Israel did not bomb that hospital, according to the latest intelligence. It’s a reminder that in war, all sides engage in propaganda. – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Israel did not bomb that hospital, according to the latest intelligence. It’s a reminder that in war, all sides engage in propaganda.

A view of the surroundings of Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital after an explosion in Gaza City on October 18.

Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images

Israel was blamed for bombing a hospital in Gaza. The media treated its denial with skepticism.But it turned out it was not an Israeli airstrike as many assumed.The incident serves as a reminder that, in war, all sides engage in propaganda.

If a tree falls in a forest, and no reporter is there to witness it, the first task for the seeker of truth is to establish: Did the tree even fall down at all?

On Tuesday, most international news outlets — and, by extension, most news consumers — were reasonably convinced that a hospital in Gaza had just been destroyed in an explosion, killing many of its patients.

Most were also reasonably convinced that Israel was responsible, its denials duly reported but with the knowledge that only one party to the conflict had the firepower and means to deliver such destruction, along with a record of targeting such facilities in the past.

“Israel’s bombing of the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza killed 500 civilians,” declared an emergency alert from Genocide Watch, a group that tracks ethnic cleansing and campaigns of mass murder (and which has accused Hamas and the Israeli government of engaging in both, to varying degrees). “The hospital bombing was a clear war crime.”

By Wednesday, what became clear was that, while narrowly accurate, the most truthful part of Tuesday’s reporting was the attribution: that a hospital was destroyed and hundreds of people killed, according to Hamas, a terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip and its various ministries, including the one that reports the Palestinian death toll.

The photos that emerged in daylight, of a hospital intact and a parking lot with a crater far too small to be from an Israeli airstrike, called into question everything that most reporters and their readers had taken for granted — and lent credence to the earlier, adamant denials from the Israel Defense Forces. A senior European intelligence official also said the actual death toll was likely between 10 and 50 people, while an initial US assessment placed the number at the “low end of the 100-to-300 spectrum.”

There is good reason not to trust the IDF. Last year, in just one example, the Israeli military killed an American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh, who was reporting outside the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, initially claiming she was surrounded by armed militants and potentially killed by Palestinian gunmen. But video and eyewitness testimony contradicted both claims. Evidence suggested that Israeli troops were the ones who opened fire and that they deliberately targeted the journalists.

What also emerged on Thursday, however, was a possibility that some could not process: One, that the IDF was telling the truth, this time, when it blamed the explosion near the Ahli Arab Hospital on a misfired rocket from Islamic Jihad; and two, that the international media had actually challenged the assertions of Israel, a Western ally, and in this case deferred to the claims of Hamas authorities in Gaza.

“Just imagine the headlines if Putin had bombed a hospital in Kharkiv, killing 500 people, many of them kids, and then blamed it on the Ukrainians,” Yanis Vaourfakis, a leftist economist and Greek politician, posted on social media. “Nothing makes Vlad happier than watching the West’s touching attempts to overtake his callous cynicism.”

Russia has bombed hospitals in Ukraine, as well as Syria, and its denials have been viewed as dubious for a simple reason: If something falls from the sky and explodes, it is generally right to suspect the party with air supremacy. And that is what happened Tuesday, Israeli claims treated with a similar, earned skepticism — even before the bombing of a hospital was an established fact.

The knee-jerk response also went the other way. Before the IDF issued a denial, Hananya Naftali, a right-wing Israeli influencer, assumed Israel was responsible — and immediately attempted to justify it: A “Hamas terrorist based inside a hospital” had been attacked, he posted on social media, killing a “number of terrorists.” In this, he was indeed no different than commentators who have excused Russia’s atrocities: projecting absolute certainty that whatever happened, despite the little we know, was for a damn good reason.

Many, then, were embarrassed by what is objectively good albeit startling news: that a hospital in Gaza, reported as leveled, was still standing — and not bombed by the IDF at all. That’s a conclusion backed by US intelligence and supported by independent analysts, including a former UN war crimes investigator and researchers at Bellingcat, who noted that the damage seen in photographs shared the next morning was not consistent with the area being struck in an Israeli airstrike.

A French intelligence assessment, made public Friday, also rejected claims of “an Israeli strike,” saying there was “nothing to indicate” the hospital was hit by the IDF this week. “The most probable hypothesis is that a Palestinian rocket exploded with a charge of about five kilos,” it said.

The Associated Press, too, concluded — after an analysis of video and input from “experts with specialties in open-source intelligence, geolocation and rocketry” — that the most likely cause of the blast near the hospital was a misfired rocket, not an Israeli strike.

Members of the media (and others) have lessons to learn here.

First, the fog of war, paired with social media, is a recipe for inaccuracy. We should all slow down and be more inclined to let the fog lift before broadcasting an unverified claim. While some may see this week’s reporting as the product of an anti-Israel bias, the truth is likely more mundane: No news outlet wants to be the last one to cover the most important story of the day.

Second, while the IDF’s statements should continue to be viewed with healthy skepticism, the official sources in Gaza clearly warrant at least as much scrutiny, controlled as they are by a designated terrorist organization. Hamas has an incentive to blame anything bad that happens in Gaza on the Israeli state and has shown itself willing to fabricate a war crime — claiming a hospital found standing on Wednesday was destroyed the night before. If it wasn’t absolutely clear before, it is today: The local health ministry, which rushed out a now seemingly implausible body count, answers to this extremist group.

Acknowledging this is not to deny that Palestinians are suffering under Israeli bombardment. People on the ground, with no connection to Hamas, can attest to this, and the IDF would only dispute who is ultimately to blame. That points to the last lesson from all this for partisans of either side and other news consumers: What happens in war will not always reaffirm our prior convictions. Assumptions should always be questioned, and truths acknowledged — convenient or not.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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