Media Unfairly Blames Israel, Again
Late on Tuesday, Western media reported that an Israeli airstrike had killed up to 500 people, mostly civilians, at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza, based on reports from the Hamas-controlled Gazan Health Ministry. But details quickly emerged suggesting Israel had nothing to do with the attack.
Immediately upon learning of the explosion at the hospital, multiple news agencies rushed out pieces attributing it to an Israeli airstrike, despite Israeli denials. The New York Times banner headline read, “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say.” Other mainstream news outlets ran similar headlines, including Al Jazeera, The Associated Press, BBC, CNN, Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. “Israel’s just war of regime change in the Gaza Strip has not yet even begun, and already we’re privy to libel and slander,” complained National Review Online editor Philip Klein.
Palestinian sympathizers quickly jumped on the reports. Squad member Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) tweeted “Israel just bombed the Baptist Hospital killing 500 Palestinians (doctors, children, patients) just like that.”
Only it likely didn’t happen “just like that,” as a community note on Tlaib’s tweet now states. Several pieces of evidence suggest the attack was actually caused by a Palestinian rocket that misfired when launched towards Israel. Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) released audio they said recorded two Hamas operatives discussing how the explosion at the hospital was caused by one of their own rockets. Surveillance footage shows a barrage of rockets launched from Gaza, followed moments later by a nearby explosion on the ground. After Wednesday dawned, on-site footage showed the effect of the blast was centered in a parking lot outside the hospital, which was still structurally intact; yet the blast did not create a crater consistent with an Israeli airstrike.
“While we continue to collect information,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said Wednesday, “our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open-source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday.”
“Based on what I’ve seen, it appears as though it was done by the other team, not you,” President Joe Biden, who is currently in Israel, told Netanyahu in a meeting. “But there’s a lot of people out there not sure.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman responded to Tlaib’s tweet, “Congresswomen, delete this tweet. It is a lie. It is demonstrably false. And it is leading to violence against Jews. Under the law, you are responsible for the foreseeable consequences of your reckless actions.”
Indeed, mainstream media outlets began walking back their initial reporting as details continued to emerge. The New York Times changed its headline from “Israeli Strike Kills Hundreds in Hospital, Palestinians Say” to “At Least 500 Dead in Strike on Gaza Hospital, Palestinians Say.” Then they changed it again to, “At Least 500 Dead in Blast at Gaza Hospital, Palestinians Say.” As of Wednesday afternoon, the website’s current banner headline reads, “U.S. and Israel Blame Palestinian Group for Hospital Blast.”
Other outlets have also revised their headlines considerably. CNN modified its headline “Israel hits hospital and school in Gaza as blockade cripples healthcare system” to “Hundreds likely dead in Gaza hospital blast, as Israeli blockade cripples medical response.” The Associated Press changed its headline, “Hundreds killed in Israeli airstrike on Gaza City hospital, Health Ministry says” to “Blast kills hundreds at Gaza hospital; Hamas and Israel trade blame.”
“While last night it might have been acceptable to report the story as one of both sides blaming each other, this morning news outlets including the New York Times are still treating it as a he said/she said story,” said Klein. “At this point, the story should be that Israel offered substantial evidence to back up its claim, and Hamas has offered none.”
But the damage from the false narrative has already been done. On Tuesday night, anti-Israel protestors scaled a fence at the U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, planting a Palestinian flag and setting a building on fire before U.S. military personnel dispersed them with tear gas. The U.S. State Department imposed a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” travel advisory for Lebanon, citing the “unpredictable security situation.” Early Wednesday, a Berlin synagogue was attacked with two Molotov cocktails.
On Wednesday afternoon, thousands of pro-Palestine protestors marched through the streets of downtown D.C. — apparently without obtaining the usual official road closures — gathered in front of the U.S. capitol, and entered the rotunda of the Cannon House Office Building, hanging signs from the balcony. Capitol police began arresting the protestors in the rotunda, as reinforcement officers arrived in vans.
“The allegation alone shook the world,” wrote NRO senior writer Noah Rothman. “European and Middle Eastern streets erupted with anti-Israel demonstrations. Diplomatic facilities belonging to Israel and the United States alike were besieged by sometimes violent demonstrators. Jewish — not Israeli — sites were attacked.”
The false reporting also had diplomatic implications. In the aftermath, Jordanian King Abdullah II canceled a meeting with President Biden, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to rally support for Israel among her neighbors. Additionally, a Saudi royal advisor said an agreement to normalize relations that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had negotiated with Israel — a continuation of the Abraham Accords — was now dead.
Finally, Israel-haters everywhere used their opportunity to express their anti-Semitism. “Israel has forfeited any right to exist,” tweeted former British MP Chris Williamson. Incredibly, both his tweet and Tlaib’s were still live as of this writing. “At a time when Jews and Jewish institutions throughout the world are under threat, this is beyond reckless,” said Klein of the media’s unverified and ultimately disproven reports that Israel was responsible for the attack.
“If and when the IDF produces more concrete evidence in support of its preliminary conclusion [that the hospital explosion resulted from a misfired Gazan rocket], it will already be too late,” noted Rothman. “The narrative that Israel targets hospitals for the sheer thrill of murdering infirm Gazans will long ago have settled into a worldview confirming conventional wisdom.”
