Cooking the Books for Israel: How The NY Times Plays a Numbers Game

Jodi Rudoren today in The New York Times puts up a numbers barrier to hide the reality of Palestinian casualties in the latest spate of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The aim, as usual, is to maintain the claim of Israeli victimhood and to obscure the criminal brutality of the occupation.

In a story about four who died yesterday in alleged attacks in the region, Rudoren writes that more than 90 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 1, “about half while attacking or trying to attack Israelis and the rest during demonstrations where they clashed with Israeli soldiers.”

We are to believe from this statement that only violent activists have died at the hands of Israeli forces, but in fact, several Palestinians have been killed in circumstances that were anything but “clashes”—at checkpoints, for instance, when trigger happy troops shot and killed unarmed victims. One of the dead was a 73-year-old grandmother on her way to lunch with her sister.

To omit these cases is to ignore the findings of human rights groups that have charged Israel with committing extrajudicial executions in recent weeks, and Rudoren’s statement, in the face of their evidence, is an effort to distort the facts.

The misrepresentations do not end there, however. Rudoren goes on to say, “At the same time, 17 Israeli Jews have been killed and dozens wounded in 70 stabbings, 10 shootings and 10 vehicular attacks.”

Note what is missing here: the number of Palestinians that have been wounded and the attacks against them in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Her aim is to minimize the huge discrepancy in casualty counts by omitting the number of Palestinians wounded by Israeli forces and settlers.

Ninety compared to 70 sounds like something approaching parity, but Rudoren has deliberately omitted the logical comparison—the number of injuries. This, according to United Nations data, was 133 Israelis and 9,171 Palestinians injured as of Nov. 16.

We should ask Rudoren and Times editors why this information is missing here, in a context that cries out for full disclosure.

Beyond the full casualty count, the Times could also inform readers of other statistics that illuminate the reality of Palestinian-Israeli relations:

  • A weekly average of 150 Israeli military search and arrest operations in the West Bank last year.
  • 211 reported incidents of settler violence against Palestinians this year as of Nov. 16. (Actual incidents are daily occurrences throughout the West Bank.)
  • 50 Israeli military incursions into Gaza from Jan. 1 to Nov. 16, 2015.
  • 481 demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures as of Nov. 16 this year. (This includes homes, animal shelters, cisterns, wells and public buildings such as schools.)
  • 601 Palestinians displaced due to demolitions in 2015.
  • 6,700 Palestinian political prisoners currently held by Israel.
  • 320 Palestinian child prisoners currently in Israeli prisons.

The information for the numbers above comes from the UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs and from Addameer, a Palestinian prisoners’ rights organization. The Times, however, ignores their reports and prefers to rely on official Israeli entities. Thus, the numbers Rudoren cites for attacks and casualties are taken from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has an obvious interest in political spin.

Israel has the first and last word in the Times. The United Nations, Palestinian monitoring groups and human rights organizations are silenced while Israeli official claims are taken as fact. The word “alleged,” for instance, never appears in Rudoren’s piece today. The UN report, however, uses the term frequently, distinguishing between the claims of security forces and verified information.

In short, Times reporting on Palestine and Israel is a disgrace. Numbers are deliberately manipulated, relevant facts are censored, and the result is dishonest journalism, in spite of the newspaper’s lofty claims of providing “the complete, unvarnished truth” and “impartial” reporting. The numbers simply prove them wrong.

Barbara Erickson

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13 thoughts on “Cooking the Books for Israel: How The NY Times Plays a Numbers Game

  1. Barbara:
    Be assured your efforts in this work are appreciated. If I can send a stipend to support your endeavor notify me at the e-mail address below.


  2. The 73 year old grandmother was shot after she failed to stop and drove towards security personnel. You claim she is a civilian shot by trigger happy security. But, no evidence of this.
    You seem very focused on “numbers.” The numbers are useless for identifying who is to blame. Sadly, the Palestinians keep engaging in terrorism. Just the other day, 2 young girls tried to murder an Israeli Jew. They ended up stabbing a 70 year old Muslim. (We look a lot alike) and then got shot. The “numbers” say “1 Muslim stabbed and 2 Muslims shot.”


    • The 73-year-old grandmother was most certainly a civilian, and take a look at the video to see just how necessary it was to kill her. As for numbers, both The NY Times and the Israeli government take them very seriously indeed, expending a lot of effort to conceal and distort just how one-sided the conflict actually is.


  3. Brava, Barbara! Great stuff. Having worked at one time coaching Gulf News staff in Dubai, I was horrified to realise that the Dia Hadid with NYT in Israel is an old friend of mine. I think she’s Pal, maybe Leb, can’t remember. I keep being tempted to ask her how she can work for those people. But I find it hard to talk with her now…. Best wishes Andrew Tarnowski


    • Thanks, Andrew! It’s a small world: My grandson worked with Diaa in Lebanon when he was communications director for an NGO. I’d love to have a frank talk with her someday but doubt that will ever happen.


      • Wow, excellent reporting. Can you do a story on Unit 22? I am hearing that the Russian plane may have been hacked by this Israeli cyber unit, located just 60 miles from the crash site.


      • Thanks for the support and for your suggestions! I hope someone does the story on Unit 22; it’s not part of my beat, but there are some good folks out there who could take it up.


      • That would be amazing ! You have an excellent blog. Unit 22 has been involved in developing technology that can be used to hack an airplanes wireless systems and therefore disable any airline. The Russian Metrojet crashed 60 miles from Unit 22 and I suspect the plane was hacked, not bombed, and by Israel.


  4. We need to be constantly reminded of the root cause of the frustration and anger that boils over in Israel and Palestine from the occupation and apartheid.

    Sent from my iPad



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