Daily Mail

Daily Mail repeats false claim that “800,000” Palestinians have been arrested since 1967


An April 17th Daily Mail article about violence in the West Bank town of Bilin during demonstrations to mark Palestinian Prisoners Day focused on sensational photos of a five-year old Palestinian boy throwing stones at Israeli police during the demo, but also attempted to provide some context on the larger issue of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Prisoners Day is marked every year in solidarity with the more than 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails.

‘We will not leave our prisoners in jail alone,’ rally organiser Abdullah Abu Rahma said.

‘We will defend their right to be released, because the majority of them have been arrested illegally by Israeli forces.’

With Israel having arrested some 800,000 Palestinians in the occupied territories since 1967 – equivalent to 40 percent of the male population – almost every Palestinian family has been affected.

The Daily Mail’s completely unsubstantiated claim – parroted also in a December New York Times article – that 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested since 1967 (a number alternately placed at 750,000 or 900,000) is not new.  Popular blogger Elder of Ziyon fisked the story back in 2009, and traces it back to Goldstone Commission testimony from the director of the Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Such numbers would mean that there were, on the average, “over 23,000 new prisoners a year since 1967, or 500 a week”.

Here are the relevant passages in Elder’s 2009 post (which he updated in 2011) investigating Addameer’s claim:

Looking at the [Israel Prison Service] website on how many of what they call “political prisoners” were in prison during the past few years, we see that even during the height of the intifada, the number of these prisoners never reached 10,000.

IPS graphic of prisoners from 2002 to 2009

IPS graphic of prisoners from 2002 to 2009

(These figures are for what IPS refers to as political prisoners, meaning Palestinian Arab terror suspects, and not common criminals, so there are some more Arab prisoners than indicated here, but since the figure of 8,100 current prisoners is consistent between what the IPA says and what Adameer says it is reasonable to assume that Adameer is referring only to IPS’s “political prisoners.” In no way are they to be considered political prisoners in the Western sense of the term.)

Almost certainly the past eight years have seen the largest number of Palestinian-Arab prisoners in Israeli prison history because of the intifada. Yet even if you assume that each prisoner is detained for only a single year and only arrested once, these past eight years add up to less than 50,000 prisoners; extrapolated to 1967 it would add up to under 200,000.

Even those assumptions are ridiculous. The IPS says that over 60% of prisoners have been arrested previously.

Addameer’s own figures show they are lying. This testimony was given in July. Exactly one year earlier, Adameer submitted to the UN figures that Israel had detained over 700,000 prisoners since 1967. Did Israel arrest and jail 50,000 people in the past year?

In order for the 750,000 number to be accurate, it would mean roughly 500 arrests a week every week since 1967. In order for 50,000 new prisoners to appear this year, it would mean around a thousand arrests a week.

The PCHR [Palestinian Center for Human Rights] keeps track of the number of Palestinian Arabs arrested every week. Taking the past two months as examples, we see the date of the weekly report and the number of arrests:

8/26 16
8/19 28
8/12 17
8/5 25
7/29 14
7/22 21
7/15 10
7/8 18
7/1 28

This doesn’t quite add up to tens of thousands of arrests a year.

Addameer is lying, and lying on a huge scale. It is simply making up these numbers out of thin air.

The problem is, people believe them.

Not only “people”, but putatively ‘credible’ British journalists. 

5 replies »

  1. Statistics are very dangerous things and it is always important to understand what the source data means.

    I haven’t seen either the Addameer’s or Elder’s source data, but it seems to me that they may both have made significant errors.

    I suspect that Addameer have simply taken the number of arrests of Arabs for each year and totalled them. This is misleading as it fails to take account of the facts that a) many of these will have been arrested on non-political grounds, e.g. driving offences, antisocial behaviour, immigration offences, theft etc etc; and b) many individuals will have been arrested on multiple occasions (both of which factors Elder points out above).

    But Elder hasn’t taken account of the equally important fact that prison population is almost certainly many times smaller than number of people arrested.

    In England & Wales in 2013 (for example), there were more than 1 million arrests while prison population hovered around the 85,000 mark (nearly 12 times less).

    Assuming both stats do not change from year to year and using the Addameer method, 46 million (85%) people in Eng & Wales were arrested between 1967 and 2013, and using the Elder method, “only” 3.9 million were. Both are patently absurd.

    NB I have taken the stats above direct from official UK government sources (I can provide links if required). I can’t analyse Israeli government stats accurately as I don’t speak Hebrew. Can anyone help with this?

  2. ‘We will defend their right to be released, because the majority of them have been arrested illegally by Israeli forces.’
    Hilarious.
    The ‘right to be released.’ The right to spin your wheels and never go anywhere. That is the Palestinian cause in action.

  3. To be fair, this article is generally balanced. It is clearly critical of the kid throwing stones and puts the Israeli response in the context of the Rock throwing.

    Having said that the photo of the man whose “face was left covered in blood having been injured during the violent clashes” clearly implies that he was injured by an Israeli rubber bullet, as it is sandwiched between text saying rubber bullets were fired and a picture of an Israeli policeman aiming a rifle.

    How much do you want to bet that he was actually injured when he got too close to one of his fellow “protestors” while they were swinging a rock in a catapult?

  4. Even if the total were true, their math is wrong. For it to be 40% of the male population, it would have to be 40% of all men who ever lived in the west bank since 1967.