Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Lancet hyperbolizes; Reuters parrots

Reuters reports on a series of articles to be published in the Lancet medical journal tomorrow examining the impact of the Gaza war and blockade on the health of Palestinians living in the Strip.  We've not read the journal issue yet but here are some observations based on Reuters' summary and excerpts of the material.

Correspondent Kate Kelland writes:
Around 1,400 people were estimated to have died and many more injured during the Israeli attack on the occupied Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009. The health experts described the destruction of infrastructure, including homes, as "unprecedented."
Er, wake-up call for Reuters: Gaza was not "occupied" in December of 2008 and is not occupied now.

"Unprecedented" destruction.  Please.  The obliteration of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Romans accompanied by the killing of over 1 million Jews was unprecedented.  Sherman's scorched earth policy during the American Civil War might be considered unprecedented destruction of civilian property.  One could certainly make a case that the instantaneous destruction wrought by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was unprecedented.  But the Gaza war???  This is simply hysterical hyperbole.

Kelland continues:
Almost a third of the sample population was displaced during the war, while 39 percent of their homes were either completely or partly destroyed.
If we read that paragraph correctly, the Lancet is claiming that, based on its "random sample", about 13 percent of homes in Gaza were either completely or partly destroyed.

Yet, according to this article appearing in the UAE newspaper The National, a total of 3,425 homes were destroyed in the war.  How many more were "partly destroyed"?  We haven't seen any hard figures but let's say the number is over three times that of homes completely destroyed, or another 11,000.  That would make a total of just over 14,000 homes sustaining some level of damage.  Reuters is fond of reminding us that Gaza has a population of 1.5 million Palestinians.  With an average family household size of 6.5 individuals, there are approximately 230,000 housing units in Gaza.  14,000 homes represents about 6 percent of this total, less than half of what the Lancet is claiming.  Their sample data would appear to be significantly skewed.

Kelland continues:
Kholoud Nasser from the Ministry of Education in Ramallah, looked at Palestinian children's diets and the knock-on effects for their health and education.
In a study of around 2,000 children and adolescents, she found that one in four misses breakfast -- the main indicator of healthy eating habits -- while one in 10 is anaemic, and one in 17 is stunted. Around 2 percent are underweight and 15 percent are either overweight or obese.
Sounds devastating until you realize that in the US, studies show that more than one in three children misses breakfast.  And according to the United Nations, Palestinian children are among the healthiest in the Middle East.  Only Qatar has a lower rate of stunting across the Arab states and the Palestinian rate actually fell from one in 10 between 2003 and 2008 to one in 17 based on Nasser's more recent study. 

The pernicious propaganda continues unabated.

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