Over the weekend, Professor David Bernstein penned an article for the Washington Post accusing the media of “journalistic malpractice” for using Gaza Health Ministry figures on civilian deaths in the Israeli onslaught, insisting they were inflated. And I quote
Contrary to early reports that 80% or so of the early casualties were civilians, Al-Jazeera published names and ages, and about 3/4 were men of fighting age (16-50), compared to a rough estimate of 20% of the Gazan population (40% to 50% of which is fourteen and under). Some of those men were undoubtedly civilians, but it strains credulity to believe that 80% of the casualties were civilian but just-so-happened to be overwhelmingly fighting-age men.
Does it strain credulity? Not at all. Let’s go to the mother of all civilian-centric incidents in recent history, 9/11, and do a similar calculation of the “military-aged” victims among the 2,977 slain there. Since this is America, and women are in the military here too, we’ll count both just to be fair. We’ll also use Bernstein’s age group of 16-50, even though 50-year-old men in blockaded Palestine probably aren’t really healthy enough to still be fighting.
We go to CNN’s memorial, sort by age, do a little math and we get:
2,500 “military-aged” / 2,977 victims = 84%.
84% of the victims of 9/11 were “military-aged,” but would it “strain credulity” to say they were overwhelmingly civilians when census data shows “military-aged” Americans only account for a hair over 40% of the overall population? Of course not!
In fact, there’s a very good reason that “military-aged” people, by which we really mean “able-bodied” people, are disproportionately hit in such incidents. It’s because those people are more active, out and doing stuff. Israel is leveling a lot of houses full of children in Gaza, but the deaths are doubtless primarily from people who are out-of-doors hit by shrapnel, and able-bodied people are more apt to be out-of-doors, especially mid-war.
Professor Bernstein seems to be trying to imply that “military-aged” is tantamount to an antonym for “innocent civilians.” As a law professor he surely knows that is not the case, yet efforts to gloss over the humanitarian calamity of the Gaza war is getting the better of common sense for many people.