Letters On criticising Israel

Response from author of original paper

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1076 (Published 17 March 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1076
  1. Derek A Summerfield, honorary senior lecturer1
  1. 1Institute of Psychiatry, Maudsley Hospital, London SE5 8BB
  1. derek.summerfield{at}slam.nhs.uk

    Freedland challenges my comparison of the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) with those killed in 9/11.1 2 B’Tselem recorded 2952 fatalities for the period in question (2000-4)3; Freedland’s figure is just half of this total (1508) and presumably reflects the exclusion of what B’Tselem categorises as “Palestinians who took part in hostilities.”

    Freedland is at risk of uncritically recycling figures that promote self-exculpating IDF mantras. B’Tselem must depend in part on what the IDF tells them: should the IDF’s categorisation of those that it has killed be regarded as disinterested reportage?

    So who are “Palestinians who took part in hostilities”? Police officers, like the 20 year old recruits slaughtered recently at their inauguration parade? Anyone involved in the Hamas administration in Gaza, which has many ordinary functions? Friends or families of Hamas officials, or anyone who happens to be present in a Hamas building when Israel bombs it? How many of the 2000 slain children (2000-9) would the IDF include? What also of B’Tselem reports of a persistent pattern of “targeted killings” of unarmed men or, if armed, not attempting to use them? Were the Israeli bombs that hit Gazan hospitals, medical laboratories, schools, administrative buildings, the university, factories and thousands of homes expecting to find this category of Palestinian there?

    Only a small minority of fatalities could be described as fighters who die in action on the field of battle.


    Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1076


    • Competing interests: DAS has had academic and humanitarian involvement with Israel/Palestine since 1992.


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