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Al-Shifa Hospital and the pathological distrust of Israel

From CNN to the radical left, why won’t people accept the truth about Hamas’s horrors at al-Shifa?

Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O'Neill
chief political writer

Topics Politics World

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We need to talk about the pathological distrust of Israel. About the speed and relish with which our media elites dismiss every Israeli claim about the war in Gaza. Consider the Battle of al-Shifa Hospital. Israeli officials have offered up ample proof that the hospital was used as a military base by Hamas. They’ve shown us caches of weapons, video footage of gun-toting, knife-wielding men hurrying hostages through corridors, a vast tunnel that is 10 metres down and 55 metres long. And yet it is all breezily discounted. This is not healthy scepticism of ‘war propaganda’ – it’s a dogmatic refusal to accept a single thing the Jewish State says.

The morbid disbelief of Israeli evidence has reached insane levels in recent days. When IDF commanders displayed the Kalashnikovs, ammunition, hand grenades and bullet-proof vests they found at al-Shifa, the woke media shrugged. These are just ‘small stashes’ of weapons, said the BBC in its best haughty voice. This begs the question of how much weaponry Britain’s public broadcaster thinks it is acceptable for a fascist movement to store in a hospital. Ten guns? Twenty? ‘Those piles of Kalashnikovs’ are ‘frankly not convincing’, said the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen with superb derision. Maybe they belong to the hospital’s ‘security department’, he said.

Left observers have been alarmingly cavalier about the weapons. ‘A few bits of weaponry’ is how one of the people at Novara Media put it. CNN published a ridiculous ‘exposé’ of how the IDF’s display of Hamas weapons seemed to be ‘rearranged’. In some media clips there were more weapons than in other media clips. Yes, because more ‘terrorist assets’ were discovered ‘throughout the day’, said the IDF. Too late for rational explanations, guys: CNN’s ‘exposé’ had already spread like a pox through social media where Islamists and racists giddily cited it as proof that those sneaky Israelis planted the weapons to try to frame poor Hamas.

Yesterday, following Israel’s release of CCTV footage showing armed men hauling bloodied hostages into al-Shifa, things got really ridiculous. All I see are ‘injured hostages’ being taken for ‘medical treatment’, said Guardian columnist Owen Jones. That does not justify ‘Israel’s massacre of the hospital’, he said. Yes, the famously humanitarian Hamas, always keen to care for the civilians it violates and brutalises. One of the Hamas terrorists in the CCTV clip seems to be wielding a meat cleaver. The others have Kalashnikovs – or a ‘few bits of weaponry’, as I think we’re meant to say. These videos are damning in the extreme. That heavily armed terrorists are able to move with impunity through the hospital’s corridors is strong proof that they enjoy some form of dominion there. Anyone who says otherwise is clearly so blinded by Israelophobia that they can no longer see what’s in front of their faces.

And now there’s the tunnel. Israel has released footage of a vast tunnel found under a canopy on the hospital grounds. Also under the canopy was a pick-up truck packed with weapons, similar to the ones Hamas used in its pogrom of 7 October. The CNN hacks who visited the tunnel last night said, no doubt through gritted teeth, that it looks like ‘compelling’ evidence of Hamas malfeasance. ‘But’ – you knew there was a but – ‘even then it was unclear what [the tunnel] was or how far it went down’. Alex Thomson of Channel 4 News said Israel is ‘gradually building evidence of Hamas military activity [at al-Shifa]’, and you could almost sense the disappointment in his voice. But it does not ‘amount to evidence of a Hamas command and control centre’ in the hospital.

They will never be satisfied, will they? They’re shown stashes of lethal weapons, grenades, military clothing. They’re shown videos of Hamas pushing hostages around the hospital. They’re shown a Hamas-style truck with guns in it. They’re shown a tunnel that leads to a blast door with a ‘gunhole for Hamas to shoot through’. And again and again they say: ‘We’re not convinced.’ The bodies of two Israeli hostages were found close to al-Shifa. I swear we’re two or three thinkpieces away from some journalist wondering out loud if the only reason those departed souls were near the hospital is because lovely Hamas took them there for ‘medical treatment’ but it turned out to be too late.

