The PA put out a press release today saying that since 1967, some 191 Palestinian Arab prisoners have died in Israel jails. As usual they are spinning this as an example of horrible human rights abuses by Israel, and they painstakingly break down how many were jailed pre-Oslo and post-Oslo, how many died from alleged torture and other causes. Lots and lots of numbers.
Let's forget the fact that this year alone at least 540 Palestinian Arabs have been killed by each other, which makes 191 dead over 40 years seem to be a pretty good record. But let's try to look at the numbers.
At the moment, there are some 11,000 PalArab prisoners in Israeli jails, and that number has been rising the past couple of years. In 2004 there were 7000. During the Oslo process, Israel had released practically all of its prisoners; in 1997 there were only about 250 and in 1999 there were at least 650. In 1980 there were close to 3000.
Another Palestinian Arab organization claims that since 1967, some 650,000 Palestinian Arabs have been detained by Israel.
These are hardly complete numbers, but it sounds like a reasonable assumption that at any point in time since 1967, a couple of thousand Palestinian Arabs would be in jail on the average.
Now, according to the CIA Factbook, the current mortality rate in the West Bank is 3.85 deaths per thousand, and in Gaza it is 3.74. So in any given year, one would expect some 4 prisoners per thousand to die anyway (this could be considered misleading because the majority of prisoners are young males, but the media age for Palestinian Arabs is only about 16 years old anyway and there are significant risks of death for young males in the territories from both Palestinian Arab and Israeli defensive actions.)
We would assume that, mirroring standard Palestinian Arab mortality rates, and guessing that the rate of increase in numbers of prisoners from 2000 to 2007 is fairly steady, that just in the years 2000-2007 we would have seen over 180 prisoners die. However, only 68 have died since 2000 according to the new statistics.
For the years prior to 2000 it is a bit harder to guess, but from 1993-1999 we will assume 400 per year average, which would come out to an expected total of 10 to die in that timeframe.
Similarly, if we assume a steady average of 3000 prisoners at any time from 1967 to 1992, we would expect to see 11 to die a year, which would add up to 275 dead prisoners since in that timeframe.
So, if we assume a constant mortality rate over all those years (which is clearly underestimating the real numbers), we would have expected about 465 prisoners to die naturally, rather than the 191 recorded.
The only conclusion one can make is that Israel treats its Palestinian Arab prisoners far better than they would be treated in their hometowns, and that when they are in prison they die at less than half the rate that they would be expected to die at home.
This doesn't jive with the reports of torture and horrid prison conditions that Palestinian Arabs love to tell the world.
I would like to thank the PA for releasing these statistics that show the world that even Palestinian Arab prisoners, in less than optimal conditions directly under Israeli control, are still treated far better than they pretend.