...the total number of deaths in conflicts since 1950 ...about 85,000,000.
...the deaths in the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1950 include 32,000 deaths due to Arab state attacks and 19,000 due to Palestinian attacks, or 51,000 in all. Arabs make up roughly 35,000 of these dead and Jewish Israelis make up 16,000.
... deaths in Arab-Israeli fighting since 1950 amount to just 0.06 percent of the total number of deaths in all conflicts in that period...1 out of about 1,700 persons killed in conflicts since 1950 has died due to Arab-Israeli fighting.
...11,000,000 Muslims have been violently killed since 1948, of which 35,000, or 0.3 percent, died during the sixty years of fighting Israel, or just 1 out of every 315 Muslim fatalities. In contrast, over 90 percent of the 11 million who perished were killed by fellow Muslims.
The Arab-Israeli conflict is often said, not just by extremists, to be the world's most dangerous conflict – and, accordingly, Israel is judged the world's most belligerent country.
For example, British prime minister Tony Blair told the U.S. Congress in July 2003 that "Terrorism will not be defeated without peace in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine. Here it is that the poison is incubated. Here it is that the extremist is able to confuse in the mind of a frighteningly large number of people the case for a Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel." This viewpoint leads many Europeans, among others, to see Israel as the most menacing country on earth.
But is this true? It flies in the face of the well-known pattern that liberal democracies do not aggress; plus, it assumes, wrongly, that the Arab-Israeli conflict is among the most costly in terms of lives lost.
To place the Arab-Israeli fatalities in their proper context, one of the two co-authors, Gunnar Heinsohn, has compiled statistics to rank conflicts since 1950 by the number of human deaths incurred. Note how far down the list is the entry in bold type.
Conflicts since 1950 with over 10,000 Fatalities (all figures rounded)*
|1||40,000,000||Red China, 1949-76 (outright killing, manmade famine, Gulag)|
Mao Tse-Tung, by far the greatest post-1950 murderer.
|2||10,000,000||Soviet Bloc: late Stalinism, 1950-53; post-Stalinism, to 1987 (mostly Gulag)|
|3||4,000,000||Ethiopia, 1962-92: Communists, artificial hunger, genocides|
|4||3,800,000||Zaire (Congo-Kinshasa): 1967-68; 1977-78; 1992-95; 1998-present|
|5||2,800,000||Korean war, 1950-53|
|6||1,900,000||Sudan, 1955-72; 1983-2006 (civil wars, genocides)|
|7||1,870,000||Cambodia: Khmer Rouge 1975-79; civil war 1978-91|
|8||1,800,000||Vietnam War, 1954-75|
|9||1,800,000||Afghanistan: Soviet and internecine killings, Taliban 1980-2001|
|10||1,250,000||West Pakistan massacres in East Pakistan (Bangladesh 1971)|
|11||1,100,000||Nigeria, 1966-79 (Biafra); 1993-present|
|12||1,100,000||Mozambique, 1964-70 (30,000) + after retreat of Portugal 1976-92|
|14||900,000||Rwanda genocide, 1994|
|15||875,000||Algeria: against France 1954-62 (675,000); between Islamists and the government 1991-2006 (200,000)|
|16||850,000||Uganda, 1971-79; 1981-85; 1994-present|
|17||650,000||Indonesia: Marxists 1965-66 (450,000); East Timor, Papua, Aceh etc, 1969-present (200,000)|
|18||580,000||Angola: war against Portugal 1961-72 (80,000); after Portugal's retreat (1972-2002)|
|19||500,000||Brazil against its Indians, up to 1999|
|20||430,000||Vietnam, after the war ended in 1975 (own people; boat refugees)|
|21||400,000||Indochina: against France, 1945-54|
|22||400,000||Burundi, 1959-present (Tutsi/Hutu)|
|24||400,000||North Korea up to 2006 (own people)|
|25||300,000||Kurds in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, 1980s-1990s|
|26||300,000||Iraq, 1970-2003 (Saddam against minorities)|
|27||240,000||Colombia, 1946-58; 1964-present|
|28||200,000||Yugoslavia, Tito regime, 1944-80|
|31||175,000||Serbia against Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, 1991-1999|
