Gaslit to Death: Giving Cover to Israel’s Rafah Atrocity with Phony Gaza Numbers Game


Juan Cole | Informed Comment - TRANSCEND Media Service

15 May 2024 – Playing with the death toll from Israel’s genocide on Gaza is not as cruel as actually killing over 35,000 people, the majority women and children. But it is still cruel and heartless. It is also another way we are being gaslit by the pro-Zionist US establishment.

There is that scene in the first Star Wars film when Obi Wan Kenobe uses Jedi magic to convince the Storm Troopers looking for R2D2, “These are not the ‘droids you’re looking for.” Congressional staffers once told me that that is the way politics works on the Hill. Now they’re trying to tell us that actually all those little dead children are figments of our imagination.

The US government repeatedly warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extremist, fascist cabinet not to invade Rafah without a practical plan for protecting the nearly two million civilians whom Israel has force-marched into the small enclave, most with no potable water, no toilets, and insufficient food and shelter.

Israel is in the process of invading Rafah, forcing some 360,000 internal refugees to flee the area designated as a “safe zone” for wilderness or already-destroyed towns that are still being actively bombed.

I think it is in order to take people’s minds off the current additional war crimes being committed by Tel Aviv that Zionist agents provocateurs have signaled their useful idiots to try to make an issue of the Palestinian death toll.

It is a phony issue. Netanyahu himself has admitted that 30,000 are dead, though he implausibly alleges that 14,000 are Hamas militants and he leaves out another 5,000 he’s not accounting for.

The UN World Health Organization said Monday that 25,000 of the Palestinians in Gaza had been positively identified by the Gaza Health Ministry — which is run by professionals, not by the Hamas politburo. Another 10,000 of the corpses awaited such definite identification, coming to 35,000 total. The identification of 25,000 is an advance, since previously names had not been put to so many of the dead.

Persons who hate Palestinians the way the devil hates holy water jumped on the disaggregation of the two figures to allege that the UN was admitting “only” 25,000 had been killed and the MoH numbers were unreliable.

These horrid prevaricators included the US Council on Foreign Relations, which thereby lost all credibility, and Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, which never had any credibility, and Joe Scarborough, long a right wing clown.

That isn’t what the WHO said.

As a historian I like primary sources. So I’ll let you hear it from the horse’s mouth.

Here’s the video:

WHO Video: World Health Organization Gaza Casualties

And here’s the transcript:

    • Storyline
    • In Gaza, as more Palestinian casualties of the Israeli military offensive are identified by the enclave’s health authorities, UN humanitarians reiterated on Tuesday (14 May) that a high proportion of women and children were indeed among the 35,000 dead. UNTV CH

Since the beginning of the war in the enclave triggered by Hamas’ deadly 7 October attacks in Israel, the United Nations has consistently relied on casualty figures from the Gaza Ministry of Health, noting that independent verification is not possible. Last week, the health authorities updated the breakdown of the figures based on the number of bodies identified, but the UN has maintained that neither the overall death toll nor the proportion of women and children killed had gone down.

Liz Throssell, spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), told the Press in Geneva: “We’re basically talking about 35,000 people who are dead. And really every life matters, doesn’t it? We know that many and many of those are women and children, and there are thousands missing under the rubble.”

Speaking on behalf of the UN’s humanitarian affairs coordination office, OCHA, Jens Laerke clarified that “what has been provided additionally by the Ministry of Health is more detailed information about a subsection of the overall tally” of the 35,000 dead.

Christian Lindmeier, spokesperson for the UN World Health Organization (WHO), explained that as the Gaza Ministry of Health “identifies every single body… gives names to people to give closure to their family, their friends – that’s when these figures get updated and the data get updated”.

Some 25,000 have been identified, he said, calling the growing number of identified bodies “a step forward” and “a typical and very normal process in any conflict”.

Among the 10,000 remaining dead, some are not reachable, including those “in mass graves”. These individuals need to be brought back to a health centre or morgue for identification, Mr. Lindmeier said, insisting that “every single of these figures is a person with a name, a history and a family”.

The WHO spokesperson also warned against getting “sidetracked” by the death toll updates and breakdowns.

Two recent OCHA situation reports have been widely “scrutinized” for changes in the proportion of women and children killed, he said. However, if one applies the breakdown by gender and age of the 25,000 bodies now identified to the remaining unidentified 10,000 casualties, women and children still represent about 60 per cent.

The UN health agency spokesperson also pointed out that under collapsed houses, there is a “high likelihood that you find rather women and children because they are the ones typically staying at home while the men are out looking for food, looking for business, looking for any supplies for their families”.

Mr. Lindmeier further insisted on the challenges of identification in a “difficult conflict” where people have been “displaced five, six, seven times”, and where, in certain areas, “not a single health worker, no ambulance” can venture to recover dead bodies.

“Once everybody is recovered, you may have a chance to have a name to every person,” he said. “We need a ceasefire now to be able to recover those dead.”

Only the malicious could have read the UN reports in any other way but as an affirmation of the vast death toll and a plea for a ceasefire so that the remaining 10,000 Jane Does and John Does can have a decent individual burial, not the mass graves into which Israeli soldiers are bulldozing them. Of course, a ceasefire would also be nice so as to cease racking up such an astonishing death toll.


Juan Cole is the founder and chief editor of Informed Comment. He is Richard P. Mitchell Professor of History at the University of Michigan and author of, among many other books, Muhammad: Prophet of Peace amid the Clash of Empires and The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

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