Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Just The Facts

Still not saying anything too detailed on the ins and outs of Israel/Palestine, but this piece gets a lot of credit simply because it ignores everything except the raw data. Said data says Israel has breached the peace 80% of the time such a peace could plausibly be said to exist.

I did wonder whilst reading the article whether it's fair to judge a ceasefire only ended by a confirmed kill, rather than by an actual violent act, but I can see the point that one rocket per month from a area holding 1 500 000 people, many of whom are furious and desperate, probably doesn't count as an intentional attempt to ignite a conflict by the Palestinian Authority. From this data it's impossible to know whether each rocket had the blessing of the government or not, but certainly had Jean Charles de Menezes been carrying the bomb the police apparently thought he had, it wouldn't have meant a declaration of war by Brazil.

Moreover, the second commentator also reminded me that while the metric used may seem unfair to Israel (since their attacks are better organised, and use better technology), the flip side is that you could also argue for including the deliberate contribution to a death through inaction, which would mean considering military strangleholds on infrastructure and imports.

Given that, my first instinct is that it's pretty much a wash, in some respects, and that a death through "military" action is probably not a ridiculous metric. Certainly what the graphs show us is that when there are rocket attacks in sufficient number to cause casualties, then four times out of five there's already at least one dead Palestinian on the ground, killed by the IDF. It's been obvious for a long time that the Palestinians take far more losses than the Israelis in these matters, but this suggests that the Palestinines often take the first losses as well.

h/t to Mahablog (LOTS).

2 comments:

Gooder said...

The article may speak as if it's onyl using the hard facts but I think there is a bias there.

For example it says Hamas is able to control the violence since rocket attacks dropped to 'almost zero', not actual but almost zero. Surely that implies there are some attacks and Hamas can't stop all the violence even if it says it is doing so.

Also the section about Israel killing first after cease fires makes no attempt to guage why these killings happen (I'm not saying that Israel is tottally innocent or anything but..) but make it sound almost as if they simple decide to line people up and shoot them one day - which is highly unlikely.

The difference also between Jean Charles de Menezes are those acting without governement say so in Gaza is that whatever the state position on an attack the weapons user are very likely to have been sourced from Hamas and/or it's supporters.

Still, an interesting article I just think it's a little anti-Israel and does it's best to give the impression that Hamas are the innocent victims - which they are far from

The history of the conflict on the BBC news pages (complete with changing territory maps) is quite an interesting read.

SpaceSquid said...

"For example it says Hamas is able to control the violence since rocket attacks dropped to 'almost zero', not actual but almost zero."

Is this bias? I'd say it's just a language question; whether one rocket attack per month (which is mercifully highly unlikely to cause casualties) can be said to constitute control. Controlling violence, obviously, is not necessarily the same thing as stopping violence altogether.

Of course, I've already mentioned in my post that I'm not convinced about using military casualties as the deciding factor, for this very reason. Despite that, though, I think the argument that Hamas can't control the violence if there is any attack ever is a fairly weak one.

"Also the section about Israel killing first after cease fires makes no attempt to guage why these killings happen"

Nor does it attempt to gauge why Palestinians killing first happens, either. It simply tells us who starts killing first. The argument that not explaining either sides motivations for the killings shows bias says more about your opinions, not those given in the article.

"The difference also between Jean Charles de Menezes are those acting without governement say so in Gaza is that whatever the state position on an attack the weapons user are very likely to have been sourced from Hamas and/or it's supporters."

The key phrase there is "very likely". I recognise that I can't know the origin of each rocket, and the affiliations of each firer, but neither can you. Moreover, there are other examples in history in which wars have ended in a cease-fire, but casualties have still been suffered because the respective armed forces don't always immediately grind to a halt when told (would you have been happy re-invading Ireland after Omagh? It's entirely possible that the explosives used were given to the RIRA back when they were still part of the larger IRA movement).

Restarting a conflict over such incidents is a decision based on any number of factors. "Someone shot at us using a weapon they got from their government back when we were fighting" doesn't really sound like it cuts it as a sufficient condition, unless it happens enough times (wherever that line lies), or the government is found to be deliberately funneling weapons to people they know will take their lives into their own hands.

"Still, an interesting article I just think it's a little anti-Israel and does it's best to give the impression that Hamas are the innocent victims - which they are far from"

I disagree. Aside from the already mentioned language quibble, and a brief comment on the "widespread view", there's nothing in the article that I would say is biased one way or another. The only possible argument to be made on that score, as I mentioned in my original post, is whether casualties of military/terrorist action is the right thing to measure. Like all statistical measurements, it's open to discussion and debate. I agree that measuring, say, ordnance expended would give a very different picture, in which the Palestinians would come off worse. Or we could find some list of criteria under which a death could be considered attributable to the other side, at which point arguably Israel would come off even worse than it does in the article.

Therefore the fact that the metric chosen isn't the best one for Israel is not evidence of anti-Israel bias. If you want to give me an alternative measure, and argue why it would be more fair than this one, then I'll listen. Otherwise, all that's happened is you've read data that doesn't reflect well on Israel and claimed that the piece is therefore attempting to suugest "Hamas are the innocent victims".