It gets worse. They’re not only dismissing the discoveries of the past few days but also a truth that’s been known for years: that Hamas, unquestionably, has turned al-Shifa into a hellhole base for its sinister operations. The memory-holing of the historical facts we know about al-Shifa has been extraordinary. You won’t believe Israel? Fine, maybe you’ll believe Amnesty International. It published a long, detailed report about Hamas’s torture of Palestinians during the Israel-Gaza conflict of 2014. That conflict resuscitated Hamas-Fatah civil tensions in Gaza, leading to the commission of ‘serious human-rights abuses’ – including abduction, torture and summary execution – by Hamas terrorists against Palestinians suspected of siding with Fatah.

Where did these crimes take place? Al-Shifa. Hamas used the hospital, ‘including the outpatients’ clinic area’, to ‘detain, interrogate, torture and otherwise ill-treat suspects, even as other parts of the hospital continued to function as a medical centre’, said Amnesty. Got that? The exact thing Israel accuses Hamas of doing was already discovered by Amnesty years ago. A former Fatah official who was ‘seriously assaulted’ in his home by Hamas’s henchmen told Amnesty he refused to go to al-Shifa for treatment because ‘any member of Fatah or the [Palestinian Authority] going there would end up with worse injuries’. We know our woke elites won’t listen to Israelis, but maybe they’ll listen to Palestinians, many of whom have known for years that al-Shifa isn’t safe.

Or maybe they’ll believe PBS, the esteemed broadcaster in the US. In 2009, PBS spoke with a senior doctor at al-Shifa who said Hamas terrorists are ‘hiding either in the basement or in a separate underground area underneath the hospital’, and they are ‘aware that they are putting civilians in harm’s way’. Or perhaps they’ll believe the huge numbers of al-Shifa’s doctors who went on strike for a month in 2007 to protest against Hamas’s grotesque persecution of Fatah-aligned medics. The striking doctors were calling on Hamas to ‘leave politics out of the health system’ and to ‘stop using its armed forces against medical personnel’. Does that sound like a movement that respects the sanctity of medical spaces?

The proof of Hamas’s criminal misuse of al-Shifa as a base for torture, murder and warmongering is abundant. Palestinian dissidents have pointed to it. Amnesty has documented the Room 101-style horrors committed by Hamas’s ‘Internal Security officers’ there. Israel has shown us weapons, trucks, tunnels, hostages. Anyone still saying ‘Hmm’ following almost two decades’ worth of proof that Hamas exploits al-Shifa has clearly left the realm of reason and entered the hell of dogma. This is not scepticism, it’s denialism. It is not a noble hunt for ‘the truth’ of war – it’s the sickness of post-truth thinking, where nothing as trifling as evidence can ever be allowed to interfere with one’s ideological bias. Which in this case is that Israel is evil and always lies.

It isn’t hard to work out why so many in the woke elites, from CNN to the influencer left, are clinging for dear life to the lie that al-Shifa was a normal hospital. It’s because they have staked so much on this battle in the Israel-Hamas war. Israel’s conquering of al-Shifa is, in their eyes, the ‘war crime’ that proves beyond doubt that Israel is uniquely malevolent among the nations of Earth, and that they, in contrast, are righteous for opposing it. Every piece of evidence that points to the true war crime being Hamas’s, this fascistic movement that is even willing to hide lethal weaponry among the sick and the newborn and elderly, is a blow not just to their infantile narrative about Israel-Palestine, but also to their own moral prestige, their own cultural authority to determine what is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. They experience Israel’s assault on Hamas’s base at al-Shifa as an assault on their own reputations – and they are right to.

Scepticism? Please. In instantly disbelieving everything Israel says, these people implicitly buy everything Hamas says. Their Israelophobia translates into a tangible, objective acceptance of Hamas’s own lies about Hamas’s own horrors. The woke love to call themselves anti-fascists, but it’s a strange anti-fascist that gives moral succour to fascists.

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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Topics Politics World

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