A telling post by Elder of Ziyon today “World Bank calls health of PalArab children “outstanding”.

In this post the Elder examines two conflicting reports; one from the Lancet, the venerable British medical journal, the other is from the World Bank.

The Lancet would be the last place to find anti-Israel bias, right? Apparently not.

The Elder tells us that the BBC reported in 2009:

The Lancet medical journal report highlights how 10% of Palestinian children now have stunted growth.

This was criticised within Israel as political propaganda and Israel’s record on treating Palestinians in Israeli hospitals was defended.

The Lancet report continued:

Mortality rates among infants and under-fives haven’t declined much. This is unusual when compared with other Arab countries that used to have similar rates but have managed to bring them down.

The trend for stunting among children is increasing, and the concern is about the long-term effects. It is caused by chronic malnutrition, and affects cognitive development and physical health.

There are pockets in northern Gaza where the level of stunted growth reaches 30%.

We are told how a Harvard researcher slammed the Israelis reaction and insisted the figures were accurate and, therefore, the Israelis were to blame for this terrible situation in Gaza.

But, as the Elder tells us, using the same statistics, the World Bank spun this the completely opposite way.

In terms of indicators of early childhood nutrition, WB&G is an outstanding performer. Among children under the age of 5, only 11.5 percent suffer from stunting (low height for age) and a mere 1.4 percent from wasting (low weight for height). In the average middle income country, 3 out of 10 children are stunted, i.e. more than three times the figure for WB&G. Performance in terms of wasting incidence is even more compelling: one in 10 children in a middle income country suffers from wasting, i.e. the rate is 7 times lower in WB&G. Thus, judged by anthropometric outcomes, WB&G performs better than most other countries in the world, irrespective of income. …It is important to note that the pool of countries in the sample includes a variety of middle income countries from the region, such as Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, and Morocco — and WB&G fares better than these in terms of early childhood nutrition indicators. In addition, overall incidence rates of stunting and wasting have been relatively stable over time.

So which is it?

It depends on what propaganda goal you have in what you are writing. When you want to demonize Israel, you cherry pick numbers to make it the health situation look bad; when you want to make the PA look good and ready for a state you do the exact opposite. That “objective data” mentioned in the NYT is now seen to have been presented in the most subjective manner possible – by not comparing it to similar territories worldwide.

Quite right, Elder.

The most telling point is that nutrition actually improved during the so-called blockade. This is the polar opposite of what everyone, including politicians who should know better, are saying. It is the alleged motivation behind flotillas who want to bring ‘aid’ to the starving Gazans.

In other words, it’s all one big propaganda stunt to accuse Israel of causing a ‘humanitarian disaster’. Well I have news for you, the real humanitarian disasters are in Africa and currently in North West Japan.

It is interesting that in my blog last month about the author Michael Morpurgo’s visit to Gaza I wrote the following:

Morpurgo tells us that levels of poverty and malnutrition are appalling. The doctors at the hospital he visits report on these levels of malnutrition. It is a hospital to specifically treat this problem.

This is the crux of the issue. So what is the truth. Well, it probably lies between ‘everyone is fit and healthy’ and ‘everyone is starving’. So quite a wide gap into which to insert this assertion: it’s a pretty normal Middle Eastern state. In fact, it’s better than ‘normal’.

A caveat is that these statistics were for a combination of the West Bank and Gaza and it is entirely possible that Gaza is worse than the West Bank. But if it were as bad as painted, then these figures would not be possible.

What is clear is that statistics can be used to almost any purpose and political bias if you do not give context. The Lancet failed to provide context because it wanted to embarrass Israel; the World Bank did give context because it wanted to show that the Palestinians were ready for statehood.

Inadvertently, the World Bank highlighted the Lancet bias.

Neither actually gave Israel any credit.

Emphases throughout are those of the Elder