The top Palestinian negotiator with Israel, Saeb Erekat, spoke about the recent war in Gaza this week. He made two claims: that 12,000 Palestinians had been killed, and that 96% of them had been civilians.
Some web sites suggest that he merely misspoke about the number 12,000, and meant to say 2,000--the usually accepted number in the press and the United Nations. Perhaps; let’s grant him that. What of the 96% figure?
Well, he made it up. Even the UN, with its hostility toward Israel, only claimed the number was 69%. The number put forth by the government of Israel and the IDF is about 50%. The New York Times analysis noted this:
The Times analysis, looking at 1,431 names, shows that the population most likely to be militants, men ages 20 to 29, is also the most overrepresented in the death toll: They are 9 percent of Gaza’s 1.7 million residents, but 34 percent of those killed whose ages were provided. At the same time, women and children under 15, the least likely to be legitimate targets, were the most underrepresented, making up 71 percent of the population and 33 percent of the known-age casualties.
So, given that even Hamas never claimed that 96% of those killed were civilians, where--again--did Mr. Erekat get this number? Again, we must admit that he simply made it up.
This is not exactly the first time: Mr. Erekat was one of the inventors of the "Jenin Massacre" in 2002. In fighting in Jenin, 52 Palestinians were killed--and 23 Israeli soldiers. Yasser Arafat claimed at the time that the "Jenin Massacre" could only be compared to the siege of Stalingrad in World War II. Erekat himself said of the Israeli campaign in the West Bank that "the numbers of killed could reach 500 since the Israeli offensive began. Thousands of wounded. The Jenin refugee camp is no longer in existence, and now we’ve heard of executions there."
There was considerable destruction in parts of the camp, but at no time did it cease to be in existence. He made that up. Does any of this matter? It does. Negotiations between the two parties would be difficult enough in the best of circumstances and with a high level of trust among the negotiators. When the top man for the PLO keeps making things up out of whole cloth and "revealing" them to the press, talks become even harder and less productive.