What The Al-Ahli Hospital Bombing Really Meant

[This essay first appeared in the AUTOMACHINATION literary magazine. You can watch an in-depth discussion on the al-Ahli Arab Hospital bombing with Alex Sheremet and Keith Jackewicz here.]

Yesterday, the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza was hit by an IDF airstrike or a “failed rocket” launched by Palestinian militants. In some ways, this felt like an existential moment for Israel—more so than even the Hamas massacres on Israeli territory two weeks prior. That’s because despite America’s claims of an “existential threat” from terrorism in 2001, or Israel’s perceived security needs in keeping a stateless population at bay, terrorism rarely poses serious (i.e., existential) danger to nations, and most terror campaigns fail. Of course, there are exceptions. Jewish terrorism in Mandatory Palestine forced Britain to disengage in the midst of political assassinations, kidnappings, and a hotel bombing for which Israel was awarded the legal right to statehood. Palestinians soon adopted these tactics, yet lacked the strength, and, until recently, sufficient public opinion to achieve their aims. In the meantime, Israel has become a nuclear-tipped hegemon with an identity crisis. Many young Jews want nothing to do with what the UN and human rights groups call an apartheid state, while Israel itself has become increasingly corrupt, right-wing, and religious. So when news broke of (yet another) potential war crime in Gaza, Israel needed to respond—and quickly.

As in previous situations, Israel’s behavior inspired little confidence. Hananya Naftali, who works for Benjamin Netanyahu on “media content”, tweeted, then deleted, “breaking [news]” that “the Israeli Air Force struck a Hamas terrorist base inside a hospital in Gaza”, alluding to Hamas’s “heartbreaking…use of human shields”. This was soon replaced by a message blaming a Hamas rocket which failed to reach its target. Irrespective of whether or not the IDF was responsible, one could already detect hasbara in action, down to the evidence-free assumption of “human shields”. The IDF, for its part, released an analysis which concluded “an enemy rocket barrage…[aimed] towards Israel” struck the hospital. Once it was pointed out the video was dated forty minutes after the blast, the IDF quietly removed it from their statement. Such sloppiness is reminiscent of the murder of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh in 2022, wherein “Palestinian militants” were angrily blamed until CNN published its own analysis of the “targeted killing”. Likewise, in 2018, as Israel massacred hundreds of mostly-civilian protesters in Gaza, 21-year-old medic Rouzan al-Najjar was “intentionally targeted” by the IDF. Israel soon released a deceptively edited video purporting to show that she was a “human shield for Hamas” as journalists hunted down the actual source material. Naturally, these terrorist actions are long forgotten, but the al-Ahli Arab Hospital strike would not be. Jordan, the West Bank’s Mahmoud Abbas, and Egypt pulled out of a meeting with Joe Biden, while the United Arab Emirates—an ally of Israel after 2020’s normalization agreement—released a statement explicitly blaming Israel for the attack. If Hamas’s targeting of civilians provided respite for Israel’s flailing … Continue reading →

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