B'Tselem cameraman
B'Tselem cameraman

B'Tselem, the "human rights" group which provides statistics regarding Arab casualties in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is a source of falsehoods and half-truths, according to a top researcher.

Former Military Intelligence officer, Lt-Col. (res.) Yehonatan Dachuch-Halevi, wrote Sunday on the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs website that B'Tselem has created an "impressive" database on the subject, which it keeps continually updated. The name of every Arab who is killed in the fighting is published, with information on the date and circumstances of his death.

In the report for 2007, B'Tselem claimed that "Israeli security forces killed 373 Palestinians, 53 of them minors." Most of those killed, 290 in number, were killed in Gaza, and 83 were killed Judea and Samaria, the group reported, adding that "at least 131 of the Palestinian dead in the course of 2007, about 35 percent, were civilians who did not partake in fighting when they were killed." However, Halevi says, the right numbers for the "military activists killed" category should be 311, or 82.5 percent and the "civilians killed" nu

Ahmed Yasin, Abd El-Aziz Rantisi and Saleh Shehade were all listed simply as "residents of Gaza"

mbered only 66, or 17.5 percent.

Narrow definition

B'Tselem divides the dead into three categories: "participated in fighting" (195 Arab dead), did not participate in fighting (119 Arabs) and those who fit neither category (numbering 65).

However, B'Tselem's definition of what it means by "participated in the fighting" is very narrow and includes only those terrorists who were carrying out acts of war – that is, gunfire, rocket fire, fire bomb attacks, reconnaissance etc. – at the moment in which they were killed.

Terror activists who were not on the front line when they were killed are not included. Neither are terrorists who were traveling by car from one place to another, who were engaged in support roles such as transporting weaponry and ammunition, and who were employed by the Hamas "government" in Gaza at the same time that they served in the Hamas terror branch. In addition, the researcher says, terrorists who planned attacks and participated in carrying them out are not counted as combatants.

Sheikh Yasin a 'resident'

For instance, six terrorists from the Army of Islam – the Al-Qaeda branch in Gaza – who were killed by a pinpoint IDF strike were listed simply as "residents of Gaza" who "were killed while traveling in a car in [Gaza] city center."

The terrorist affiliation of those killed is almost never cited by B'tselem, Halevi charges. Thus, Hamas leader Ahmed Yasin, his replacement Abd El-Aziz Rantisi and top Hamas official Saleh Shehade – who were responsible for hundreds of Israeli deaths between them – were all listed simply as "residents of Gaza" who were killed while "exiting the mosque," "traveling by car" and "sleeping," respectively.

Israel rarely publishes statistics regarding Arab deaths and on the circumstances of their deaths, and its official websites have no database on this matter, Halevi says.

The "civilians killed" include 18 who carried out suspicious activity like infiltrating, carrying out observation during war, refusing to obey soldiers' commands to halt, and bird hunting near the border with Israel. 16 were in the line of fire during a firefight in a crowded area. 24 were standing near terrorists or rocket launchers. Six were killed in the course of the dispersal of a violent riot and two attacked soldiers.

Halevi adds that by allowing B'Tselem to supplant it as the source for statistics regarding the Arab casualties in Judea and Samaria, Israel is allowing its rivals to write the history of the struggle and to do so in a way that falsely besmirches Israel.

By October 21, 2008, the B'Tselem database contained the names of 4,757 Arab dead, Halevi writes. Its information is quoted as an accurate source by various United Nations bodies, as well as other international organizations and news outlets worldwide. Its report regarding Arab casualties in 2008 is due soon.