In an unfortunate post to his blog, King Banaian, a professor of economics at SCSU, describe the Gazan casualties in the 2009 U.S.-Israeli offensive not as victims but rather as terrorists deserving to die.

Currently, there are two or three conflicting accounts of causalities for this latest attack.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), a nongovernmental organization, places the death toll at 1,284. The PCHR says that 894 (70%) of the dead were civilians (280 of which were children and minors under the age of 17, and 111 were women). So what about the other 390 dead? PCHR says 167 (43%) of them were civil police. This means 233 (17%) of all the dead were Hamas militant combatants. (Hamas claims this number is only 158.) The PCHR also claims 4,336 were wounded, most of whom were civilians.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health (PMoH) has slightly different numbers. They claim 1,324 people died during the attack, with most being civilians, and a total of 5,400 were injured. (Source.)

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), Israel’s military, however have come up with different numbers. The IDF claims it has been able to identify 1,200 of the 1,338 (?) claimed to have been killed. Of 1,200 that they’ve identified, the IDF claims 580 (48%) “had been conclusively ‘incriminated’ as members of Hamas and other terrorist groups.” The IDF also claim 300 (25%) of these 1,200 dead were “women, children aged 15 and younger and men over the age of 65.” (Note the difference in the definitions of “minor.”) The IDF says, though, that some of these women were actually terrorist fighters. This leaves 320 unaccounted for. The IDF says these are all men. (Source.) Of course, we know not all men are combatants. The IDF seems to disagree. I also assume this means they have not been able to identify the additional 124 the PMoH claim were killed. Unfortunately, the IDF does not discriminate between a civilian police force and military combatants. Police are meant to keep the peace and enforce laws–they are a branch of civilian emergency services, like paramedics and firemen. There is no more justification for counting police forces as non-collateral damage than there is for a businessman, a nurse, a teacher, or any other ordinary civilian.

The Israeli casualties don’t seem to be in dispute. It’s been reported that 13 Israelis have died, 3 (23%) of whom were civilians; the other 10 were soldiers (four of these soldiers were killed by friendly fire). However, Hamas claims they killed at least 80 Israeli soldiers. It was also reported that 518 Israelis were wounded, 336 (65%) of whom were soldiers and 182 (35%) who were civilians.

So whose numbers do we go with? Well, we could go with the IDF, which is generally recognized as a component of the Israeli propaganda system, but usually quoted by the U.S. media nonetheless. Or we could go with the group that is affiliated with the International Commission of Jurists and has won two European human rights awards (1996 French Republic Award on Human Rights and the 2002 Bruno Kreisky Award for Outstanding Achievements in the Area of Human Rights). In fact, it is the Palestinian’s numbers that are used by the UN and the Red Cross; an Under-Secretary General of the UN says the Palestinian numbers are not even seriously disputed.

But the numbers simply act to reinforce what we already know, which is that Israel does not abide by the principle of distinction or proportionality, not to mention the illegality in launching their attacks in the first place. In fact, we always find very high rates of civilian casualties wherever the IDF goes. Gaza is just the latest example. There are plenty more, which are even more agreed upon. The IDF always attacks civilians targets. Naturally, this causes tremendous amounts of damage to the infrastructure, which usually goes unreported.

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