Irish Times accused of sharing incorrect Gaza death toll

UK Lawyers for Israel criticised the Times for sharing the speculative figure


People walk past rubble and damaged buildings in the Tuffah district east of Gaza City on July 8, 2024 amid the ongoing conflict in the Palestinian territory between Israel and Hamas. (Photo by Omar AL-QATTAA / AFP) (Photo by OMAR AL-QATTAA/AFP via Getty Images)

The Irish Times has published an article sharing misinformation on the Gaza death toll.

The article, published yesterday, claims the Lancet – the prestigious British medical journal – predicted the death toll in Gaza may reach 186,000.

The article reads: “The Lancet says the figure adopted as the base for its projection was ‘likely an underestimate’”.

The 186,000 figure, which has been widely shared by MPs and public figures, is not based on a peer-reviewed article.

The number comes from a “correspondence” published on July 5 in the journal. “Correspondences” are not journal articles. According to the Lancet, the letters are “our readers' reflections on content published in the Lancet journals or on other topics of general interest to our readers”. The Lancet confirms “these letters are not normally externally peer reviewed”.

UK Lawyers for Israel criticised the Irish Times for sharing the figure. “The item in the Lancet is clearly a letter sent to the journal by three individuals, not an editorial or article by the Lancet as suggested by the Irish Times,” they told the JC. “As for the letter, the authors’ efforts are worthy of a haggadah”.

The letter, written by three academics – Rasha Khatib, Martin McKee, and Salim Yusuf – offers the figure as an “estimate”. It argues that if the death toll in Gaza is 37 396, then it is “not implausible” to estimate that up to 186 000 deaths could be attributed to the war at some point in the future. This number was achieved by multiplying the current death toll by five.

The lead signatory on the letter, Radha Khatib, works at Birzeit University, near Ramallah, which has been outspoken on the war in Gaza. On October 15 last year, Birzet called for international academic institutions to “take concrete action to stop the genocidal war on the Palestinian people and to end Israeli settler colonialism”. Khatib has also shared Anti-Israel posts on social media.
The 186,000 figure has been shared across social media, notably by MP Zarah Sultana.

The Irish Times has been approached for comment.

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