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Half the story: What @IDFSpokesperson leaves out about Gaza

on 17 Comments
This post first appeared on the Palestine Center blog Permission to Narrate:
If a rocket from Gaza falls in the middle of the desert, does it make a sound?
It does if you are on Twitter. Regular updates on just about every projectile fired from Gaza is reported by the Israeli military’s official twitter account @IDFSpokesperson as well as from the accounts of other Israeli military figures like that of spokesperson @AvitalLeibovich.

But what about projectiles fired by Israel into Gaza? You’d think that since this is actual Israeli military activity the spokespeople from the Israeli military would provide this information.

I often ask the @IDFspokesperson and @AvitalLeibovich to provide this information to allow for a clearer, more accurate picture of the cross border dynamics of violence. One such occasion was on last Friday – you can see the convo on Twitter below:
She clearly dodges the question and finally refers me to their blog after I made it clear that her silence might be indicative of something they are hiding.

I checked out the blog and even though they have plenty of numbers on projectiles from Gaza, they don’t present similar data of their own activities. I wasn’t expecting them to present such information since the objective of the Israeli military spokesperson is to protect the image of the Israeli military, a feat that is increasingly difficult with every passing year of a soon to be 45 year old occupation and in an era where information is readily available via the internet.

So, what are they hiding? What is it about the numbers that they won’t tell you – the data on Israeli military fire into Gaza – that prevents them from sharing it in the same fashion they share information on projectiles from Gaza?
Before even asking Leibovich on Friday, I already had the data I was inquiring about. As part of our ongoing project on Israeli Settler Violence (we just released a comprehensive report on this last week) we coded data on Palestinian projectile launches from Gaza on a daily basis to understand how Palestinian violence, either from Gaza or in the West Bank, relates to settler violence (more on that here).

In 2011, for example, we recorded approximately 465 launches which produced 743 projectiles (some launches involve firing more than one projectile). This number, 743, is more than the number, 620, Leibovich reported in her Tweet. I believe this is because we count launches, including projectiles which are fired in Gaza and land in Gaza, while the figure Leibovich cites is a count of projectiles actually landing inside Israel.

As far as data on Israeli projectiles sent into Gaza, this is the information Leibovich and the Israeli military don’t want to reveal. We’ve got a very good idea, however, of most of it since the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) keeps detailed data on casualties in Palestine. By querying this database we can quickly learn a great deal about the numbers Leibovich is hesitant to report. Despite readily producing information on rockets from Gaza in 2011, here is some of the information the Israeli Military doesn’t report in the same fashion:
In 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza have been responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where women or children and the injury of 468 Palestinians of which 143 where women or children. The methods by which these causalities were inflicted by Israeli projectiles breaks down as follows: 57% or 310, were caused by Israeli Aircraft Missile fire, 28% or 150 where from Israeli live ammunition, 11% or 59 were from Israeli tank shells while another 3% or 18 were from Israeli mortar fire.
Conversely, rocket fire from Gaza in 2011 has resulted in the death of 3 Israelis. I’ve tried to find an accurate aggregate number of Israelis injured by projectiles from Gaza in 2011 but haven’t found anything yet. I’d be happy to update this post with that information once available. I think, however, the point is quite clear when it comes to the numbers; the imbalance is tremendous.
Leibovich and the Israeli military provide constant updates about projectiles from Gaza, the vast majority of which do not cause casualties, while telling you almost nothing about projectiles they fire into Gaza and the tremendous amount of casualties they cause.

The Israeli military spokespeople are engaged in outright propaganda to portray a completely different reality about the dynamics of violence in and around Gaza. It is not offering transparency or real information, which is a shame for a government with ‘democratic’ pretensions.

But that is not all. It is not just about the shear imbalance of violence that the Israeli military wants to skew in the opposite direction. There is more that the data tells us. Last year, in a post about this issue, we showed how media portrayed a flare-up in cross border violence as a result of increased rocket fire while actual tweets from individuals in Gaza revealed that destructive Israeli strikes preceded and in fact provoked the upsurge in rockets. Of course, the events that came before the upsurge in Gaza-launched projectiles did not get reported.
Now, with the daily data we have from UN OCHA and the data we have for launches from Gaza, we can graph the two lines next to each other.
  (Click to enlarge)
As you can see in the chart above, increases in the red line, which signifies Palestinian casualties, typically precede increases in the blue line, which signifies launches of projectiles from Gaza. This is particularly evident before the most significant spikes in the blue line. This suggests that Palestinian launches may be explained, in part, as a response to Israeli projectiles which kill or injure Palestinians.
To understand the effect of this, I ran the numbers through a statistical analysis to understand the individual effects one day’s Palestinian casualties had on the next day’s launches. What I found was that both Palestinian injuries and deaths were significantly and positively correlated with launches. Palestinian deaths from Israeli projectiles into Gaza led to a 22% increase in rocket launches the following day, Palestinian injuries led to an additional 4% increase.
Absent the upsurge of launches that occurs after Palestinian casualties inflicted by Israeli projectiles, projectiles from Gaza are few and far between. The three Israelis who died as a result of Palestinian projectile fire died during periods of upsurge provoked by preceding Israeli projectile fire into Gaza. In fact, 75% of launches from Gaza came during these upsurges provoked by Israeli fire.
Israeli fire into Gaza, however, is not statistically correlated with the previous day’s launches.
This suggests that it is the Israelis and not the Palestinians who, through their capacity to actually inflict high casualties with their projectiles, control escalation in cross border dynamics. While all launches from Gaza cannot be explained as responses to Israeli fire, most of them are. Of course, this is not a reality that the @IDFspokesperson or Leibovich wants to convey and that is perhaps another important reason why they are not so forthcoming with other information.
As mentioned above, I’m not waiting for them to put relevant information before you to provide the context necessary to see through the propaganda campaign. When looking at the complete picture, instead of the facade built by the Israeli Military and its spokespeople, we can better understand what is really going on.
Ultimately, this highlights a failed Israeli policy toward Gaza, not simply because it involves the inhumane collective punishment of 1.7 million people, but also because its approach to projectiles from Gaza actually generates far more projectiles than it prevents.
Yousef Munayyer

Yousef Munayyer is Executive Director of The Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, The Palestine Center.

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17 Responses

  1. annie on February 20, 2012, 11:47 am

    this is an excellent report. thank you.
    the click to enlarge feature is not working

  2. JohnAdamTurnbull on February 20, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Thanks for the data. Can I ask you to speculate?

    There is no military capability yet, among Gaza militants, to kill any significant number of people in Israel. Is there even an intent? Is simple harassment more valuable? Or are the militants just supporting their own morale?

  3. pabelmont on February 20, 2012, 2:09 pm

    Wonderful analysis. Gives the lie to claims of Israeli rocket fire as retaliation or as prevention, because if it were retaliation, and if Gazan rockets were fired the same way (day-after-injury), the mutual rocket fire would be continuous, which it is not.

    If Israeli firing were meant as prevention, it clearly has not worked but Israeli holding-fire would have worked (overwhelmingly) by this chart.

    JohnAdamTurnbull asks if Gazans really wished to hit people. My guess is that the Israelis would totally pulverize Gaza if the rocketry got even slightly accurate. Israelis love to injure people but not to be injured.

    • piotr on November 10, 2012, 3:07 pm

      This assumes that IDF lacks prescience. For example, tropical storm Sandy pre-punished a number of cities and states that predominantly vote for Democrats and which were about to do it once more. In fact, many IDF announcements specifically declare the gift of prescience or mind reading, killing people who were about to fire rockets or were planning to do something bad.

      I suspect that Yousef, being a Muslim, cannot conceive that IDF may employ prophets.

  4. Cliff on February 20, 2012, 2:21 pm

    this is a very very important report to combat hasbarats.


    thanks to the author for the excellent work

  5. Clif Brown on February 20, 2012, 3:12 pm

    A similar tally might compare the number of arrows shot by the American Indians at the white man vs the number of bullets shot by the US Cavalry at American Indians. one side is resisting and the other side oppressing.

    The American Indians were composed of many tribes with sub-factions within those tribes. Not all resisted with violence and certainly no one had control of all violence directed at the white man.

    The US Cavalry, like the IDF, was a military force deployed by and directed by a central government with complete control over all violence by uniformed personnel directed at American Indians – it was a policy.

    We know from comments generated by the recent Palestinian school bus accident that the sentiment of “the only good Indian is a dead Indian” is alive and well in Israel.

    The capture of American sentiments on Israel by hasbara is evident from outrage that is voiced at the Gaza rockets and silence about IDF turkey shoots. Anyone who knows the history of the Zionist project in Palestine should not be even slightly surprised that, like the American Indians, there are those who resist with violence.

    No doubt there were many Americans in the 19th century who were outraged and cried “the Indians are shooting arrows at us!”

