Caitlin Johnstone: Mass Media Reporters Aren’t Buying Israel’s Hospital Bombing Story

Israel’s lie that it didn’t bomb the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital is convincing no one.

Caitlin Johnstone is a reader-supported independent journalist from Melbourne, Australia. Her political writings can be found on Medium. Articles are re-posted from Caitlins Newsletter.

Cross-posted from Caitin Johnstone’s Newsletter

A huge blast in Gaza has destroyed the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, killing hundreds of people. The exact death toll is still unknown.

Details of who is responsible for the explosion are being hotly debated by all parties, and this is still a developing story with a lot of details yet to be revealed. But what I’d like to quickly document as things unfold is the highly unusual number of mass media reporters I’ve been seeing who haven’t hesitated to point to Israel as the probable culprit.

After noting that Israel is blaming the blast on a failed rocket launch by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), MSNBC foreign correspondent Raf Sanchez quickly pointed out that PIJ rockets don’t tend to do that kind of damage, but Israeli missiles do. He also noted that Israel has an extensive history of lying about this sort of thing.

“The Israeli military at this point is not providing any evidence to back up its claims that this was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket; they are citing intelligence that they have not yet made public,” Sanchez said. “We should also say that this kind of death toll is not what you normally associate with Palestinian rockets. These rockets are dangerous, they are deadly, they do not tend to kill hundreds of people in a single strike in the way that Israeli high explosives — especially these bunker buster bombs that are used to target these Hamas tunnels under Gaza City — do have the potential to kill hundreds of people.”

“And we should say finally that there are instances in the past where the Israeli military has said things in the immediate aftermath of an incident that have turned out not to be true in the long run,” Sanchez added. “And the one example I’ll give you is that when the Al Jazeera journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, was killed in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli military initially said that she was killed by Palestinian gunmen, and it was only months and months later that they admitted that it was likely an Israeli soldier who fired the fatal shot.”

CNN’s Clarissa Ward said essentially the same thing.

“I will say, just based on seeing these rocket attacks many times over the years, that they don’t usually have an impact like that in terms of the size of the blast, in terms of the scale of the death toll and the scale of the damage,” Ward said. “It’s also not the first time, it’s important to add, that we have seen the IDF categorically deny something before being forced to kind of do an about-face after an extensive investigation.”

BBC foreign correspondent Jon Donnison gave basically the same opinion.

“It’s hard to see what else this could be, really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli air strike, or several air strikes,” Donnison said from Jerusalem. “Because, you know, when we’ve seen rockets being fired out of Gaza, we never see explosions of that scale. We might see half a dozen, maybe a few more people being killed in such rocket attacks, but we’ve never seen anything on the scale of the sort of explosion on the video I was watching earlier.”

That’s three mass media reporters that I’ve seen just in my random information-gathering meanderings — not on their personal social media accounts, but live on air.

It’s highly unusual to see this degree of skepticism in the western press right off the bat when it goes against the information interests of Israel specifically or the US power alliance more generally. Typically we’ve been seeing the media uncritically report unverified claims about Palestinian militants while expressing rigorous skepticism solely toward any information which might benefit the Palestinian resistance, so there’s clearly something about this particular story which makes mass media reporters remarkably reluctant to push the Israeli narrative.

Maybe they’re getting information in their group chats which has caused them to keep Israel’s claims about the hospital bombing at arm’s length, or maybe they’re just looking at the facts and deciding this narrative is too flimsy to get behind. If it looks like Israel’s version of events will fall apart after investigation, they’re not going to want to stake their reputation and their pride on pushing it with their usual gusto during an Israeli military operation that is facing unusually intense scrutiny from the entire world.

Israel does after all have an extensive history of attacking hospitals and healthcare facilities, including in this current operation in Gaza, including apparently bombing this exact same hospital just a few days ago. ReliefWeb, which is run by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, recently published a report on the numerous Israeli strikes that have hit hospitals, ambulances and healthcare workers between October 12 and October 15, and listed among the hospitals hit is the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City — the same hospital that was just destroyed a few days later.

Citing “Al Jazeera V and Personal Communication,” ReliefWeb reports the following:

“14 October 2023: In Gaza city city and governorate, Ahli Arab Hospital was hit by Israeli airstrikes, partially damaging two floors and damaging the ultrasound and mammography room. Four people were injured.”

It’s also probably worth noting that according to the World Health Organization this hospital was one of the twenty hospitals which the IDF had ordered to evacuate because of the aggressions it was planning to inflict on that part of Gaza.

Again, information is still coming in and this developing story could possibly wind up looking very different from what it looks like right now. But if I was an Israel apologist, I don’t think I’d find the current winds in the mass media very encouraging.

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