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December 31, 2014 5:46 pm

New York Times Chooses Gaza Child to Symbolize All Child Deaths in War This Year

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Here is a scan of a page from the New York Times Magazine this past weekend, using a Gaza child named Tala Akram al-Atawi, who was killed over the summer, to symbolize all children killed in war:

From looking at this page, one would get the impression that except for South Sudan, more children were killed in Gaza than in any other conflict this year, and that more than 20% of all child deaths – the very large-font 2,500 – were caused by Israel.

When you look a little closer, you see that the Times didn’t bother to even estimate the number of children killed in Syria or Pakistan. Which is very interesting, given that this article was published soon after 132 children were brutally murdered in a Pakistan school in a single day. They weren’t killed accidentally, not as part of a larger operation: they were targeted for death.

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But none of those children merit having the New York Times write about the anguish of their families or their doctors.

The Syria Observatory for Human Rights counted 251 children killed in Syria – in October alone. Another152 in November. From April through July, more than 1,000 children were killed. It seems a reasonable estimate of more than 2,500 children killed in Syria this year alone, making the “2500” graphic a joke. It is well over double that number just including Pakistan and Syria, and publishing even a low estimate would have made the story much more effective – if the goal of the story was to show how widespread children’s deaths were.

While the 538 killed in Gaza is probably accurate and may even be high (there were some 17 year olds killed who were voluntary militants), the other numbers are ridiculously low. In South Sudan, between 50,000 and 100,000 people were killed this year – so chances are very good that far, far more than 600 children were killed. it is not out of the realm of possibility that closer to 6,000 were killed.

InIraq, some 16,000 civilians were killed this year. Historically, children have been about 9% of the civilian casualties. So it is reasonable to estimate that closer to 1,500 children were killed this year in Iraq, instead of “416.”

The NYTimes could have provided estimates, or even a low estimate, if the goal was to highlight how horrible the problem of children in war zones is.

It gets worse – because the NYT only chose certain conflicts to bother to mention. The UN lists more than 20 nations that have seen children killed or recruited as soldiers over the past couple of years – as opposed to the NYT’s 8 nations.

So why would the New York Times put up this gigantic graphic of the number “2,500” when the actual number of children killed this year from war is probably closer to (and possibly much higher than) 10,000?

Here’s a guess.

Anne Barnard had a great, tear-jerker of a story about a Gaza girl. She didn’t want to highlight it in the end of year issue without any context because CAMERA would start a letter writing campaign about their anti-Israel bias. So the Times decided to do a half-assed job of pretending that Tala al-Atawi is somehow representative of the children who have been beheaded in Iraq and Syria, raped, and slaughtered in so many other countries.

No one, outside of Hamas and its supporters, is happy that Tala Akram al-Atawi was killed. She was not a target and Israelis don’t celebrate her death.. If you are going to write a story about the horrors of war for children, in a world where children are being recruited as soldiers and targeted by crazed Islamists, she is a very poor example.

But if the real goal is to demonize Israel – and to make a half hearted attempt to hide that demonization from behind a flurry of artificially low casualty numbers from other conflicts – then the New York Times succeeded quite well.

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