Debunking Hamas’s Casualty Statistics

With every update on the Israel-Hamas war, Western news outlets cite unverified figures about Palestinian casualties, although they have at least begun to caveat that these statistics are produced by the terrorist group’s own health ministry. These numbers remain the main source for the claims (which the numbers alone would not substantiate even if they were accurate) that the IDF needs to exercise more restraint, or that it is committing “war crimes” and “atrocities.” Lenny Ben-David carefully exposes the holes in the data presented by Hamas:

Hamas claimed in 2023, as of [November 30], that 15,000 Gazans were killed: 6,150 (41 percent) were children, and 4,000 were women (26 percent). The press, editorial writers, and government officials worldwide have reported and repeated these figures as gospel. Hamas claimed that the remaining 5,000 (33 percent) dead were men—both combatants and civilians.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant stated that 4,000 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters died in the fighting as of November 16. That number shakes the Hamas ministry’s current statistics to the core. Israel repeatedly warned Gazan residents of north Gaza to evacuate their homes. Leaflets were dropped in their neighborhoods, and even private phone calls were made by IDF Arabic-speaking soldiers. An estimated one million Gazans took the warnings seriously and avoided Hamas attempts to keep them in the north as human shields. Lower casualty rates of women and children should have reflected their leaving the north.

That the figures show combatant casualties to be a small minority of the total dead, rather than the majority, makes them very difficult to believe. Ben-David presents other evidence, as does Salo Aizenberg in this even more detailed breakdown, where he shows that the statistics literally fail to add up.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood