US News & World Report says that the State Department report on international terrorism released Friday includes a subtle shift in its reporting on Israel: it includes UN estimates of civilian killings in Gaza, which State failed to itemize in years gone by.
In an article titled, “Does the State Department Terror Report Contain a Subtle Slap at Israel?” Matthew Cella of US News contrasts several reports by the State Department, beginning with a quotation from page 172 of the one released last week. Here’s the quote:
“According to publicly available data, the conflict [in summer 2014] led to the deaths of 2,205 Palestinians and 74 persons in Israel, among them 67 soldiers, six Israeli civilians, and one Thai civilian. The Israeli government estimated that half of those killed in Gaza were civilians and half were combatants, while the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) recorded 1,483 civilian Palestinian deaths – more than two-thirds of those killed – including 521 children and 283 women.”
While unremarkable on its face, the disparity between figures reported by the Israeli government and figures compiled by the U.N. was highly unusual, as was the inclusion of a breakdown of civilian casualties – particularly women and children – among the Palestinians.
Consider the overview in the same State Department report in 2009, the first produced under the Obama administration. That document outlined the beginnings of the 22-day military campaign called Operation Cast Lead that started on Dec. 27 – but it did so with far less detail.
“By some reports, Israeli military operations in 2008 killed an estimated 782 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, including at least 315 by year’s end as a result of Israeli Air Force (IAF) airstrikes.”
The next year, the administration in its overview detailed even less about Palestinian casualties in the conflict.
“On January 3, Israeli forces launched a ground invasion. Hostilities between Israeli forces and HAMAS militants continued through January 18, and the Israeli withdrawal of troops was completed on January 21,” the 2010 report said. “Israeli officials believed Operation Cast Lead helped achieve a level of deterrence, as rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza dropped precipitously following the conflict.”
So State did not itemize these killings from Cast Lead, in 2008-3009– when Israel killed 1391 Palestinians, 344 of them children, 110 of them women, according to B’Tselem.
Cella goes from slap to jab on twitter: “Was Obama admin jabbing #Israel by including Palestinian civilian casualty # in terror report?”
I’d emphasize that these numbers are published in the context of Israel’s battle with terrorist organizations, per the State Department. It’s not calling Israel a terrorist. But Cella speculates that the change in these accounting methods is an “unusual implied criticism of Israel” and maybe even an indication that U.S. policy is shifting. Yes I know, a mere tremor. About 2 on the Richter scale. A straw in the wind. But we’ll take it.