    Was the destruction of the Native Americans due to the fact that they resisted with violence? It’s a laughable proposition in hindsight, but you can be sure there were many white Americans who convinced themselves at the time that the US government was performing a service to the country and civilization by sweeping violent animals from the plains.

    • Chaos4700 on February 20, 2012, 7:19 pm

      A very cogent post. This is the sort of intelligent reply we need to have on hand whenever an Israeli tries to invoke US treatment of Native Americans as a fig leaf for their own crimes of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

    • eljay on February 20, 2012, 9:52 pm

      >> It’s a laughable proposition in hindsight, but you can be sure there were many white Americans who convinced themselves at the time that the US government was performing a service to the country and civilization by sweeping violent animals from the plains.

      Like the Israelis, Americans had gawd on their side.

  6. The Hasbara Buster on February 20, 2012, 3:39 pm

    Spectacular post!

    Hasbara is best rebutted with FACTS. Not that there’s a shortage of them, but it takes some time and dedication to compile them, and you’ve taken the trouble to do so.

    Now, quite apart from the fact that spikes in Palestinian rockets are preceded by high numbers of Israeli projectiles fired on Gaza, it should always be underscored that while Palestinians engage in cyclical violence, Israelis exert permanent violence through the outposts illegally erected on Palestinian land.

  7. FreddyV on February 20, 2012, 5:19 pm

    I wish I’d had this back in November when I was sent this email (names and email addresses removed):

    FYI. Such restraint by Isreal!

    Wonder why the BBC doesn’t mention this?

    Sent: Tue 01/11/11 5:51 PM
    Subject: Fwd: FW: Rocket power

    Subject: FW: Rocket power
    Date: Tue, 1 Nov 2011 14:51:07 +0000

    Hi all
    Not sure if you’ve seen this.

    We all think that we know what is happening in the Middle East, but how many knew that things were this bad? You won’t find this in the media!

    The number of various types (and payload) of rockets fired into Israel by the month and below that, a map showing the range of each type fired into Israel. I hope this is informative.

  8. Chaos4700 on February 20, 2012, 7:17 pm

    The numbers always reveal the IDF as the real terrorists.

  9. lib319 on February 21, 2012, 8:04 am

    “we coded data on Palestinian projectile launches from Gaza on a daily basis”

    “In 2011, for example, we recorded approximately 465 launches which produced 743 projectiles (some launches involve firing more than one projectile). ”

    Do the times of the launches you recorded tally with the times given by the IDF?

  10. Justice Please on February 21, 2012, 9:02 am

    Yousef, it’s great that you get in their faces and not let propaganda be spewed unchecked. The fastest way to end injustice, is to expose it for all to see.

    “The IDF will continue to defend the people of Israel”

    Well, and Palestinians (including Ccccchhhamas) will continue to defend the Palestinian people from that ethno-state that thinks it has a right to control Gazas borders and occupy much of the West Bank.

  11. Charon on February 21, 2012, 12:57 pm

    How the IDF ‘neutralizes’ terrorists: Intelligence has stated that a terrorist who fired a rocket at Israel is wounded and in a hospital. Destroy the hospital

    • Chaos4700 on February 21, 2012, 1:38 pm

      Plan B: Intelligence states that a suspected terrorists lives in an apartment with his wife, kids, extended family and several other families who have nothing to do with him. Destroy the apartment and kill everyone inside.

      Plan C: Intelligence states that there is a UN warehouse of food and medicine. Destroy the warehouse by setting fire to it with white phosphorous, then mercilessly attacking “terrorist” fire fighters.

      Plan D: ‘D’ for Dalet? Well, that one’s already been done before.

  12. Eva Smagacz on February 22, 2012, 3:08 pm

    The Human Rights Watch report spanned the period between September 2005 and May 2007, during which four Israelis and at least 61 Palestinians were killed and some 370 people – most of them Palestinians – were wounded.

    From September 2005 until May, Palestinian gunmen fired almost 2,700 locally made rockets toward Israel, killing four Israeli civilians and wounding 75, according to Human Rights Watch.

    Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri rejected the report’s comparison to the use of crude rockets with the warplanes, attack helicopters and high-tech weapons at Israel’s disposal. “It makes equivalence between an occupation and an occupied people,”he said. “We are pushed to defend Palestinian civilians with the means that we have.”

    Between September 2005 and November 2006, the Israeli army fired more than 14,600 artillery shells into Gaza. Shells fired close to populated areas killed 59 people and wounded 270, most, if not all civilians, the report said.

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