|32||150,000||Romania, 1949-99 (own people)|
|34||140,000||Russia against Chechnya, 1994-present|
|35||150,000||Lebanon civil war, 1975-90|
|36||140,000||Kuwait War, 1990-91|
|37||130,000||Philippines: 1946-54 (10,000); 1972-present (120,000)|
|39||100,000||North Yemen, 1962-70|
|40||100,000||Sierra Leone, 1991-present|
|41||100,000||Albania, 1945-91 (own people)|
|42||80,000||Iran, 1978-79 (revolution)|
|43||75,000||Iraq, 2003-present (domestic)|
|44||75,000||El Salvador, 1975-92|
|45||70,000||Eritrea against Ethiopia, 1998-2000|
|46||68,000||Sri Lanka, 1997-present|
|47||60,000||Zimbabwe, 1966-79; 1980-present|
|48||60,000||Nicaragua, 1972-91 (Marxists/natives etc,)|
|49||51,000||Arab-Israeli conflict 1950-present|
|50||50,000||North Vietnam, 1954-75 (own people)|
|51||50,000||Tajikistan, 1992-96 (secularists against Islamists)|
|52||50,000||Equatorial Guinea, 1969-79|
|56||30,000||Bulgaria, 1948-89 (own people)|
|58||30,000||Argentina, 1976-83 (own people)|
|59||27,000||Hungary, 1948-89 (own people)|
|60||26,000||Kashmir independence, 1989-present|
|61||25,000||Jordan government vs. Palestinians, 1970-71 (Black September)|
|62||22,000||Poland, 1948-89 (own people)|
|63||20,000||Syria, 1982 (against Islamists in Hama)|
|64||20,000||Chinese-Vietnamese war, 1979|
|65||19,000||Morocco: war against France, 1953-56 (3,000) and in Western Sahara, 1975-present (16,000)|
|66||18,000||Congo Republic, 1997-99|
|67||10,000||South Yemen, 1986 (civil war)|
This grisly inventory finds the total number of deaths in conflicts since 1950 numbering about 85,000,000. Of that sum, the deaths in the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1950 include 32,000 deaths due to Arab state attacks and 19,000 due to Palestinian attacks, or 51,000 in all. Arabs make up roughly 35,000 of these dead and Jewish Israelis make up 16,000.
These figures mean that deaths in Arab-Israeli fighting since 1950 amount to just 0.06 percent of the total number of deaths in all conflicts in that period. More graphically, only 1 out of about 1,700 persons killed in conflicts since 1950 has died due to Arab-Israeli fighting.
(Adding the 11,000 killed in the Israeli war of independence, 1947-49, made up of 5,000 Arabs and 6,000 Israeli Jews, does not significantly alter these figures.)
In a different perspective, some 11,000,000 Muslims have been violently killed since 1948, of which 35,000, or 0.3 percent, died during the sixty years of fighting Israel, or just 1 out of every 315 Muslim fatalities. In contrast, over 90 percent of the 11 million who perished were killed by fellow Muslims.
(1) Despite the relative non-lethality of the Arab-Israeli conflict, its renown, notoriety, complexity, and diplomatic centrality will probably give it continued out-sized importance in the global imagination. And Israel's reputation will continue to pay the price.
(2) Still, it helps to point out the 1-in-1,700 statistic as a corrective, in the hope that one day, this reality will register, permitting the Arab-Israeli conflict to subside to its rightful, lesser place in world politics.
Professor Heinsohn is director of the Raphael-Lemkin-Institut für Xenophobie- und Genozidforschung at the University of Bremen. Mr. Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum.
Apr. 9, 2013 update: Congruent with these numbers, the ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2013, titled Our Best Days Are Ahead of Us, finds that the Arab-Israeli conflict rates as concern #4 in the minds of young Arabic-speakers.
The poll was conducted by Penn Schoen Berland with 3,000 face-to-face interviews between December 2012 and January 2013 with Arab men and women aged 18 to 24 in the six Gulf Cooperation Council states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq and Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Yemen. The gender split of the survey is 60:40 male to female. The margin of error is +/-2.19%.