How Many People Were Killed on the Syrian Border?

By Jeffrey Goldberg

A strange passage in The Times today:

By nightfall, the Syrian news agency SANA reported that 22 protesters had been killed and more than 350 had been wounded. Israeli officials said that they had no information on casualties but suggested that the Syrian figures were exaggerated.

Even so, it was the worst bloodshed in the Golan Heights since Israel and Syria fought a war there in 1973.

So, the official Syrian news agency, which has every reason to inflate the casualty figures, reports that 22 people were killed by Israeli troops. Israel says that it disputes the figures. The Israeli information operation is far from perfect, but it's much better than the Assad regime's information operation. So skepticism about these figures is certainly warranted.

And yet, the Times follows this ambiguous paragraph about the death toll with a declaration: "Even so, it was the worst bloodshed in the Golan Heights since Israel and Syria fought a war there in 1973." How does the Times know this? How does the Times know how many people died? The only source for the death toll is the Assad regime's propaganda apparatus.

Oh, and by the way, the Syrian regime is reported to have killed 38 pro-democracy protesters yesterday. This bit of information did not make the front page.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/06/how-many-people-were-killed-on-the-syrian-border/239954/