Israel challenges world, but not Biden, for using Hamas casualty figures

“Hamas can scream these numbers all they want, but it makes them no truer than if they were to repeatedly scream the earth was flat.”

By Mike Wagenheim | | Topics: Hamas, Biden
US President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 7, 2024. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.
US President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 7, 2024. Credit: Adam Schultz/White House.

As Israel defends itself against an existential threat, UN entities have focused only on civilian casualties in Gaza, Gilad Erdan, the Israeli ambassador to the global body, said last Friday shortly after Russia and China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that Washington drafted.

“Numbers supplied by the terrorists are thrown around and quoted as if they are the word of God,” Erdan said. “Yet in essence, these numbers are merely the lies of Hamas that the UN is so quick to parrot. The time has come to put an end to this myth.”

Hamas’s “false statistics” come from “the Gaza Ministry of Health that it controls,” and those numbers “are then parroted around the globe, promoting the lies of terrorists,” he said.

“By merely looking, only looking, at the Hamas numbers, it is crystal clear that they cannot represent reality,” he added. “A statistics professor from Wharton Business School recently released an analysis of the Hamas—sorry, ‘Gaza Ministry of Health’—numbers proving that not only are they distorted, but they are also inflated. They have no possible basis in reality.”

The Israeli envoy noted that what he called mythic numbers spread across the globe. He did not mention that senior US officials, including US President Joe Biden, have used the same numbers as Hamas for weeks.

“This war has taken a greater toll on innocent civilians than all previous wars in Gaza combined. More than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed,” Biden said on March 7 during his State of the Union address, which 32.2 million people reportedly watched.

As Biden said “have been killed,” New York City radio host Sid Rosenberg called out “Says who?” He was escorted out of the event, but not arrested. Biden continued, “most of whom are not Hamas. Thousands and thousands of innocents—women and children. Girls and boys also orphaned.”

“And according to the Palestinian health ministry and the Gaza health ministry, which are not credible news sources, 30,000 people are dead,” Rosenberg later told JNS. “Once he went there and actually quoted the Palestinian Ministry of Health, as if that’s a credible news source, that’s when I got furious.”

JNS asked a spokesman for Erdan whether the Israeli envoy meant to direct his critique of the United Nations and its Security Council to extend also to Washington. The spokesman declined to comment.

“It is absurd for anyone, let alone Israel’s allies, to blindly rely on casualty numbers provided by Hamas, a group that committed the most heinous crimes on Oct. 7,” Arsen Ostrovsky, CEO of the International Legal Forum and a human rights attorney, told JNS.

“Hamas can scream these numbers all they want, but it makes them no truer than if they were to repeatedly scream the earth was flat,” he added.

US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in the House Chamber at the US Capitol building in Washington, DC, on March 7, 2024. Credit: Cameron Smith/White House.

Changing numbers

On Oct. 25, Biden said during a joint White House press conference with the Australian prime minister that “I have no confidence in the number that the Palestinians are using.”

John Kirby, the White House national security communications advisor, was asked during a Feb. 27 press conference about civilian deaths reaching 30,000 in Gaza. “We don’t want to see one more die, which is why this pause we’re working on is so important,” Kirby said, without questioning the figure. “I’ve said many times before, the right number of civilian casualties is zero.”

The Pentagon “clarified” on Feb. 29 that Lloyd Austin, the US defense secretary, made a mistake when he testified before the House Armed Services Committee, that Israel has killed “over 25,000” Palestinian women and children since Oct. 7.

“He didn’t actually say they were from the Gaza health ministry. But why was he citing numbers from Gaza’s health ministry?” a reporter asked at a Pentagon press briefing.

“We need to clarify,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary. “His answer was citing an estimate from the Hamas-controlled health ministry that more than 25,000 total Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, and—and as—as you know and as you’ve heard us say, we can’t independently verify that these numbers are accurate.”

On March 6, the day before the State of the Union address, Matthew Miller, the US State Department spokesman used the 30,000 figure during a department press conference. “To this question about Hamas, when you’ve seen 30,000 Palestinians killed, why wouldn’t they lay down their arms and stop that bloodshed?” he said.

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan at the UN General Assembly Hall in New York, Jan. 16, 2023. Photo by Arie Leib Abrams/Flash90.

Biden again said that “more than 30,000 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians, including thousands of children” during a March 10 statement marking Ramadan, the Islamic month.

Two days later, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, was asked during a press briefing about the statistic.

“Why was the president in that interview using the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is run by Hamas—their numbers on the death toll in Gaza? It—they—there was a 30,000 figure that he cited on MSNBC,” a reporter said. “The last time he cited Hamas numbers, officials here dismissed it as a reference to publicly available data. But I would assume that the US has its own assessment of what the death toll is.”

“We’ve been very clear here. We—there are public available data that you all have—you all also are taking a look at that we are citing as well,” Jean-Pierre said. “That’s what we’re talking about. That’s what the president—.”

“We should use that number, too, then?” the reporter asked. Jean-Pierre responded, “You could use whatever you want. I’m just saying that—.” “I’m asking you,” the reporter said.

“We have said—we’ve been really clear: There are publicly available data that showed, sadly, how many—how many deaths that we have seen in Gaza,” she said. “The president has been very clear. There’s too much. It’s tragic. It’s tragic what we’re seeing. And the president’s going to keep—continue to speak to that.”

 

Significant impact

The International Court of Justice, the main judicial arm of the United Nations in The Hague, ordered Israel on Thursday to report, within 30 days, on allegations that it is causing a famine in Gaza, based largely on figures produced by the United Nations through Hamas’s health ministry.

Even if Hamas’s casualties are accepted broadly, “they bear no legal weight and would still need to be proved in a court of law, including that Israel failed to abide by the principles of distinction and proportionality, which there is no indication it has failed to do so,” Ostrovsky, the human rights lawyer, told JNS.

The court of international opinion operates differently than a court of law though.

“The bigger issue is how this is perceived in the public arena,” Ostrovsky said. “Unquestionably and blindly relying on purported casualty numbers by Hamas, when they have shown to be completely fabricated or inflated and failing to distinguish between terrorists and potential civilians, is not only reckless and irresponsible, but fans the flame of antisemitism and the pervasive discourse against Israel.”

That Jew-hatred flame “has already directly led to violence against Jewish communities in the United States and around the world,” according to Ostrovsky.

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One response to “Israel challenges world, but not Biden, for using Hamas casualty figures”

  1. Disciple 1978 says:

    Israel could probably supply figures on how many combatants they’ve neutralised since Oct 7. They could also supply near estimates of how many Palestinians have been killed by Hamas from misfired rockets and raiding food convoys etc. An estimate on how many Palestinians in Gaza are taking part in Hamas operations, such as Oct 7 and Gaza defences may also contribute to a better estimate of genuine civilian casualties. Child soldiers and female combatants are common these days. Documented proof of their involvement in operations might help mitigate Hamas propaganda. All this can be deducted from the Gazan health ministry reports. The cost of the media accepting Hamas propaganda could also be estimated.

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