Writeup does not mean reply. I apologize. I have neither the time nor desire to bother systematically addressing the above (first writeup) "examination" of this: "Noam Chomsky on the September 11 attacks" point by point, but I will take the time to look at one of its assertions.

Quoting Chomsky: "It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people" (referring to the events on 11 September). The user then writes:

Whoops! That didn't happen. Data from B'tselem and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society show that, aside from a spike around April 2002, the number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths remained relatively constant from September 2000 to January 2004.

This would be remarkable if it were true. Since the writer chooses to give the "sources" for this conclusion, it is a rather simple task to check them for veracity. Accurately presenting information should be of paramount importance when one is leveling charges of "errors, distortions, and outright fabrications" (even if it is, in this example, only regarding a prediction that Chomsky makes—not something subject to a charge of lying or one of the other accusations) to the one making the claims. Unfortunately for the writer, the assertion is simply not true as the sources show. (For the sake of argument, we'll forget that Chomsky only said that it could "prove to be a crushing blow" not that it would necessarily up the number of deaths—because that would be...you know: a "rhetorical trick.")

Starting with the B'Tselem site, let's have a look at the statistics, year by year, 2001 to 2003 (rather than looking at an incomplete year—2000—I'll just use full years). In its figures for Palestinian deaths in the Occupied Territories (including East Jerusalem) by the Israeli Defense Forces, it gives 454 dead. If one breaks 2001 into "pre-September" and "September through December" (months one through eight and the final four months), it breaks down into 209 and 245, respectively. Thus showing a greater rate of deaths in the last four months than the eight preceding ones. Fine, but that's just four months—what does 2002 show? Total deaths (same criteria) are 990, nearly twice as many. What about the admitted "spike around April"? Well, the "spike" was actually March and April, with 238 and 247 deaths, respectively. A serious spike for sure, but consider this: if one completely eliminates the deaths from those two months (and nearly 500 dead human beings is not something to take lightly), the number is still over 500. Which is a definite rise from the previous year. In 2003, the number did drop to 573, far better than 2002 but still over 100 more deaths than 2001.

As for Palestinian civilians killed within the Green Line, 2001 saw the deaths of nine, seven of those happening September through December. In 2002 it more than tripled to 29 (though still a comparatively low number when considering the Occupied Territories). As in other cases, it dropped in 2003—in fact just under half of 2001 (four deaths).

Israeli civilian deaths in the Occupied Territories (including East Jerusalem) were significantly less and showed less of a rise. In 2001, it was 65 (January-August: 42, September-December 23). The following year was 88. And the "spike"? March was the highest level with 17 dead but April only had four—higher than three months and tied with a fourth. June and July, with a total of 13 and 15, beat both of the spike months. The year still came out slightly ahead of 2001. There was a definite spike in IDF deaths (a separate category) between February and April with 65 dead (the three-month total still lower than the Palestinian deaths for February alone: 75 deaths). There was a significant drop in 2003 with only 25 deaths.

Israeli civilian deaths within the Green Line were higher, but still show the trend that killings rose post-September 2001. In 2001, 86 deaths were recorded with 38 occurring in the last four months of the year. The number slightly more than doubled in 2002 to 183. The spike month for those deaths was March which had 65 deaths. Even without the spike, over 100 Israelis died that year, 32 more than 2001. In 2003, the number dropped to 104—still higher than 2001. While this is all interesting, instructive, and terribly tragic, of course, the claim zeroes in on the Palestinians: "The September 11 attacks and our responses to them do not seem to have caused an increase in Palestinian deaths."

Since it's clear that B'Tselem does not support the contention that the "number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths remained relatively constant," perhaps a glance at the second source will contradict the results. We can take a look at what the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (The Red Crescent Society is the Muslim version of the Red Cross). Things fare no better for the allegation according to the statistics. In 2001 (numbers are for total daily deaths in the West Bank and Gaza), 577 are listed, 280 of which happened between September and December. The next year the figure almost doubles to 1068. The spike months (March and April) are fairly close figures, 234 and 245, respectively. Eliminating them still leaves 589 deaths—closer (after ignoring nearly 600 deaths) but slightly higher than the previous year. The next year totaled 664 deaths, almost 100 more than 2001 and over half of the previous year's total even with the two spike months.

