Sunday, May 12, 2013

Old Communists would be proud of B’Tselem

More that forty years ago, Russia and the US were deep into a ‘cold war.’ One Russian propaganda goal was to demonstrate that Russia was better than the US. So great were the economic differences between the two countries that Americans typically found this effort laughable. But the Russians took it seriously. They worked overtime at it. They were bigger, better, stronger and faster than the US—in everything.

To prove this point—and to sell the superiority of Communism over capitalism--they often used fact to sell a lie. Facts-for-lies became a Russian joke. One of these jokes came to America.

In this joke, the Russians challenged America to a two-car race across Russia. The Americans accepted. The race was run. The Americans finished the race ten days ahead of the Russian car, which had continuously broken down. Nevertheless, the Russian government, with typical Communist creativity, heralded this race as a Communist triumph. How did they do that? They declared that, in a recent auto race across the Russian frontier, the Russian car came in second while the American car came in next to last!

The Communists didn’t lie. They just ‘massaged’ the facts. We smile—and understand that their intent was to create a false, anti-American conclusion.

We are reminded of this joke, and its underlying attack motive, because it has recently been updated by an Israel-based organization called, B’Tselem. B’Tselem is an anti-Israel, pro-Arab ‘human rights’ outfit that works aggressively to demonize Israel. 

One of B’Tselem’s tactics is to analyse Israeli military action against Arabs. Their intent appears to be to validate that Israel commits war crimes and violates International Humanitarian Law. They use facts gathered from Israeli military action in a way that Communists of old would have loved—to sell a lie.

B’Tselem used facts in this way with Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, December 2008-January 2009. They do it again with the November 2012 Operation Pillar of Defense.

In a newly-minted (May, 2013) report on Israeli attacks against Gaza in November 2012, B’Tselem has reported that 167 Arabs were killed by the IDF. Of these 167 deaths, they say, 87 were civilian. What B’Tselem does with these facts links its behaviour to those old Communists. They package facts to accuse Israel. The report gives only five words to  Arabs who clearly violated International Humanitarian Law (using human shields, firing rockets from within civilian populations, targeting Israeli civilians, dragging an Arab to death through the streets). Instead, they focus exclusively on the allegation that 70 of the 87 civilians killed by Israel had apparently died during the last four days of fighting (the fighting lasted eight days). They declare that such top-heavy deaths raise ‘suspicions’ of Israeli Humanitarian violations.

They ignore real international crimes and violations by Arabs. But they have a lot to say about their ‘suspicion’ of violations by Israel.

Their report claims that as many as 6 Arabs were killed by Arab rocket fire and an additional 7 were killed by Arabs after having been arrested for collaborating with Israel. B’Tselem harbours no ‘suspicions’ that these deaths have violated Humanitarian code.

They attack Israel’s reputation. They claim their report “challenges the common perception in the Israeli public and media that the operation was “surgical” and caused practically no fatalities among uninvolved Palestinian civilians.” This assertion is nonsense. It is a straw-man argument with no basis in reality. There was no ‘media and public perception’ that ‘practically no’ civilian casualties occurred. The common public perception at that time was that if Israel did not use ‘surgical strike’ tactics, the Arab death toll would not have been 167, but closer to 16,700.

What makes this anti-Israel attack so similar to the old Communist joke is how facts are used to sell a lie about Israel. The facts involve civilian death. A UN analysis of civilian –combatant deaths in asymmetric war (referred to in a 2011 news story) suggests that the average ratio of civilian-to-combatant death in asymmetric war is 3:1, or 3 civilians killed for every combatant killed.

In 2009, B’Tselem accused Israel of war crimes and violations of Humanitarian code—precisely because of the number of Arab civilians killed during fighting in 2008-9.  Because of the seriousness of the accusations, it would be reasonable to assume that, if a 3:1 death-ratio is simply the average, then Israel had far exceeded that ratio. Now they accuse Israel of ‘suspicions’ of similar violations in 2012.

But such death-ratios never occurred in 2009 or 2012. In 2009, the civilian-combatant death-ratio in Gaza was approximately 1.3:1 (or lower, if you use Israel’s numbers). In November 2012, the ratio was approximately 1.1:1.  These are not ‘Humanitarian violation’ ratios. They are, in fact (given the human shield factor) extraordinarily low. They are, possibly, lower than any other army, ever, in asymmetric warfare. Yet here is B’Teslem, the ‘human rights’ organization, ignoring such an extraordinary accomplishment to protect civilians in order to demonize Israel as a Humanitarian violator?

B’Tselem says that the November 2012 deaths challenge Israel’s claim that it uses surgical strikes to protect civilians. Really? How else did Israel achieve such historically low death-ratios?

Those old Communists would be proud of B’Tselem. They know how to use facts to sell a lie.



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