This week the death toll in Gaza passed the 1,000 mark, after nearly three weeks of Israeli air and ground attacks. But surprisingly, no one has reported an even more appalling statistic: that there are some 1.5 million injured Palestinians in Gaza. How is is possible that such an astounding figure could have passed the world’s media by?
The reason apparently is that they have been relying on the highly unreliable statistics provided by official Palestinian sources. It appears that the Palestinian health ministry only records as wounded those Gazans who need to stay in hospital because of the severity of their injuries.
That means they only count the more than 4,500 Gazans who have suffered injuries such as severe burns from exploding Israeli phosphorus shells; shrapnel wounds from artillery rounds; broken or lost limbs from aerial bombardment; bullet wounds; physical trauma from falling building debris; and so on.
But in fact there is another, far more reasonable standard for assessing those injured, one that provides the far higher total of 1.5 million Gazans – or every surviving Palestinian in Gaza. The measure I am referring to is the one employed by Israel.
Here is an example of its use. In September 2007, the international media reported that 69 Israeli soldiers had been wounded when Palestinian militants fired a rocket into the Zikim army base near the Gaza Strip. The rocket struck a tent where the soldiers were sleeping.
It is worth noting the details of the attack. Israeli officials related that, of the 69 wounded, 11 had moderate or severe injuries and one was critically injured. A few more had light wounds. The rest, probably 50 or more, were injured in the sense that they were suffering from shock.
So, if we apply the same standard to Gaza, that would mean 1.5 million Gazans have been wounded. Or is there still some doubt about whether the weeks of bombardment of Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on earth, have left the entire civilian population in a deep, and possibly permanent, state of shock?
Talking of Gaza’s civilians, where did they all go? Israel’s so-called “war” on Gaza must be the first example in human history of a conflict where there are apparently no civilians. Or, at least, that is the impression being created by the world’s leading international bodies, from the World Health Organisation to the United Nations. Instead they refer to a new category of “women and children”.
Thus, those 1,000-plus dead Gazans are broken down into percentages defined in terms of “women and children” and the rest. The earliest figures stated that about 25 per cent of Gaza’s dead were “women and children”, and that has steadily climbed close to the 50 per cent mark since Israel’s ground invasion got under way.
The implication – one with which Israel is presumably delighted – is that the rest are Palestinian fighters, or “terrorists” as Israel would prefer us to call them. It also suggests that every man in Gaza over the age of 16 is being defined as a non-civilian – as a combatant and, again by implication, as a terrorist. In short, all Gaza’s men are legitimate targets for Israeli attack.