The West’s Israel-haters are playing with fire
The media rush to blame Israel for the bombing of a hospital in Gaza was reckless in the extreme.
It should be clear to everyone on this grim day that the fashionable rage against Israel is no longer just irrational, it is dangerous. That most peculiar union of woke elites and perma-angry Islamists, wedded together in an implacable loathing for the Jewish State, is not only unsettling, it is also menacing. In the aftermath of the calamity at al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City, and the rush to blame it on Israel, we can now see that anti-Israel hysteria poses a palpable threat to regional stability in the Middle East and to the social fabric here in the West.
There is really only one thing we can say with certainty about the explosion at al-Ahli hospital – that it was a tragedy of almost unimaginable proportions. Hundreds of Palestinians were reportedly killed in or around the hospital after a missile of some kind fell on the car park and started a raging fire. This is a dark day for Palestinians, and for humanity. The sooner we bring the war in Gaza to an end – which is to say the sooner Hamas returns the 199 civilians it kidnapped from Israel and declares a complete ceasefire – the better.
Much else about the horror at the hospital remains unclear, shrouded in claim and counterclaim. The Pavlovian response of the MSM, and of that army of preening Israel-haters on social media, was to say that Israel did it. And that it was an act of genocide. Further bloody proof, they cried, of Israel’s determination not only to neuter Hamas but also to erase an entire people. ‘Biden, Biden, you can’t hide! We charge you with genocide!’, chanted protesters outside the White House last night, furious that their president backs a nation that would do something as unconscionable as bomb a hospital.
In the hours since the tragedy, however, a different picture has emerged. There now appear to be grounds for scepticism about the media’s swift indictment of Israel. The Israel Defence Forces have released video footage which they say shows the hospital being hit by a misfired missile from Palestinian Islamic Jihad inside Gaza. They have released an audio clip of what is reportedly an intercepted phone call between two Hamas operatives, in which one says the missile ‘belongs to Palestinian Islamic Jihad’. ‘It’s from us?’, says the other. ‘It looks like it’, comes the reply. Evidence-wise, that feels devastating.
Photographs taken this morning of the area outside the hospital that was hit by the missile also raise questions about who did this. Some observers note that the burnt-out zone lacks the kind of crater that Israeli ordnance tends to leave. Others are pointing to the lack of serious damage to the hospital building itself. Shashank Joshi, the cool-headed defence editor of The Economist, says ‘the evidence of this morning, though not conclusive, points more towards a failed rocket launch than an Israeli strike’.
He is right to sound cautious even as he casts doubt. He is right to say that the new evidence we have – the photos, the video, even that reported recording of Hamas operatives – is not conclusive. We need further investigation before we can say with full confidence whether this was a misfire by Palestinian Islamic Jihad or an error by the IDF. But there is something else we need to investigate, too – the supine willingness of our own liberal elites to parrot the Hamas line that this was definitely an Israeli strike and proof of Israel’s evil. It is not enough to investigate where the missile came from – we must also investigate where this moral rot comes from; how we arrived at a situation where so many in the educated elites are happy to take at face value the claims of a movement of anti-Semitic mass murderers.
Few notes of doubt appeared in the media’s first response to the hospital tragedy. ‘Hundreds killed in Israeli strike on Gaza hospital’, declared the BBC, citing ‘Palestinian officials’. Those Palestinian officials are Hamas, an organisation that was created to kill Jews and which on Saturday 7 October did just that – 1,300 of them. The Beeb has now toned down its reporting. ‘Israel was immediately blamed by Hamas’, it now says – and by you! – ‘but the Israel Defence Forces say the blast was caused by a misfired Palestinian militant rocket’. Let’s hope BBC Verify is on the case, investigating the possibility that the public broadcaster spread misinformation on behalf of a terror group that murders Jewish children.
