Hogan's Alley

Monday, January 28, 2008

Phony Statistics, Gaza Strip Version

One of my pet peeves is the misuse of statistics in political and journalistic pursuits. Martin Kramer has spotted a particularly egregious one.

According to the writers of an oped piece in the Boston Globe, one of whom is allegedly an objective scientist and academic, the Israeli government reduced the flow into the Gaza Strip of the essential staple, flour, by 99 percent, allowing in only 90 tons per day, when the need is for 680,000 tons, each and every day. Oh, the cruelty.

Kramer an observer of the political scene with a well-earned coating of cynicism, wondered if the 680k figure was correct. Well...it seems that there are 1.5 million citizens of the Gaza Strip. It does not require a PhD. to discern that it is highly unlikely that each person requires almost half a ton of flour per day.

In fact, the daily requirement appears to be somewhere between 350 and 450 tons per day. Although less dramatic, that figure still demonstrates that the Israelis were allowing in only a fraction of what is needed. Perhaps if Hamas stopped lobbing rockets over the border the Israelis might be a little more inclined to meet the true need.

Leaving that point aside, the writers of the piece in question deserve that their names receive the widest possible circulation and the mocking they so richly deserve. They are, Eyad al-Sarraj of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and his friend from Harvard Sara Roy, a Senior Research Fellow at Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Perhaps a memorial prize for the stupid repetition of bogus statistics should be named in their honor.

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