Statistical analysis indicates most dead Palestinians chose conflict with
Israeli forces The "al-Aqsa Intifada" - An Engineered Tragedy
20 June 2002 International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism
[Full report http://www.ict.org.il/researchreport/researchreport.htm ]
A just-completed study at the International Policy Institute for
Counter-Terrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya provides
an in-depth look at the fatalities on both sides of the current
Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Based on thorough research using Palestinian
and Israeli open sources, the study provides a breakdown of those killed by
age, sex, and combatant status. The results lead to some surprising
Combatants, Noncombatants, and Responsibility
Around 1450 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the
"al-Aqsa Intifada", compared to more than 525 Israelis. Numbers like
these are used to create an image of lopsided slaughter, with Israel
cast as the villain. But such numbers distort the true picture: They
lump combatants in with noncombatants, suicide bombers with innocent
civilians, and report Palestinian "collaborators" murdered by their
own compatriots as if they had been killed by Israel.
More meaningful figures show that Israel is responsible for around 568
Palestinian noncombatant deaths, while Palestinians have killed more than
420 Israeli noncombatants. Over 50 percent of the Palestinians killed were
actively involved in fighting - and this does not include stone-throwers or
"unknowns". And Palestinians are directly responsible for the deaths of at
least 185 of their own number - one out of every eight Palestinians killed.
On the Israeli side, almost 80 percent of those killed have been
noncombatants. While Israelis account for only about 25 percent of the total
"Intifada" fatalities, they represent about 40 percent of the noncombatant
+ Breakdown by Gender
Women and girls account for 30 percent of all Israelis killed in the
conflict, and almost 40 percent of the Israeli noncombatants killed by
Palestinian fatalities, in contrast, have been consistently and
overwhelmingly (over 95 percent) male; even when combatants (almost all of
whom have been male) are removed from consideration, fewer than 8 percent of
Palestinians killed by Israel have been female.
In absolute terms, even though more Palestinians than Israelis have
been killed overall, Israeli female fatalities have far outnumbered
Palestinian female fatalities. If we include all reliable reports of
women and girls killed in the conflict, the ratio is 152 Israeli
females compared to 61 Palestinian females - a ratio of 2.5 to 1. If
we restrict the comparison to noncombatant Israeli females killed by
Palestinians and noncombatant Palestinian females killed by Israel,
the difference is even more dramatic: 42 Palestinians compared to 150
Israelis, a ratio of more than 3.5 to 1.
+ Breakdown by Age
Israeli combatant fatalities are concentrated in a narrow age range,
as we would expect for soldiers in a uniformed army. Israeli
noncombatants, in contrast, display a near-random age distribution.
This is equally unsurprising, given that these fatalities are the
result of terrorist attacks on accessible civilian targets.
Palestinian fatalities present a quite different picture. Palestinian
combatant fatalities, like those on the Israeli side, are concentrated in a
narrow age range - although this concentration is slightly less pronounced.
(This is unsurprising, given that Palestinian combatants are mostly members
of unofficial terrorist/guerilla organizations.) Palestinian noncombatant
fatalities, however, show an age distribution completely unlike that on the
Israeli side. Instead of a "sloppy" distribution over a broad range of ages,
Palestinian noncombatant fatalities are heavily concentrated among teenagers
and young adults.
+"Mature" and Young Fatalities
A more specific focus on older and younger victims of the conflict
further highlights the difference between Palestinian and Israeli
noncombatant fatalities. When we compare the "mature" noncombatant
Israelis killed by Palestinians to the "mature" Palestinian
noncombatants killed by Israel, we see that the Israeli death toll far
exceeds the Palestinian. In fact, Palestinians have killed at least
154 noncombatant Israelis aged 40 and over, while Israelis have killed
69 Palestinian noncombatants in the same age bracket. The ratio is
more than two to one.
When we look at children and teenaged noncombatants killed in the
conflict, we see a rather strange pattern. Among both Palestinians and
Israelis, the number of young children (under the age of 8-9 years
old) is comparatively small (although more young Israeli children were
killed as a proportion of total fatalities). The number of Palestinian
children killed begins to increase at about 10 years of age, and jumps
up dramatically between the ages of 12 and 14. However, the increase
consists entirely of boys - the number of Palestinian girls killed
shows no age-trend, and is very low for all ages.
Young Israelis killed by Palestinians show a different profile: Both
boys and girls show an increase starting at age 14 (perhaps a year
earlier for boys), and just as many teenaged girls were killed as
+Another Look at Age and Gender
It is worth taking another look at the relationship between age and
gender among the noncombatant victims of the conflict. If we look at
Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel, we see that the few female
fatalities appear to be randomly distributed by age. The male
fatalities, on the other hand, are overwhelmingly young (although, as
noted above, relatively few are below the age of ten). To be more
precise, 66 percent of all Palestinian noncombatants killed by Israel
were boys and men between the ages of 13 and 30.
Israeli noncombatants killed by Palestinians show a much closer
balance between the sexes - as mentioned above, three out of eight
were women and girls. In fact, slightly more girls than boys were
killed below the age of 20; and the ratio is nearly one-to-one for
those aged 60 and over.
In contrast to the high percentage of male Palestinian noncombatants
between 13 and 30 years of age, only 27 percent of Israeli
noncombatants killed by Palestinians were males from 13 to 30 years
+The Significance of the Statistical Patterns
The statistics show that Israeli noncombatants over the last 21 months
have been killed essentially at random, as Palestinian terrorists have
chosen to attack whichever civilian targets were accessible.
Palestinian fatalities, however, have been strongly concentrated
within a particular population segment - teenaged boys and young men.
Population segments like women or older people are not military
targets; thus their higher prevalence among Israeli fatalities is an
indication of the degree to which Palestinian terrorists have killed
Israelis simply for the "crime" of being Israeli.
In contrast, Palestinian noncombatant fatalities have been
overwhelmingly young (but over the age of 11) and male. This pattern
of Palestinian deaths completely contradicts accusations that Israel
has "indiscriminately targeted women and children." It is clear that
the vast majority of the Palestinians killed did not die as the result
of random Israeli attacks on inhabited areas, or on mixed-sex crowds
at roadblocks and the like. There appears to be only one reasonable
explanation of this pattern: that Palestinian men and boys engaged in
behavior that brought them into conflict with Israeli armed forces.
Certainly, at least after the first few days of the conflict, these
Palestinian men and boys (or, in the case of the younger ones, their
parents and teachers) have to have been aware that they were placing
themselves in harm's way.
In fact, the highly specific pattern of Palestinian noncombatant
fatalities suggests that many of these deaths have resulted from an
active Palestinian indoctrination campaign glorifying "martyrdom" -
effectively encouraging boys and young men to confront Israeli forces
and risk death even when there was no real likelihood of causing
material harm to Israelis.