Although photographs of Friday's attack on Palestinian women have been widely disseminated, the bigger story is still not being told. 

These killings are part of a new, longer-term pattern; there has been a dramatic rise in the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli military since Hamas took control of the Palestinian Authority seven months ago, despite the low number of Israelis killed by Palestinians during that time.

Palestinians, already subject to occupation by the Israeli military, have been killed at a rate of 26 Palestinians for every Israeli killed since Hamas took power on March 29, 2006.

 

Since July that ratio has risen to 76 Palestinians for every Israeli.

 

Though the mainstream media still reports on a "conflict" between "two sides", over the past seven months it has simply been a slaughter.

 

According to casualty figures from B'Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and press reports for November 1-3, in the period between March 29, when the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority took office and November 3, 491 Palestinians have been killed by Israel while 19 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians, 25.8 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. 

 

Since July 1, 381 Palestinians have died versus five Israelis.

 

Descriptions by B'Tselem and OCHA of the circumstances of these deaths show that about half of the Palestinians killed were civilians.

 

This year has seen by far the most skewed ratio of killings. While no deaths should be accepted, the figures show that the Israeli war machine has shifted gear.

Comparative figures and analysis of the overwhelming numbers of Israeli missiles and bombs fired at Gaza and Lebanon, of Israel's vast weaponry, and of the numbers of Palestinians killed, are typically harder to find.

During the second Palestinian intifada (uprising) from September 29, 2000, about 3.9 Palestinians were killed for every Israeli.

The highest previous multi-month ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed during this intifada occurred from March to December 2004 when about 9.5 Palestinians were killed for every Israeli. In the first Palestinian intifada from 1987-92, 5.2 Palestinians were killed for every Israeli.

 

The increase in 2006 reversed the downward trend from 2005, the year with the lowest number of both Palestinian deaths (197) and Israeli deaths (50) during the uprising.

In April, with Hamas taking power, Palestinian deaths climbed back to 2004 levels. From July 1 to November 3, 2006, Israel has killed an average of 93 Palestinians a month, the highest monthly average since Israel's re-invasion of the West Bank in March/April 2002.

 

In 2006, unable to support the usual claim that it is responding defensively, the Israeli government has offered various unconvincing explanations for the large numbers of deaths.

 

But Israel's intensified violence seems intended to punish Palestinians for voting Hamas into power in democratic elections, and to restore Israeli self-esteem which was damaged by the failure of the war with Lebanon.

 

Israel's shifting justifications are repeated with few questions asked by the mainstream media. First Israel said it was acting to stop Palestinians from firing home-made Qassam rockets into Israel, rockets that have killed only eight people within Israel over five years.

Later on, it said it was responding to last June's operation in which a single Israeli soldier was captured, though Israel holds 10,000 Palestinian prisoners.

 

News reports suggest that the continuing Israeli attacks may jeopardise the soldier's safe return. Now the Israeli government is again playing up Qassam rockets, and arms-smuggling into Gaza as justifications.

 

Amira Hass, an Israeli reporter, put Gaza arms-smuggling in perspective, writing in the Haaretz newspaper on October 18: "What exists in Israelis' consciousness is not the millions of cluster bombs ... or the tens of millions of bombs and shells and lethal bullets stored in our arms warehouses and our gun barrels and the bellies of our helicopters and planes. Although the amount of such explosives is measured in the millions of tons, it is the 20 tons of explosives and the few thousand rifles that permeate the Israeli consciousness."

 

Palestinians, however, realise that they are being slaughtered despite the fact that they are not killing Israelis, just as they know that they were encouraged to hold democratic elections and then punished for doing so.

Even though they have vastly inferior weapons, are killed in much greater numbers, live under Israeli occupation and are having their land taken from them by Israelis, Palestinians are generally portrayed in the US as the aggressors.

Ironically, under the much vilified Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, Palestinians have killed by far the fewest Israelis in any period during this six-year intifada: 19 Israelis over seven months.

   

Hamas has largely maintained a ceasefire since early 2005, even as Israel and Western governments demand that Hamas renounce violence and recognise Israel, and the Western media repeats simplistically that Hamas is "committed to the destruction of Israel".

 

In the meantime, Israel is actually destroying the Palestinian people and any hopes for a Palestinian state through heightened violence and land seizure. But the world has been silent about Israeli actions.

 

The dominance of the Israeli narrative and of Israeli voices in the US media is one factor that allows Americans to maintain this hypocrisy. Rather than providing comparable information about both sides, Palestinian attacks and weaponry are over-emphasised, and the Israeli government line repeated.

Palestinians, already subjected to Israeli military occupation and overwhelming violence, have been killed at a rate of 26 Palestinians for every Israeli killed since Hamas took power on March 29, 2006, and 76 Palestinians per Israeli since July 1.



Comparative figures and analysis of the overwhelming numbers of Israeli missiles and bombs fired at Gaza and Lebanon, of Israel's vast weaponry, and of the numbers of Palestinians killed, are typically harder to find.

 

For example, The New York Times, LA Times and Washington Post, three of the largest and most respected US newspapers, all describe the current crisis as beginning with the capture of an Israeli soldier, erasing history prior to June 25, 2006.

Israel'
s heightened assault on Gaza began with heavy shelling in late March, resulting in the killing of large numbers of Palestinians in Gaza before June 25, including gruesome attacks such as the June 9 shelling of a Gaza beach which killed seven members of the family of 12-year-old Huda Al Ghalia.

 

Over the past three months, those same three newspapers have failed to comment on the recent dramatic disparity between Palestinian and Israeli deaths.

During that period, The New York Times is the only one of those papers to have provided figures comparing death tolls.

 

The Times did so three times over three months, in just one to two sentences each time, with no accompanying analysis. Over the past three months, the LA Times and the Washington Post reported only the figures for Palestinian deaths, six times and two times respectively, again with no analysis. All three papers begin their counts from June 25, 2006.

 

It is difficult to imagine that a similarly large increase in the ratio of Israeli to Palestinian deaths could occur without major discussion by the media and the world, or that such lop-sided deaths in another conflict would pass without comment.

Despite a Hamas ceasefire, and publicly available data showing that Israel is now carrying out a one-sided assault, Hamas violence remains the focus. Propaganda continues to trump reality, with the collaboration of the US media.

Palestinians are portrayed as terrorists, and Israelis as victims of Palestinian terrorism. There is scarcely a mention of international law, or the status of the Palestinians as a people living under 39 years of Israeli military occupation and subjugation.

 

Palestinians, however, realise that they are being slaughtered despite the fact that they are not killing Israelis, just as they know that they were encouraged to hold democratic elections and then punished for doing so.

Frustrated by the world's hypocrisy and lack of support, and subject to daily Israeli assaults, it is unlikely that Palestinians will maintain their unilateral ceasefire forever. If Palestinians do eventually strike back, it remains to be seen if the world will even register what they are responding to.   

Patrick O'Connor is a New York City-based activist with the International Solidarity Movement and Palestine Media Watch.  


The opinions expressed here are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position or have the endorsement of Aljazeera.