Israel Didn’t Blow up the Gaza Hospital? It Doesn’t Matter

In an era of "non-truths," Israel’s evidence that it wasn't behind the hospital bombing won't drown out Hamas' non-evidence, and the public outcry against Israel could affect how it pursues its counterattack in Gaza, just like in the past
October 18, 2023
Pro-Palestinian supporters pray as they attend a vigil for the victims of the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital explosion on October 18, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Reliable evidence shows that the tragic explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza was likely caused by a misfired Palestinian rocket aimed at Israel.

Hamas insists that Israel bombed the hospital, aiming to kill refugees from its air campaign, which follows the brutal Hamas massacre of hundreds of Israelis. Hamas also claims that at least 500 people, maybe even 1,000, were killed in the explosion, and thousands more were injured.

Hamas has not produced evidence to back up its claims. Shortly after landing in Israel for a solidarity visit, US President Joe Biden declared, with notably insensitive language, that the blast was apparently caused by “the other team.”

Even so, the outcry against Israel could affect how it pursues its counterattack in Gaza.

In a world where anti-social media rules, the Hamas account of “Israel’s latest atrocity” took flight before the embers were cool. Jordan canceled a summit meeting that its king was supposed to host with Biden and the leader of Egypt. Jordan and Egypt issued condemnations against Israel. There were angry Palestinian demonstrations in the West Bank, and sympathizers rallied elsewhere, in the Mideast and beyond.

Al-Jazeera, the Qatar-based Arab TV news channel, not tainted with sympathy for Israel, happened to be broadcasting from Gaza when the blast occurred, and it aired live video of what appeared to be a rocket hitting the hospital area. Israel released what it said was a secretly monitored phone conversation between two Hamas operatives, implicating their “sister” terrorist group, Islamic Jihad.

It doesn’t matter—because we are in a “post-truth” era when facts don’t matter.

Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, inadvertently made that point clear a year ago when confronted by an Iranian student who charged Israel with “ethnic genocide,” among other crimes.

Harris could have responded by saying, “You have a lot of nerve as a guest from Iran, dressing down the vice president of the United States with such despicable lies. What you say is not only untrue, it’s libelous. And what do you suppose would happen to you if you spoke out against your own country’s homicidal regime while confronting Iran’s second in command?” But no.

What Harris actually said was, “I’m glad you (spoke out). And again, this is about the fact that your voice, your perspective, your experience, your truth, should not be suppressed. And it must be heard, right?”

Post-truth means your truth is as good as my truth. If I say the sun rises in the east, you can say, “That’s just your opinion,” and we’re both right.

The fact that Israel’s evidence is stronger than Hamas’ non-evidence pales into insignificance when applied to the real world. Outcries against past Israel atrocities, real and imagined, have influenced Israel’s actions, and they could color this one, too.

The clearest example came in 1996. Israel was engaged in a war in south Lebanon, aimed at stopping Hizbullah’s rocket fire at Israel. Hizbullah effectively sucker-punched the Israelis, launching rockets from next to a UN camp where about 800 Lebanese were seeking shelter. Israel’s return fire hit the camp, killing more than 100 civilians. Then world condemnation forced Israel to stop its operation. But at least that was based on truth.

A good example of how “non-truth” took hold is Israel’s operation in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002. It came during an offensive to root out terrorists and suicide bombers who had plagued Israel for more than a year, killing hundreds of Israelis on buses and in public places. Soon after Israeli military forces entered the refugee camp, the Palestinians declared that at least 500 people had been killed. That jumped to 1,000 later, alongside tales of Israel burying many bodies under destroyed buildings to cover up the death toll.

Weeks later, independent investigations put the Palestinian death toll at 52, along with 23 Israeli soldiers dead. But even today, there are tearful, angry commemorations of the “Jenin massacre of 2002.” The camp is etched in the memory of Israel’s enemies.

So, precedent indicates that Israel may buckle under world pressure after the “bombing” of the Gaza hospital, even if Israel wasn’t to blame. Much probably depends on what Biden told Israel’s leaders in their closed meeting, between his sympathetic public statements—couched though they were with calls to play by the rules and refrain from harming civilians.

It’s no secret that Israel has massed troops on the Gaza border, awaiting orders to move in and eliminate Hamas. That could mean destroying weapons, stockpiles, and arms factories. It could mean blowing up attack tunnels and the underground fortifications known as the “Metro.” It could also mean hunting down and eliminating Hamas fighters and leaders.

That’s what Israel’s discredited leaders have promised their disillusioned, angry, and frightened people. Many times in the past, after an operation in Gaza and the inevitable cease-fire, Israeli politicians have crowed about the “heavy blow” they inflicted on Hamas, only to face the terrorists again a few years or even months later.

Will world outcry over the hospital bombing force Israel to back out again, short of its stated goals?

It’s impossible to predict, but this time, the starting point is different. Before, Israel was responding to rocket attacks. This time it’s counterattacking after an invasion by bloodthirsty terrorists who massacred hundreds of civilians, hacked infants to death, murdered 90-year-olds, and abducted men, women, children, and even babies to Gaza.

Even though Hamas has its own “Israeli atrocity” to parade before the world in the form of the hospital bombing, Israel is unlikely to pay as much attention to the outcry as it did before—because of the enormity and horror of the Hamas crime that ignited this conflict.

Mark Lavie has been covering the Middle East for major news outlets since 1972. His second book, Why Are We Still Afraid?, which follows his five-decade career and comes to a surprising conclusion, is available on Amazon.

To read more articles from The Media Line, click here.

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