A number of years ago, on a visit to Manhattan, I entered one of the countless souvenir stores that dot the area in Times Square which are affectionately known as "tourist traps."
Amid the refrigerator magnets declaring one's love for New York, the fake subway signs and plastic snow globes enveloping the Statue of Liberty, I came across a hidden treasure that I continue to adore until this very day. It is a small purple pin which declares simply and with unvarnished irony: "Forty percent of all statistics are false."
If you have even a sliver of cynicism somewhere in your body and you take a moment and think about that sentence, it should bring a smile to your face because it sums up quite nicely what most of us already know to be true. In our data-drenched world, statistics are just about as reliable as pre-election promises made by politicians.
My thoughts turned to that pin the other day when I read through the US State Department's "2019 Country Report on Human Rights Practices: Israel," which was released on March 2 of this year. It contains what can most charitably be described as nothing less than an obscene distortion of reality.
On page 100 of the tome, under the rather oddly worded heading, "Other Societal Violence or Discrimination," the people at Foggy Bottom made the spurious claim that there were a grand total of just 101 Palestinian "violent acts" against Israelis in Judea and Samaria in 2019, "primarily stone-throwing," and asserted that this "represented a 49% decrease from 2018."
The only problem with this bit of data, if one can call it that, is that it is in fact a complete and utter falsehood.
As a recently released investigation based on official IDF statistics from last year conducted by the Israeli NGO Boomerang demonstrated, the actual number of such Palestinian "violent acts," better known as terrorism, was well over 1,000, or more than 10 times the figure cited by the State Department.
They included Molotov cocktail attacks against Israeli vehicles, stabbings, shootings, stonings and attempts to run over innocent pedestrians.
Worse yet, the detailed information that was compiled by Boomerang was submitted to the State Department in advance of the report's publication, but for reasons known only to its authors, it was summarily ignored.
"On average there are four life-threatening attacks on Israelis in Judea and Samaria every day," said Boomerang founder Ezri Tubi. "By ignoring these attacks, the State Department is misrepresenting the realities on the ground and giving a free pass to Palestinian terror and incitement. Allowing such fake facts to become a matter of record will greatly hinder attempts to bring a just solution to the conflict and, moreover, only serve to empower the voices of hatred in this region."
Tubi is exactly right and he and his organization are to be commended for highlighting this important truth.
This is not merely a numbers game. Behind each incident recorded by the IDF is a victim or victims, people who were singled out by Palestinian terrorists simply because they were Jews.
Every Israeli car struck by a stone, each bus pounded by a brick and every taxi clobbered by a cinder block involves trauma for those who were targeted, leaving psychological scars and wounds that may be no less debilitating than bruises or broken bones.
Failure to properly count the number of Palestinian terror attacks necessarily minimizes their importance, suggesting that they and their victims don't really matter.
Thanks to Tubi as well as the advocacy work of the Yes! Israel Project, efforts have gathered steam to get the State Department to clarify and correct its methodology, with members of Congress now raising the issue.
In a letter sent to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Rep. David McKinley, a West Virginia Republican, and Rep. Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, rightly point out that the State Department report is an important tool for assessing whether the Palestinians are complying with their obligation to halt terror.
Hence, they ask Secretary Pompeo to take a look at the State Department's internal data collection process and to consider including information obtained from official Israeli government reports in order to ensure the integrity and accuracy of the annual human rights findings.
Hopefully, Pompeo will move quickly to address the State Department's clumsy calculus of Palestinian terror.
After all, there is no doubt that the current method being used is a dubious and outdated relic left over from previous administrations.
Indeed, President Donald Trump, Pompeo and US Ambassador David Friedman have all shown themselves to be courageous and true friends of the Jewish state. And they have all taken strong stands against terror and violence. In light of their track records, no one can possibly accuse them of trying to downplay Palestinian misdeeds.
So I am confident that once they consider this matter as well as its ramifications, they will surely take the steps necessary to correct the situation.
It was Mark Twain who once said, "Facts are stubborn but statistics are more pliable." For far too long, that has proven to be the case in how the State Department documents Palestinian terror. It is time for the whitewashing to end.