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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

B'TSELEM'S FLAWED STATISTICS CONTINUED

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About Maurice Ostroff
This correspondence arose from a letter by B'Tselem objecting  to criticism of their statistics expressed by Maurice Ostroff during an interview with the Yediot Aharonot Hebrew newspaper
 
 
Letter no 7 from Sarit Michaeli - Press Officer, B'Tselem
http://www.btselem.org/
 
At 4/17/2011,06:35 PM,Sunday, Sarit Michaeli wrote:
Dear Mr. Ostroff,

As I tried to explain in my previous emails, the classification of Palestinian casualties depends on their degree of involvement in the activities of Palestinian armed groups. People who fulfill a continuous combat function in an armed group will be classified as having participated in the hostilities even if they were killed outside of combat.

The hypothetical example you have provided is bogus. The fighting in Gaza is conducted by organized armed groups who have organized command structures and memberships. If you can give a real world example of anyone befitting this fantastic description who was killed and classified by B’Tselem as a civilian, please do so. If not, please refrain from propagating false accusations against us.

Regarding your various sources on Palestinians killed in the intra-Palestinian violence, your point is unclear to me. B’Tselem’s website actually lists more casualties than the sources you provide (B’Tselem’s 18 vs Ma’an’s 11, B’Tselem’s 37 after Cast Lead +18 During Cast Lead vs. HRW’s 32). We have actually counted many more Palestinian casualties of Hamas’ violence, so based on your logic we deserve praise for our efforts.

Sarit

Letter number 8
Maurice Ostroff replied on April 22, 2011

Dear Sarit Michaeli,

Thank you for your email. Before I deal with it, I ask in all seriousness whether B'Tselem is more focused on its declared political program of acting primarily to change Israeli policy than on protecting human rights of all parties. I ask this question because of the following
declaration on your site
"As an Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and ensure that its government, which rules the Occupied Territories, protects the human rights of residents there and complies with its obligations under international law".
From the above unbalanced text, it appears that you insist that only Israel complies with its obligations under international law and that you have no interest in observing whether or not Hamas or Fatah do so.

Dealing now with your email, the hypothetical example that I quoted cannot be described by any stretch of imagination as "bogus". Rather it is an assumed situation that is likely to occur in the circumstances that you investigate continuously. It is postulated in order to understand how you would deal with it, if and when such a situation occurs as it well may. In fact it should be of more interest to B'tselem than to me, because considering hypothetical or assumed situations, testing their logical conclusions.and planning how to deal with them is an essential component of sound project management and certainly should not be avoided in an organization like B'Tselem with its huge ethical responsibilities.

In the circumstances, your refusal to answer my question unless, in your words, I provide "a real world example of anyone befitting this fantastic description" is unacceptable and I look forward to an unequivocal reply to the straightforward question as to how you would classify the theoretical casualty I described.

I would also appreciate your explanation of the method you use to distinguish between Palestinians who were killed by Palestinians and those who were killed by the IDF. As your web site lists
exactly 18, not approximately 18, it indicates that you have established this figure with certitude under very difficult after battle conditions. I therefore ask how you explain the difference between your figures and the 181 names quoted by Ma'an of those who were killed, maimed, beaten or tortured by Hamas during the Israeli war on Gaza as well as the other contradictory figures I mentioned in my previous letter. And how do you reconcile the certitude with which you quote casualty figures, with your statement on January 26, 2009 that you were unable to fully investigate reports of extra-judicial killings by Hamas or to provide the exact number of the people killed in these events, or their identity.

I have not been able to find any statistics on your web site about Palestinians who were beaten, tortured, knee-capped or otherwise maimed by Palestinians. If they are dealt with on your site please direct me to the relevant page.

Your last paragraph in which you ask for praise for counting more Palestinian victims of Hamas than quoted by others, demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of my concern about your statistics. I am not interested at all in gaining debating points. What I am very concerned about is that, because crucial decisions are made based on information that you provide, it is imperative that, like justice, such information not only be substantiated, accurate and balanced but seen to be substantiated, accurate and balanced

Sincerely

Maurice Ostroff

 

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