Feb 19, 2012

Half the story: What @IDFSpokesperson leaves out about #Gaza

If a rocket from Gaza falls in the middle of the desert, does it make a sound?

It does if you are on Twitter. Regular updates on just about every projectile fired from Gaza is reported by the Israeli military's official twitter account @IDFSpokesperson as well as from the accounts of other Israeli military figures like that of spokesperson @AvitalLeibovich.

But what about projectiles fired by Israel into Gaza? You'd think that since this is actual Israeli military activity the spokespeople from the Israeli military would provide this information.

I often ask the @IDFspokesperson and @AvitalLeibovich to provide this information to allow for a clearer, more accurate picture of the cross border dynamics of violence. One such occasion was on last Friday - you can see the convo on Twitter below:

She clearly dodges the question and finally refers me to their blog after I made it clear that her silence might be indicative of something they are hiding.

I checked out the blog and even though they have plenty of numbers on projectiles from Gaza, they don't present similar data of their own activities. I wasn't expecting them to present such information since the objective of the Israeli military spokesperson is to protect the image of the Israeli military, a feat that is increasingly difficult with every passing year of a soon to be 45 year old occupation and in an era where information is readily available via the internet.

So, what are they hiding? What is it about the numbers that they won't tell you - the data on Israeli military fire into Gaza - that prevents them from sharing it in the same fashion they share information on projectiles from Gaza?

Before even asking Leibovich on Friday, I already had the data I was inquiring about. As part of our ongoing project on Israeli Settler Violence (we just released a comprehensive report on this last week) we coded data on Palestinian projectile launches from Gaza on a daily basis to understand how Palestinian violence, either from Gaza or in the West Bank, relates to settler violence (more on that here).

In 2011, for example, we recorded approximately 465 launches which produced 743 projectiles (some launches involve firing more than one projectile). This number, 743, is more than the number, 620, Leibovich reported in her Tweet. I believe this is because we count launches, including projectiles which are fired in Gaza and land in Gaza, while the figure Leibovich cites is a count of projectiles actually landing inside Israel.

As far as data on Israeli projectiles sent into Gaza, this is the information Leibovich and the Israeli military don't want to reveal. We've got a very good idea, however, of most of it since the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) keeps detailed data on casualties in Palestine. By querying this database we can quickly learn a great deal about the numbers Leibovich is hesitant to report. Despite readily producing information on rockets from Gaza in 2011, here is some of the information the Israeli Military doesn't report in the same fashion:

In 2011, the projectiles fired by the Israeli military into Gaza have been responsible for the death of 108 Palestinians, of which 15 where women or children and the injury of 468 Palestinians of which 143 where women or children. The methods by which these causalities were inflicted by Israeli projectiles breaks down as follows: 57% or 310, were caused by Israeli Aircraft Missile fire, 28% or 150 where from Israeli live ammunition, 11% or 59 were from Israeli tank shells while another 3% or 18 were from Israeli mortar fire.

Conversely, rocket fire from Gaza in 2011 has resulted in the death of 3 Israelis. I've tried to find an accurate aggregate number of Israelis injured by projectiles from Gaza in 2011 but haven't found anything yet. I'd be happy to update this post with that information once available. I think, however, the point is quite clear when it comes to the numbers; the imbalance is tremendous.

Leibovich and the Israeli military provide constant updates about projectiles from Gaza, the vast majority of which do not cause casualties, while telling you almost nothing about projectiles they fire into Gaza and the tremendous amount of casualties they cause.

The Israeli military spokespeople are engaged in outright propaganda to portray a completely different reality about the dynamics of violence in and around Gaza. It is not offering transparency or real information, which is a shame for a government with 'democratic' pretensions.

But that is not all. It is not just about the shear imbalance of violence that the Israeli military wants to skew in the opposite direction. There is more that the data tells us. Last year, in a post about this issue, we showed how media portrayed a flare-up in cross border violence as a result of increased rocket fire while actual tweets from individuals in Gaza revealed that destructive Israeli strikes preceded and in fact provoked the upsurge in rockets. Of course, the events that came before the upsurge in Gaza-launched projectiles did not get reported.

Now, with the daily data we have from UN OCHA and the data we have for launches from Gaza, we can graph the two lines next to each other.

[click to enlarge]

As you can see in the chart above, increases in the red line, which signifies Palestinian casualties, typically precede increases in the blue line, which signifies launches of projectiles from Gaza. This is particularly evident before the most significant spikes in the blue line. This suggests that Palestinian launches may be explained, in part, as a response to Israeli projectiles which kill or injure Palestinians.

To understand the effect of this, I ran the numbers through a statistical analysis to understand the individual effects one day's Palestinian casualties had on the next day's launches. What I found was that both Palestinian injuries and deaths were significantly and positively correlated with launches. Palestinian deaths from Israeli projectiles into Gaza led to a 22% increase in rocket launches the following day, Palestinian injuries led to an additional 4% increase.

Absent the upsurge of launches that occurs after Palestinian casualties inflicted by Israeli projectiles, projectiles from Gaza are few and far between. The three Israelis who died as a result of Palestinian projectile fire died during periods of upsurge provoked by preceding Israeli projectile fire into Gaza. In fact, 75% of launches from Gaza came during these upsurges provoked by Israeli fire.

Israeli fire into Gaza, however, is not statistically correlated with the previous day's launches.

This suggests that it is the Israelis and not the Palestinians who, through their capacity to actually inflict high casualties with their projectiles, control escalation in cross border dynamics. While all launches from Gaza cannot be explained as responses to Israeli fire, most of them are. Of course, this is not a reality that the @IDFspokesperson or Leibovich wants to convey and that is perhaps another important reason why they are not so forthcoming with other information.

As mentioned above, I'm not waiting for them to put relevant information before you to provide the context necessary to see through the propaganda campaign. When looking at the complete picture, instead of the facade built by the Israeli Military and its spokespeople, we can better understand what is really going on.

Ultimately, this highlights a failed Israeli policy toward Gaza, not simply because it involves the inhumane collective punishment of 1.7 million people, but also because its approach to projectiles from Gaza actually generates far more projectiles than it prevents.

11 comments: on "Half the story: What @IDFSpokesperson leaves out about #Gaza"

Andrew said...

After examining a few of these incidents in some detail, I have come to the same conclusions as Yousef:


It seems that the IDF sometimes (maybe even often) tries to assassinate members of factions who are at, the time of attempted assassination, observing a cease-fire with Israel. One of the goals of these attempted assassinations seems to be to provoke rocket-fire into Israel.

Herman said...

Andrew, I'm very interested and tried to look at your blog, but it is unfortunately a protected blog and I need a password for it.
Could you please help me and mail the inlog at h_gorter at hotmail.com?



Unknown said...

A statistic which rarely gets a mention is the fact that Israel fired 7,700 shells into Gaza between September 2005 and May/June of 2006.\

HRW documented this.

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