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December 7, 2022 11:14 am

Does the Moral High Ground Belong to the Side That Loses More People?

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avatar by Akiva Van Koningsveld


Children stay in a bomb shelter following rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel, in Ashkelon, Israel August 7, 2022. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

As Israel struggles to contain the deadliest surge in Palestinian terrorism since 2008, the media is seemingly resorting to the dubious practice of presenting casualty numbers like a soccer scoreboard — as mere statistics without proper context.

Take, for example, these two paragraphs from a December 1 Reuters story on an IDF counter-terror raid in the West Bank “Martyrs’ capital” of Jenin:

The Palestinian health ministry said 210 Palestinians have been killed this year, including those who died during a brief conflict in Hamas-ruled Gaza in August. They included militants and civilians.

At the same time, 23 civilians and eight security personnel have been killed in Palestinian attacks in Israel and the West Bank, according to Israeli military figures, which show 136 Palestinians killed but do not include Gaza casualties.

The wire service is not alone in utilizing what HonestReporting previously dubbed “scoreboard journalism.”

Indeed, over the past 12 months, a sample of 12 leading US news organizations, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN, ran almost 200 articles asserting that 2022 is on track to be the “deadliest year for Palestinians since the United Nations began recording such data in 2005.”

Yet these raw numbers fail to acknowledge that while Israeli fatalities have, by a large margin, been innocent civilians, the majority of Palestinians killed in recent months were engaged in acts of violence.

According to an HonestReporting count based on open-source intelligence, at least 61.6 percent of the 143 Palestinians who died in the West Bank this year were shot while attacking Israeli civilians or security forces with guns, knives, explosives, Molotov cocktails, rocks, or cars. An additional 27.3% died during violent riots in the disputed territory.

Meanwhile, almost half of the Palestinian casualties were claimed as members of US-designated terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Some 18% belonged to Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party.

It is imperative to note that the PA Health Ministry, which in October expressed its “praise and respect” for attacks carried out by the Lions’ Den terror group, routinely refers to armed assailants as “civilians,” and was even caught describing a Fatah terror commander as a “doctor.”

Moreover, the PA statistic cited by Reuters ostensibly includes the tragic deaths of Rayan Suleiman and Walid al-Sharif, who died of heart attacks that were likely unrelated to their encounters with Israeli troops, as well as two accidental road deaths and cases that remain under investigation.

The moral high ground does not necessarily belong to the side that loses more people — particularly if those people are killed trying to slaughter innocent civilians. By uncritically echoing the Palestinian death tally, the media are essentially turning reality on its head: What is clearly the latest Palestinian assault on Israelis is made out to look like a campaign of aggression by the Jewish state.

With Jenin-based armed groups vowing to “move forward in Jihad against this usurping occupier [Israel, sic] … until Jerusalem,” the media should clarify once and for all that there is no moral equivalence between murderous terrorists and their victims.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

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