People from across the I/P spectrum are agreed that the actions of Israel seem to have an impact on antisemitic discourse and incidents. How those actions are reported is obviously particularly important. Even the rhetoric one uses and the emphasis one gives certain stories may have an effect, and it is clearly absolutely crucial to make sure the actual facts are correct, particularly if one is in a position of some responsibility – a journalist, for example, or a government minister.
So it’s a real concern that Baroness Warsi appears to have misled the House of Lords, and the public, in the figures she cited when asked for details of civilian Palestinian casualties since January 2012. This was her response.
“We have made no assessment of the number of non-violent protestors killed or injured in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 2002. According to the website of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 3,643 Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israelis since 1 January 2012 in incidents directly related to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the West Bank and Gaza strip.”
But as Trending Central reports, this answer wasn’t just inaccurate – it was wildly and irresponsibly inaccurate, as the official figure given by the OCHA is in fact 262 for 2012, with 13 so far being killed in 2013. B’Tselem reports a figure of 518 Palestinians being killed since January 2009. It is suggested that the grossly exaggerated figure may have come from an anti-Israel site, “AidToIsrael.org”, which does not justify or support its findings. [But see update]
Unnamed Conservative sources have accused Lady Warsi of lying. It seems most unlikely that this was a deliberate attempt to mislead, but this is still a very serious matter. Repeatedly, one reads accusations against Israel which turn out to be untrue or at least distorted. Sometimes these seem to be malicious and deliberate, sometimes inadvertent. But the intention makes little difference to the impact this toxic trickle of misinformation may have on people’s attitudes towards Israel, or on a climate in which antisemitism seems to be on the rise. Mistakes such as that of Baroness Warsi help explain why, as reported here, around of half of Europeans think that Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians.
Update: As Ben White has been quick to point out, it is now being reported that the mistake was due to a clerical error.