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Rates of deadly violence --- U.S., Israel, Gaza

10/23/2005

TEL AVIV --- While the U.S. homicide rate declined slightly in 2004, it was more than 25 percent higher than Israel's combined rate of deaths from crime, suicide bombings and intifada-related military casualties.

Homicide rates in 2004 in a number of major U.S. cities including the nation's capital exceeded rates of Palestinian fatalities at the hands of Israel's army in the past year.

These are among the facts that emerge from data released October 17 in the yearly Uniform Crime Reporting program of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI also found that acts against Jews claimed 67.8 percent of the victims of religious hate crimes tallied in 2004. Anti-Muslim acts accounted for only 12.7 percent of the victims of U.S. religious hate crimes reported for 2004.

The FBI bases these data on reports from local law-enforcement agencies. They show that the U. S. homicide rate declined by 3.3 percent in 2004. Only once before in the past 40 years has it been so low --- 5.5 killings per 100,000 residents.

Yet Israel's overall death rate from crime and war in the same period was lower. It was 4.3 deaths per 100,000 population. This reflected 174 murders and 122 intifada deaths. (If 41 Israeli soldiers' deaths in the intifada are excluded, the resultant rate was 3.7 killings per 100,000 population. The U.S. homicide rate was almost 50 percent higher than this Israel all-civilian rate.)

It needs to be noted that comparisons like this can be misleading. The numbers are general and cannot tell us important facts about the violence they reflect. They do not identify the neighborhoods where most violence takes place, nor do they show which elements of the population are most vulnerable. They do not show the relationship, if any, between the victim and killer. They do not show who is likely to commit violence. They do not tell us how many violent attacks the authorities succeeding in thwarting. They do not measure tension and fear among the living. Nor do they tell us what may happen tomorrow.

Although the rate of deadly violence is evidently higher in the United States, the State Department continues to warn its citizens against traveling to Israel. An official warning which has been in effect since June 20 urges Americans to "carefully weigh the necessity of their travel to Israel."


"The Department also urges U.S. citizens to defer unnecessary travel to the West Bank and avoid all travel to Gaza," the warning continues. "Terrorist attacks within Israel have declined in both frequency and associated casualties. However, the potential for further violence remains high."

What follows below is some information that covers two different but partially overlapping periods of time---calendar year 2004, and October 2004 through September 2005. While the data aren't strictly comparable, the numbers give some additional perspective on intifada fatalities.

A compilation by the newspaper Haaretz found that Israel's rate of intifada deaths declined sharply in the fifth year of the Palestinian uprising. In 12 months ending in September 2005, Haaretz counted only 56 Israelis killed in the intifada. This is a rate of 0.8 deaths per 100,000 population.

In the same period, Haaretz reported, Israeli soldiers and security services killed 417 Palestinians, and Israeli settlers killed eight Palestinians. These 425 deaths were at a rate of 11.2 per 100,000 population, figured according to a widely accepted estimate of 3.8 million Palestinians living outside the Green Line. This equals San Francisco's 2004 homicide rate of 11.2 per 100,000 population and is less than the homicide rates in Baltimore County (12.5) and Los Angeles (13.4). The actual number of homicides in Los Angeles in 2004 was 518, or almost 20 percent more than the number of Palestinians killed by Israelis in the past 12 months.

Most of the Palestinian deaths occurred in Gaza, where Israelis killed 324 people in the past year. At the widely accepted estimate of 1.38 million population, the Gaza deaths yield a rate of 23.5 per 100,000 residents. In 2004, homicides in the New Orleans Metropolitan Statistical Area claimed more lives, 338, at a higher rate --- 25.5 per 100,000. (Of these killings, 264 occurred within the New Orleans city limits, at a rate of 56.0 per 100,000 population.)

Researchers have disputed the accuracy of Palestinian population figures. Professor Arnon Sofer of Haifa University has contended that the real figure is about 2.9 million. If correct, this estimate would increase the Palestinian violent-death rate to 14.7 per 100,000, raising it almost to the level of Denver (15.4).

In January, a study by American and Israeli researchers went further than Sofer and estimated the Palestinian population outside the Green Line at no more than 2.4 million. By this estimate, the 425 Palestinian deaths of the past year were at a rate of 17.7 killings per 100,000 population. This is the same rate as Savannah reported for 2004. It is slightly less than Miami's 2004 homicide rate (17.9) and considerably below the rates of Detroit (20.3) and San Francisco's neighbor city of Oakland (20.6).

Another conclusion of the January study was that the Gaza population is only 1,070,000. If this is correct, the 324 Gaza killings by Israelis in the past 12 months were at a rate of 30.3 per 100,000 residents. This approaches the 2004 homicide rates of St. Louis (33.7) and Washington, D.C. (35.8).

This leaves the Gaza rate far short of Baltimore City (43.4), Richmond, Va. (47.3) and New Orleans city (56.0).

Whatever the shortcomings of these numbers, they tell some truth. They are less misleading than many statements which various politicians, polemicists and organizations make about the violence. The numbers also are free from the multiplier effect of television coverage that replays a single scene many times over, leaving viewers with repeated impressions of unquantified violence.

One of the biggest U.S. newspaper chains prepared a manual for its staff and customers which states, "The largest conflict in the Middle East is the Arab-Israeli conflict and the struggle over Palestine." A European Community survey listed 15 countries and asked if each presented a threat to world peace. Respondents gave Israel the most "yes" responses --- 59 percent --- ahead of Iran, North Korea and the United States, among others. In the face of sweeping judgments like those, the actual numbers and rates of death help show the real proportions of the lethal conflict that is going on between Israelis and Palestinians.

-- Joseph M. Hochstein

Israel: murders plus intifada deaths, 2004
deaths per 100,000 residents

3.7 -- Israel, civilians only
4.3 -- Israel, soldiers included

Source: Israel Foreign Ministry

==

Intifada deaths, 10/04--9/05
deaths per 100,000 residents

0.8 -- Israel

11.2 -- Total Palestinian (3.8 million pop. est.)
14.7 -- Total Palestinian (2.9 million pop. est.)
17.7 -- Total Palestinian (2.4 million pop. est.)
23.5 -- Gaza only (1.4 million pop. est.)
30.3 -- Gaza only (1.07 million pop. est.)

Source: Haaretz

==
Homicide rates 2004
deaths per 100,000 residents

3.7 -- Israel, civilians only
4.3 -- Israel, soldiers included

5.5 -- USA total

5.7 -- Seattle
11.2 -- San Francisco
12.5 -- Baltimore County
13.4 -- Los Angeles
14.4 -- Denver
17.7 -- Savannah
17.9 -- Miami
20.3 -- Detroit
20.6 -- Oakland
25.5 -- New Orleans MSA
26.1 -- Atlanta
33.7 -- St. Louis
35.8 -- Washington, D.C.
43.4 -- Baltimore City
47.3 -- Richmond, Va.
56.0 -- New Orleans city

Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports

-- J.M.H.

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000396.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

by Joseph M. Hochstein @ 12:32 AM CST [Link]

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