UK outlet manipulates road death statistics to attack Israel

The London offices of The Guardian newspaper in 2017. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A guardian article by Bethan McKernan and Maria Rashed (“Israel grapples with the ‘systemic problem’ of road fatalities”, August 28) began by noting recent road deaths in Israel, which she said illustrates the poor record of the country in terms of road deaths.

In much of the world, the increasing use of vehicles has led to more accidents, but fewer serious injuries and fatalities, as car and road safety continually improves. In Israelhowever, according to a recent report by the European Transport Safety Council, there has only been a 4.7% drop in fatalities over the past decade, compared to an average of 31%.

Compared to Europe, or other developed countries, we are in a very bad position. What we’ve seen this week isn’t just bad luck, it’s a systemic issue,” [Avi Naor, chair of Israel’s National Road Safety Authority] said. [emphasis added]

In fact, the GuardianThe selective statistics from Israel and the single quote from Avi Naor obscure the fact that, contrary to the desired narrative, road fatality figures in Israel compare favorably to those in Europe.

The organization the Guardian quote, European Transport Safety Council, published Data for 2020 showing that, in the analysis of road deaths per million inhabitants, Israel, at 32.8, ranks 10th among the 32 EU countries ranked, and is considerably better than the average of the EU of 42.3.

Thus, while as The Guardian says that Israel has reduced the number of road deaths at a lower rate than other countries, the Israeli figure itself – as the bottom of the graph clearly shows – is still considerably better than that of other countries.

Other compromising data Guardian story is revealed in a 2019 report on road fatalities per 100,000 population by the International Transport Forum (ITF), an intergovernmental organization within the OECD, which said:

The number of road deaths per 100,000 people in Israel fell by 51% between 2000 and 2019, from 7.9 to 3.9 road deaths per 100,000 population. For comparison, the average in the the European Union was 5.1 deaths per 100,000 population in 2019.

Additionally, 2018 data from the WHO, cited by The post of Jerusalem this year, on road fatalities per 100,000 people on the road, also testifies to Israel’s good record in road fatalities compared to other countries:

According to World Health Organization data from 2018, Israel has one of the best traffic records in the Middle East, with an average of 4.2 deaths per 100,000 people on the road. These numbers are on par with countries such as Canada, Japan and Norway and significantly lower than that of Jordan, Egypt and the United States.

Next, The Guardian the article manipulates readers, turning to the disproportionate number of Arab citizens killed in Israeli road accidents:

Despite making up only 20% of Israel’s population, the country’s Arab minority is disproportionately affected: according to Israeli police statistics, Israeli Arabs are involved in 52% of fatal accidents.

Ghassan Abofaneh, from Kafr Qara in Israel’s Arab-majority Workers’ Towns and Villages group, lost his 22-year-old cousin, Moneeb Mohammed, after his motorbike collided with a car on Wednesday. He also lost two nephews, both in their early twenties, in an accident last June.

It’s not just the poor infrastructure of Arab communities compared to Jewish communities. The problem goes much deeper than that,” said Abofaneh, 58.

Young men drive fast anyway. Here, without outlets to evacuate the stress, the economic problems … Young Arabs don’t ride motorcycles for transportation, but for adventure. All they care about is speed.

These young men have no place in society. We are 20% of the population but we are the ones who die in accidents because the government doesn’t care.”

As is often the case in their reports on the region, the Gtutor the journalists largely cite anecdotal evidence to support their general assumption that any disparity in outcomes between Jews and Arabs in Israel must be explained by racism.

However, a year 2020 in depth study on the very question of the disparities between Arabs and Jews in road deaths, in Israel Journal of Health Policy Research (IJHPR), tells a more nuanced story:

Reports indicate that Arabs have higher rates of unsafe road behavior and non-compliance with traffic signs and regulations, including speeding, disregarding driving distance, wrong turns, driving without a seat belt and not using child restraints. [1318,19,20,21]. In addition, the road infrastructure in many Arab towns and villages is often considered to be of poor quality, including narrow roads, lack of sidewalks and pedestrian crossings, and obstacles to visibility. [13192022]. Compared to mainstream society, the Arab population in Israel is younger, has a late kindergarten enrollment age, has larger families, and has lower socioeconomic status (SES). [1316192223]. All of these factors can increase their risk of involvement in RTAs, especially in serious crashes that can result in serious injury and death. [2021]. For example, young road users are more likely to engage in risky behaviors than their older counterparts, such as speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, and not wearing a helmet or a seat belt, which can increase their risk of injury or death. [24]. Low SES may be associated with less developed road infrastructure, risky road safety behaviors and the use of vehicles that are not roadworthy, all of which are reported to increase the risk of involvement in road safety. RTA [202526].

Thus, while the poor quality of road infrastructure in many Arab cities is cited as one possible reason for the disparity, Arabs’ higher rates of “dangerous road behavior” are highlighted as a more important factor.

With regard to both Israel’s overall road death toll compared to other countries and the specific issue of deaths of Arab citizens on the country’s roads, it is clear that the Keepn the journalists who wrote the article simply did not do their due diligence — preferring to promote Guardian narrative rather than engaging in something resembling real journalism.

Adam Levick is co-editor of CAMERA UK – an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), where a version of this article first appearance.