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Calculating Civilian Conflict Fatalities: A Demographic Analysis of Palestinian Conflict Fatalities during the al-Aqsa Intifada (29 September 2000 to 26 December 2008)

Full Article

Birenbaum, Jordan. “Calculating Civilian Conflict Fatalities: A Demographic Analysis of Palestinian Conflict Fatalities during the al-Aqsa Intifada (29 September 2000 to 26 December 2008).” Diss. University of Ottowa, 2010.

[Abstract]

In conflicts involving asymmetric warfare in which fighters typically do not wear uniforms and often operate from civilian areas, verifying the claims of civilian and combatant status of fatalities is extremely difficult. Despite these difficulties, many analyses of modern conflicts, power relationships, international law, human rights, and proportionality of military responses make extensive use of relative fatality statistics. However, rigorous and verifiable methodologies – or any methodologies at all – are rarely published alongside the claims of relative civilian and combatant fatalities. As such, this paper employs an inferential statistical study of general validity to test whether determinations of civilian and combatant fatalities in the first eight years of the al-Aqsa Intifada by the NGO B’Tselem are accurate. B’Tselem’s determination of conflict fatalities is employed because B’Tselem has compiled the richest and most comprehensive data set available for this sort of conflict. Thus one can test B’Tselem’s classifications of fatalities against the demographic data compiled by that organization itself. Such an analysis finds that there is a significant discrepancy between the likely range of civilian fatalities indicated by a demographic analysis of the fatalities and the determinations made by B’Tselem. This discrepancy begs a further analysis of B’Tselem’s methodology in classifying conflict fatalities which reveals profound methodological flaws in B’Tselem’s widely cited determinations of non-combatant Palestinian conflict fatalities.

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