through a complicit UN.  Let’s recall the known and public information as to where the UN gets these statistics, from the Times article: according to a UN spokesman “those numbers came from cross-referencing research by several human rights groups, though he declined to say how many, which ones or what methods they used.” In other words, the Post (and everyone else) not only can’t independently confirm these figures, it has no real idea how the UN tabulated them, and what methods, if any, the “human rights groups” and the UN itself used to ensure they aren’t regurgitating Hamas propaganda.

In fact, back on August 4th, the Post itself published a piece that started this way: “How many people have been killed in Gaza and in Israel since the conflict between Hamas and Israel’s military began in early July? And who are the dead?  As in any war zone, with its chaos and fast-moving events, the answers are difficult to know with precision. And as in any war zone, the answers emerging in Gaza are colored by charges of propaganda and media ma­nipu­la­tion.”  Yet the Post’s Gaza counter claims to know, based on “the best available data,” that  1396 of those killed were Palestinian civilians, and of those, 222 were women and 418 were children.  (Note, even accepting these statistics as a given, the suspiciously high ratio of adult male to adult female “civilian” casualties.)

I reached out to Martin Baron, executive editor of the Post, for comment on the above.  Here’s his response: “The graphic is clear about sourcing as well as the difficulty of accurately tracking this sort of information. The Post also links within the graphic to its own story regarding questions that surround how casualties are calculated. Readers are free to accept or reject data provided by authorities in Gaza or Israel or with the United Nations.  We are in the process of adding to the text that introduces the graphic. That will note that Israel disputes these numbers and provide a link to Israel’s own analysis.”

The note about Israel’s objections and the link are now up. Not surprisingly, my take is that this is an improvement but inadequate.

 

David Bernstein is the George Mason University Foundation Professor at the George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, VA. He is the author of Rehabilitating Lochner: Defending Individual Rights Against Progressive Reform (2011); You Can't Say That! The Growing Threat to Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws (2003);
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Jonathan H. Adler · August 8