Friday, March 30, 2007

PalArab self-death count methodology

Since late June, 2006, I have been keeping track of how many Palestinian Arabs have been violently killed in the territories by each other.

For the purposes of this count, I include:
  • Deaths in internal fighting
  • Deaths in clan clashes
  • "Honor killings"
  • Accidental or negligent deaths from playing with weapons or explosives
  • Deaths during terror or criminal activities, such as while digging smuggling tunnels
  • Deaths from gunshots during weddings and funerals
  • Extrajudicial killings for "collaborators" or various Koranic crimes
I am not counting suicides, true accidents like car crashes that have nothing to do with terror, or indirect negligence like the sewage "tsunami" deaths.

There is no shortage of "human rights" organizations that obsessively count PalArab casualties from Israeli sources, but essentially no one else seems to count internal Palestinian Arab killings. If they are truly concerned about Palestinian Arab lives, they would show the same attention to detail and accuracy that they do for deaths at the hands of Israel (and even then, they never show context for Israeli actions.)

There are some organizations that partially count some of these deaths. For example, B'Tselem only counts deaths directly related to the intifada, including Hamas/Fatah clashes. Yet their numbers get quoted as authoritative.

My reasons for maintaining this count is to show the hypocrisy of those who pretend to care about Palestinian Arab lives. In fact, my thesis is that they only care about Israeli actions that they can call criminal, and the victims are only important in how they can implicate Israel, not as tragedies in themselves. The fact that Palestinian Arabs have less regard for their own lives than Israel has for PalArab lives is rarely reported.

The sources for these statistics are many Palestinian Arab newspapers (both English and Arabic, using Google auto-translation) and human rights organizations, as well as Israeli papers and other sources. All my postings about this topic include links to the original articles. I far prefer to only count deaths for people that are named, although during particularly violent periods of time this can prove almost impossible so I may rely on reported aggregate figures.

I do try for accuracy, so for example I did not count all of the honor killings mentioned in this article for the reasons I wrote there. On the other hand, when there is a dispute as to who is responsible for some PalArab deaths I will make a decision and I will tend to believe the Israeli accounts more, if only because they have historically proven to be far more accurate (a good example is the killings of the Ghalia family on the Gaza beach last year, which I counted as PalArab self-deaths based on the evidence I saw.)

I have no doubt that these numbers are undercounted. There seem to be many deaths that are never reported, particularly inter-family killings, although things have improved since last year. Ma'an News, in particular, has been fairly honest about reporting internal Palestinian Arab killings.