“The international community is going to say, ‘Well, look, Israel needs to moderate. They need to back off.’ … There’s going to be this pressure to appease the global community,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on “Washington Watch.” “We’ve been watching this for the last several decades, as the international community has tied the hands of Israel in trying to protect themselves from these terrorists.”
It’s difficult to justify the mainstream media’s initial reports, given the scarcity of reasons to trust information propagated by the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza. “Israel does not target hospitals, and is especially unlikely to do so on the eve of a visit from President Biden,” argued Klein, whereas Hamas “has a long record of lying to advance its propaganda aims.” Klein was also skeptical that Hamas could somehow identify 500 dead bodies in the dark within hours of the attack, while Israel is still counting over 1,400 dead bodies from Hamas’ raid into Israel.
In every Israel-Hamas conflict, including the current one, a consistent pattern emerges: Israel tries to minimize civilian casualties, while Hamas tries to maximize them. IDF recovered orders delivered to Hamas raiders on Israeli farming communities that directed the terrorists to “kill as many individuals as possible.” After Israel warned civilians to evacuate from northern Gaza, Hamas ordered residents not to leave, set up roadblocks, and confiscated car keys to keep civilians in harm’s way.
“If Hamas is going to continue to use people as human shields, that is just absolutely so despicable,” Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said on “Washington Watch.” “We know what they’re going to do if you give them a chance. They have no value on life.”
Meanwhile, all over the world anti-Semites continue to threaten or attack Jews, particularly in Western universities. A Cornell University professor called the Hamas attack “exhilarating.” A Stanford instructor called Jewish students “colonizers” and made them stand in a corner. A pro-Palestine rally at the University of Wisconsin-Madison chanted, “Glory to the martyrs.” Students at NYU, UPenn, and Columbia University tore down flyers of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas, and at Columbia a Jewish student was beaten outside the main library when he confronted the perpetrator. Then, academics led by critical race theory expert Ta-Nehisi Coates penned an open letter “from Participants in the Palestine Festival of Literature” blaming Israel for the violence, while simultaneously subtly suggesting the nation has no right to exist.
Blackburn said it’s fairly obvious that Iran is behind the most recent attack on Israel, which resulted in thousands killed and wounded and hundreds kidnapped, including Americans. The Iranians “supply Hamas and Hezbollah, each with $100 million a year, plus weapons, plus training, plus supplies,” she said. “Hamas and Hezbollah are proxies for Iran. Basically, Iran sends them out to do the dirty work.”
Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian threatened to expand the war against Israel in a televised interview Monday night. “Time is running out very fast,” he warned. “If the war crimes against the Palestinians are not immediately stopped, other multiple fronts will open, and this is inevitable.” Less than 24 hours later, the U.S. media was accusing Israel of war crimes they didn’t commit, based upon the claims of an Iranian proxy.
Blackburn urged the Biden administration to “be very clear-eyed about their policy with Iran,” which she said “they have not been. And when you have a muddled policy, when you cause confusion with your words and actions, you end up getting adversaries that are emboldened. … They think that they’ve got the U.S. over a barrel.” Hamas’s attack came as the Biden administration was negotiating with Iran to supply the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism with $6 billion.
“We are funding not just Iran, but we’re funding Hamas through the Palestinian Authority, through the United Nations,” said Perkins. “Earlier this summer the [Biden] administration gave $ million to the United Nations for [the U.N. Relief and Works Agency] UNRWA, which funds the Palestinian Authority, which funds Hamas.” Perkins pointed out that approximately 58% of the funds Palestine receives from UNRWA “goes to education,” which in Gaza means it “is poisoning the minds of young people to do what we saw on October 7.” Blackburn added, “President Trump cut the funding to them. Joe Biden put the funding back and then increased the funding.”
Former ambassador Friedman said the attack on October 7, 2023 was “the greatest, most barbaric assault on the Jewish people since the Holocaust” and it “changes the equation.” “What this tells Israel and the world is that [Israel] can no longer manage this conflict,” he explained. “It can no longer degrade Hamas, declare a ceasefire, and go back to its business. … They have to obliterate Hamas. And that’s a different approach, and it’s the right approach. And I think they’re going to succeed in doing it.” Blackburn urged Biden to “support Israel in ridding these terrorist organizations from the face of the Earth.”
Perkins agreed, “We have to be very clear that we’re not going to allow the international community, the United Nations, to press Israel to stop in their effort to make sure that their people are safe from another attack like what happened on October the 7th.”
“We should be very clear that we support Israel, that we stand with Israel, and Israel has the right to protect their country and to protect their people. And Joe Biden ought not to waver on that,” said Blackburn. “He should communicate that we are going to be steadfast with Israel. They are our greatest ally in this region.”
One implication of this stance means that “it’s inappropriate to put conditions on support for Israel,” Blackburn continued. She said it makes no sense to force Israel “to do an aid package into Gaza. As we have just said, that money ends up with Hamas. So, why would we be putting money in there when it’s going to be used to kill Israelis, to kill Americans, to hold Americans and Israelis hostage?”
The American people understand this reality, despite the bungled reporting from the mainstream media. According to a Rasmussen Reports poll published Friday, 53% of likely U.S. voters hold Palestinians responsible for the conflict, compared to 10% who fault Israel. In the same poll, 66% of likely U.S. voters agreed that Israel had “no choice but to seek the complete eradication of Hamas in Gaza,” while only 19% disagreed. At least for now, a strong majority of Americans stands with Israel, despite what the media says.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.