The constantly changing headline on the New York Times’ website was a grim testament to the folly of rushing to judgement, the folly of sacrificing one’s critical faculties at the altar of Israel-bashing. ‘Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say’, said the first headline. A couple of hours later it was: ‘At Least 500 Dead at Gaza Hospital, Palestinians Say.’ Naftali Bennett, a former Israeli PM, had a point when he tweeted ‘shame on you’ at the New York Times and accused it of ‘immediately adopt[ing] Hamas’s version’.
The legion loathers of Israel in the woke set happily made themselves into ventriloquist dummies for Hamas’s take on the hospital horror. ‘Israeli air strikes have hit al-Ahli hospital’, said Jeremy Corbyn. It is an ‘atrocious war crime’, he said. Will he say the same if it transpires that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is responsible? Then there were those lowlifes who are notorious for hating Israel. Chris Williamson, the former Labour MP, tweeted: ‘Israel has forfeited any right to exist.’ The rush to judgement becomes a rush to condemnation. A death sentence is essentially issued against the State of Israel for a crime it may not have committed.
This morning, as conflicting evidence emerged, the Guardian’s Owen Jones said, ‘We don’t know who bombed the hospital yet, and we should reserve judgement’. The nerve of these people. Reserving judgement is precisely what many on the furiously anti-Israel left failed – refused, in fact – to do. For hours after the tragedy they tweeted and hollered their judgement that Israel is guilty. If it turns out that this was in fact a misfired missile from Palestinian Islamic Jihad, will they condemn that terror group? Will they take to the streets to register their fury with these radical Islamists? If they don’t, we will know, once and for all, that their concern is not with defending Palestinian life but only with hating Israel.
The rush to judgement against Israel could have dire consequences. Across the Arab world, thousands hit the streets in the wake of the hospital tragedy to condemn Israel. A mass gathering of Iranians called on their theocratic government to do something. The Israeli embassy in Turkey was attacked. Hezbollah called for a ‘day of rage’. Jordan cancelled a ‘peace summit’ with President Biden and Arab leaders on the grounds of ‘the ugly massacre perpetrated by Israel’, in the words of Jordan’s king. The evidence-lite criminalisation of Israel is actively hampering the diplomatic search for a solution.
It is impacting on the Western world, too. This morning a synagogue in Berlin was firebombed. The bigoted treatment of Israel as a uniquely evil state that even slays hospital patients is having consequences for Jews in Europe. As Germany’s Central Council of Jews said today, ‘Hamas’s ideology of extermination against everything Jewish is also having an effect in Germany’. Liberals and leftists caution constantly against ‘escalating’ the conflict in the Middle East. Their gentile privilege, as one might call it, blinds them to the fact that their own myopic fury with Israel is contributing to an escalation of both military hostilities over there and racist hostilities at home.
The hypocrisy of our right-on rulers stands exposed like never before. ‘Words have consequences!’, they wail if you ‘misgender’ a bloke in a dress, and yet here they are pursuing a furious war of words against Israel at a moment of exceptional volatility. ‘Racism is bad!’, they say, yet here they are repeating the propaganda of a racist movement that carried out the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. ‘We love Palestinians!’, they say, yet they raise barely a word of criticism of Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad, whose anti-Semitic warmongering exposes the Palestinian people to serious conflict and harm. This is how unhinged virtue-signalling has become: signalling one’s morally correct loathing of Israel now takes precedence over truth-seeking, peacemaking and standing up for the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live free of the scourge of violent radical Islam.
Enough is enough. Let the Palestinians bury their dead. Let investigators determine what happened at al-Ahli. And let the rest of us start speaking out against the infantile moralism of our elites, which treats Israel as the ultimate evil, Palestine as the ultimate victim, and in the process demeans both.
Brendan O’Neill is spiked’s chief political writer and host of the spiked podcast, The Brendan O’Neill Show. Subscribe to the podcast here. His new book – A Heretic’s Manifesto: Essays on the Unsayable – is available to order on Amazon UK and Amazon US now. And find Brendan on Instagram: @burntoakboy
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