Mark Twain once said there are three sorts of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Of the last group, the worst are 'advocacy statistics'. These are fabrications by advocacy groups that invent 'statistics' to advance political agendas. There are lots of these around, and they're familiar to all of us. They range from the supposed ten percent of humans who are homosexual, to the make-pretend numbers of civilians who supposedly died in the Allied invasion of Iraq, to estimates of the numbers of Palestinian refugees, to the instances of college date-rapes alleged by feminist groups.

As usual, Haaretz gets its facts wrong.

In Israel lately, several groups trying to paint Israeli Arabs as victims of discrimination have become masters at turning out false advocacy statistics. And these are generally eaten up and taken at face value by Israel's leftist journalists and the Bash-Israel world media.

Consider the press release recently put out by the group calling itself Sikkuy: The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality in Israel. Sikkuy found out that Israeli Arabs have lower life expectancy than Israeli Jews. That, argues the group, proves that Israeli Arabs are, ipso facto, victims of discrimination.

Haaretz, Israel's far-left post-Zionist daily, concurs: "The data also reveal that the mortality rate for Arab infants under the age of 12 months is double that of their Jewish counterparts.... The data suggest that the Arab minority in Israel suffers worse conditions than those of the Afro-American minority in the US or the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland."

As usual, Haaretz gets its facts wrong. Life expectancy at birth in Israel is estimated (1995-99 data) as 76.5 for Jewish males and 74.4 for Arab males; 80.4 for Jewish females and 77.8 for Arab females.

I know what you're thinking: These numbers seem to show blatant discrimination against males and in favor of females (for both Jews and Arabs). Such a reading would, of course, be absurd. After all, females have longer life expectancy than males in all human societies and even among most mammal groups. So, the gender gap has nothing to do with discrimination. As it turns out, neither does the gap between Jews and Arabs.

Haaretz's claim that Israeli Arabs have lower life expectancy than black Americans does not hold up much better. Israeli Arabs not only have higher life expectancy than black Americans, they also have life expectancy no lower than all Americans, all races

So, does Israel discriminate against Arabs?

combined. They also have higher life expectancy than the population of Ireland. Actually, Israeli Arabs have higher life expectancy and lower infant mortality rate than do Arabs in any Arab country. Some discrimination, huh?

Next, Haaretz is convinced that any gap in life expectancy must reflect discrimination. Does it? Let us note that in every country in which policies of official anti-Semitic discrimination exists or existed, Jews also had a higher life expectancy than non-Jews. They were healthier even though they were victims of official discrimination. So, life expectancy gaps hardly prove discrimination.

So what, then, explains the disparity between Jewish and Arab life expectancy rates in Israel? Sikkuy and the post-Zionists at Haaretz attribute it to differences in accessibility to medical services. But anyone who has ever been in an Israeli hospital or clinic knows that such a claim is nonsense. One sees Arabs there in numbers proportionate (if not higher) to their share of the population - including plenty of Arab physicians and nurses. I myself shared a room with an Arab after major surgery (and our stories became the basis for my book The Scout).

Haaretz itself almost stumbled on part of the answer when it noted the difference between Israeli Arabs and Jews when it comes to infant mortality rates. Haaretz claims infant mortality for Arabs is twice what it is for Jews. Another Haaretz lie. It is slightly higher for Arabs, 6.6 per thousand as opposed to 5.3 (for male babies, and a similar gap for females) - but Arab infant mortality in Israel is considerably lower than the rates in the US and Ireland.

As it turns out, infant mortality has little to do with accessibility to medical treatment and a great deal to do with congenital birth problems, especially low birth weight - which are much more common in babies born to teenage mothers than to other mothers. While teenage girls getting married is a common occurrence among Israeli Muslims, it is all but unknown among Israeli Jews and Christians.

Marrying cousins (consanguinity), which is common among Israeli Arabs, significantly raises the chances of congenital birth defects and so also raises infant mortality rates. That is a major reason why Arab infant mortality is somewhat higher than the rate for Jews in Israel and has nothing to do with lack of access to medical facilities.

Aside from raising adult mortality, smoking by fathers is associated with birth defects and higher infant mortality, as well - and Arab fathers smoke a lot more than Jews. Israeli Arabs have a much higher rate of cigarette use than Israeli Jews. Haaretz notes this in passing, but only to help prove how discriminatory Israel is. If Arabs smoke more, it must be because they are victims of discrimination, Haaretz suggests with a straight face.

All of which means that disparities in infant mortality, which explain a considerable portion of the Arab-Jewish gap in life expectancy, have nothing to do with discrimination and everything to do with age-of-marriage decisions and life choices.

Then there is the matter of differences in schooling. For reasons not entirely understood, schooling is associated in most countries with higher life expectancy. Israeli Arabs, on average, have considerably less schooling than Jews because they drop out of school more often. And let's not hear any nonsense about Israeli universities discriminating against Arabs, because they all discriminate in favor of Arabs under affirmative action policies.

So, does Israel discriminate against Arabs? There is considerable real statistical evidence pointing to no discrimination at all against Arabs in Israeli labor markets, at least none serious enough to be reflected in wages. And there is no serious evidence that there is discrimination against Arabs in accessibility to health care.

In fact, Alex King, an MD at Hadassah Hospital, claims that Israeli Christians, who are mainly Arabs, have higher life expectancy than Jews. I could not confirm that assertion because Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics is not currently reporting mortality and life expectancy rates separately for Israeli Arab Christians.

Perhaps Sikkuy and groups like it should speak out against Arab terrorism, which discriminates against Jews and raises Jewish mortality rates, or about the apartheid conditions that exist in all Arab countries.