Going a step further, a glance at the data offered by the Middle East Policy Council (from a link at the Red Crescent site) shows the same trends. Much more detailed than the others, its data were collected from the above sites as well as the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For the Israeli side, it shows 179 dead in 2001, 71 during the last four months. For 2002, 420 dead, 247 without the two-month spike (68 more than the previous year). In 2003, 183 were recorded as having died, again higher (though only by a few) than 2001. On the Palestinian side, 2001 saw 532 dead, 261 between September and December (almost half). The next year saw 1080 Palestinians die in the conflict, over twice as many as the previous year. Even without the spike, 589 died. Again higher than all of 2001. The next year, 654 died—over 120 more than 2001.

In nearly every category, it seems clear that deaths for both Israelis and Palestinians went up and not just because of the "spike around April 2002" (March and April—the MEPC site shows 77 more Israelis died in March than April, Palestinians were about even). It seems that the actual "point" is that it is demonstrably true (using the sources that are claimed to show they "remained relatively constant") that Palestinian and Israeli deaths increased after 11 September, even if one wishes to argue about the causal link between the event/response and the violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories. If one wishes to attack someone for alleged "errors, distortions, and outright fabrications," one should avoid those self same things. "Whoops," indeed.


A further oddity about the writeup is that the text differs from Chomsky's written statement of 12 September 2001 (http://www.counterpunch.org/chomskybomb.html). A couple minor textural things and a strange combining of sentences that were originally separated by paragraph breaks. The most interesting of the (again minor—yet curious) differences is that Chomsky writes about "the foolishness of ideas about 'missile defense'", while the above has it changed to "the foolishness of the project of 'missile defense.'" Both versions are easliy found on the web. What that means I cannot say but it certainly is odd.

Unfortunately continuing....

Actually there was a good reason to leave out 2000 that has nothing to do with the suggestion that I'm trying to hide something (it was left unnoted for the sake of brevity—so much for that). The second Intifada began on 29 September 2000 (which is why the data only includes the last few days of September—beware of people who leave out context). An eruption which in the first few days the IDF fired an estimated "700,000 bullets and other projectiles" in the West Bank and "around 300,000 in Gaza" (Hirst). This would necessarily skew the numbers because of a direct precipitating event, which isn't useful for comparison purposes.

Most of the deaths occurred in October and November (using B'Tselem's statistics) with 100 and 109, respectively. By December, it dropped to a bit less than half (48). It dropped by more than half again in January (18) and only got within three of the December figure once (May) until September 2001. If one wishes to leave out the "spike around April 2002," then the one in late 2000 should be out as well (for better reasons).

If one looks at the graph (http://www.mepc.org/public_asp/resources/mrates.asp) and notes the number of (Palestinian) points above the line indicating 50 deaths, one can see that for the year before 11 September and the year after (leaving out the four "spike" months) one gets two between September 2000 through August 2001 and five between September 2001 through August 2002. Even stronger is the fact that between September 2002 and August 2003 there are ten points above the line. It went up each year.

If there isn't another metric for "oppression" to bring up, then it seems pointless to bring it up at all other than as an apparent smear against the original article (the "whoops" comment is more than a little telling, in and of itself). As you write: "Since we can't even agree about what these data show, I don't really think it would be useful to use something more vague." If other things would be "more vague" and since these numbers do not show what is claimed (or are arguably inconclusive), it should have been excluded from the piece rather than asserted as a fact that proves something.

Of course there is some fluctuation but there is also a very clear escalation for the year following 11 September—something that is claimed did not happen ("the number of Israeli and Palestinian deaths remained relatively constant from September 2000 to January 2004"). And if there are all these "substantial fluctuations," it seems odd how these deaths have "remained relatively constant" or that this was used as a valid criticism of anything—even a prediction which, if wrong, would still not constitute the smug charge of "errors, distortions, and outright fabrications" the piece purports to list.

Further, I did not "[assert] that September 11 had anything to do with any increase or decrease" which a simple reading of what I did write shows: "...even if one wishes to argue about the causal link between the event/response and the violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories." My point was to show that the figures from the sources cited do not back up the claim in the "critique." And they still don't.

Additional source:
The Gun and the Olive Branch 2003 edition David Hirst