As Hamas tries to leverage the unintentional deaths of three Egyptian police officers resulting from an Israeli response to last week's terrorist attack near Eilat, the Blaze is taking a look at how Hamas uses casualty figures- real and imagined- to justify its continued campaign of terror against Israel.
Casualty assessments have always played a prominent role in media coverage of conflicts between Israel and Hamas. Global media outlets tend to play favorites with which sources they trust for accurate casualty information. And history shows a clear bias in many international organization and NGO's to accept Hamas casualty figures without verification (or even basic skepticism).
The U.N. in particular has a long-established tendency, as evidenced by the release of the infamous Goldstone Report, to overstate the number of non-combatant Palestinian casualties, without adequate fact-checking. Since the release of the Goldstone Report, its namesake author has penned an op-ed apologizing for the flawed report. But the mentality that spawned the report was pervasive. As one NGO researcher wrote in a February Jerusalem Post article about the role of NGOs in Gaza War casualty assessments:
"NGOs issued dozens of publications purporting to document the number of Palestinian civilian casualties. They frequently compared those figures to the number of Israeli casualties, which were lower. To pursue their political objectives, NGOs often deliberately and grossly inflated the Palestinian count, mislabeling combatants as civilians or “children,” and made other false accusations."
(editor's note: for a definitive analysis of Goldstone's analytic flaws, click here)
Hamas does not just inflate casualty numbers to the media- it manipulates casualty reports for very specific ends. In the past, Hamas has made false claims to show a high proportion of civilians killed, but also to present a low percentage of fighters lost in action. This has been intended to demonize the Israelis for wanton collateral damage while allowing Hamas fighters to look formidable.
In a tried and true propaganda tactic for asymmetrical conflicts around the world, Hamas also has claimed fighters killed in action as civilians, used human shields, or placed known Hamas militants in the 'civilian' category because they were killed without a weapon or while not actively engaged in combat.
In the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF name for what is called "the Gaza War" of 2009, Hamas initially claimed that of 1,300 casualties, only 48 were fighters in the terrorist organization.
Afterwards, it became clear the number of fighters killed was much higher, partially because Hamas declared police officers who were members of Hamas to be non-combatants. In the end, it emerged that of the 1200 Palestinians killed in the operation, more than 700 were fighters.
Hamas attempted to portray the action as a targeted massacre of Palestinian civilians, and did so in order to fan the flames of hatred for Israel and bolster world sympathy for Hamas.
Any discussion of civilian casualties is inherently a solemn matter. In the civilized world, casualties are the weightiest public concern for any leadership. Israel keeps track of casualties during its operations and gives an honest accounting afterwards. The IDF also goes to great lengths to limit and avoid civilian casualties whenever possible.
Hamas, however, shows no such deference when it comes to discussing casualties. It not only inflates the number of non-combatant Palestinians killed to cast Israel as a villain, it denies any sympathy for Israeli victims, past or present.
Hamas openly praises suicide bombings which are specifically meant to maim and kill innocent men women and children. These casualties are not an undesired outcome- they are the sole motivating factor for the horrific attacks. It is the clearest evidence of the vast moral separation between Israeli and Hamas actions.
For Hamas, even historical casualties are manipulated for propaganda purposes. Hamas openly and continually has tried to deny, belittle, or brush off the 6 million Jewish deaths in the Holocaust.
Last January, senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar gave a window into the soul of his organization and accused Israel of carrying out "countless holocausts" against the Palestinians while saying the Nazi genocide against the Jewish people was a "lie."
And when Hamas's false numbers aren't enough, Hamas and other militant groups turn to outright fakery.
Watch this IDF video from May 2002, and see a "victim" of Israeli aggression come back to life after he falls off a stretcher en route to a false funeral: