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Video: Gaza Casualty Figures

David Adesnik

Since the October 7 mass terror attack by Hamas, the Israeli military has been faced with one of the most difficult challenges in its history: to destroy the ability of this group to carry out terrorist attacks from Gaza, while keeping civilian casualties to a minimum, notwithstanding the fact that Hamas uses places including schools, hospitals, mosques, and even United Nations property to shield its military operations from attack.

Israel has labored mightily to protect civilians, agreeing to steps including ceasefires to deliver food and medical supplies, and to permit civilians to evacuate areas before conducting counterterror operations. But Israel’s efforts to protect civilians are frequently given short shrift by major American media outlets, elected officials, diplomats, and “human rights” advocates, David Adesnik of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) told a Jewish Policy Center webinar on Wednesday.

Some of the problem stems from an reliance on data from Hamas-controlled sources of information including Gaza’s Ministry of Health. Until April, the Ministry presented its casualty data as the authoritative source of information on the subject. Last month, however, it admitted that its records for many of the war’s fatalities included “incomplete” data, and it has continued to revise the data without explaining why.

Sometimes, they simply lie.

Major media outlets and U.N. agencies have repeatedly quoted data from the Hamas-controlled Health Ministry, and in this year’s State of the Union Address, President Joe Biden presented as fact (without citing a source), the Ministry’s claim of 30,000 Palestinian deaths. Back in December, he declared that Israel had carried out “indiscriminate bombing.”

But such claims are based on badly flawed data, Adesnik said. Its assertions that 70 percent of the dead are women and children appear to suggest a lack of discrimination on Israel’s part. But a closer look raises serious questions: A third or more of the records, consisting overwhelmingly of women and children, have incomplete data. And thousands more records that the Ministry has labeled complete “are actually missing data,” he added.

Hamas’ Gaza Health Ministry is not a reliable source of information. Instead, seeks to draw attention away from Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields while “assigning Israel the blame.”

Media outlets and governments – including the US government – appear to have taken the bait.