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The Media’s Blood Libel of Israel

(Mohammed al-Masri/Reuters)

All of this could have been uncovered with measured reporting and a skepticism that avoids trusting the word of the baby-murdering terror group, Hamas.”

The primary contribution that England made to anti-Semitic demonology was blood libel. This was the depraved claim that predatory Jews captured Christian children to kill them and then use their blood to prepare unleavened Passover bread. Today, in our rationalist world built on the mythology of material uplift as moral progress, blood libel has been reformulated: Israel, the Jew among nations, is routinely smeared and defamed for deliberately killing Palestinian children and even farming their organs. The current war in Israel and Gaza has seen the prestige media foghorn such calumny around the world. And, as before, it is built on untruths, misdirection, and disinformation.   

On Tuesday evening, reports came in from Gaza City that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had carried out an airstrike on the Al Ahli hospital, virtually leveling it and killing hundreds of Gazans. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) was a major player in establishing this narrative; its BBC Breaking News page tweeted at 6:51 pm in the United Kingdom: “Hundreds feared dead or injured in Israeli air strike on hospital in Gaza, Palestinian officials say.” BBC World News similarly tweeted at 7:49 pm: “Hundreds of people have been killed in an Israeli strike on a hospital in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials.” This was sent by push notification to millions of people who use its application on their smartphones—and also given prime placement on its website’s front page

Other reputable news outlets reported similarly, from the broadcast media like CNN to print outlets such as The New York Times to wire services including Reuters and the Associated Press. A reporter for BBC World News television, Jon Donnison, decided that he would go ahead and speculate, live on air with no basis whatsoever, that “The Israeli military…have said they are investigating, but it is hard to see what else this could be, really, given the size of the explosion, other than an Israeli airstrike, or several airstrikes.” So that was okay then—all cleared up. 

Except it was not. By the morning of Wednesday, October 18th, the BBC and other outlets that had jumped in feet first with barely suppressed joy at an opportunity to stick it to the Zionist entity under the cover of journalistic objectivity were hastily backtracking and headline editing. 

Witness the headlines of The New York Times, that bastion of journalistic integrity, mysteriously change as the light of a new day brought new facts to light. What was at first an Israeli strike that killed 500 became just a “strike” that killed 500, which then became a “blast” that killed 500. This retreat from the realm of anti-Zionist mythmaking into the world of cold reality was replicated by the BBC, which first tweeted “Chaos in Gaza after strike hits hospital,” which then morphed into “Hundreds killed in Gaza hospital blast Israel and Palestinian militants blame each other for explosion,” followed by “Israel Gaza: Hundreds of Palestinians feared dead in hospital blast.” This was followed by “US President Joe Biden is expected to arrive in Israel shortly, as both Israelis and Palestinians deny responsibility for a hospital explosion in Gaza last night.” Finally, by the mid-afternoon, we heard that “Biden backs Israel’s account of deadly Gaza hospital blast.”

What had led to such a hasty retreat, and to President Joe Biden telling Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the explosion had come “by the other team”? It was simply due to evidence that there had very likely been no Israeli bomb and, further, that the explosion had not, in fact, destroyed the hospital, even if there was damage. What various experts and open-source intelligence and geo-location accounts pieced together was that it was either a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket that fell short or came apart after launch and landed in the hospital’s parking lot. Because such a rocket would have still been full of fuel, it likely ignited in an explosion caught on video. One vehicle only seems to have been hit directly by a munition, while the rest of the damaged cars look burnt out, likely having ignited from the explosion’s fireball. Even so, the damage to the parking lot itself is limited.

Moreover, the crater left behind is not consistent with the kind of munitions needed to fulfill the claims first circulated. Meanwhile, the damage to the hospital is far from the kind of devastation we have seen from the kinds of weapons in Syria and Ukraine that have indeed killed hundreds of people, something that looks highly unlikely here. This did not stop The New York Times, however, from using a photograph of a different destroyed building from a separate location. 

In the end, it looks highly likely that the IDF’s account has been vindicated, while the White House’s National Security Council has concluded that Israel was not responsible. The account from the Gaza Health Ministry, of 500 hundred or more bodies, has itself been disputed by those familiar with disaster recovery operations. This is not to say that there were not casualties: Their number has been put at between 10 and 50 by European intelligence services, or from 100 to 300 by others. 

All of this could have been uncovered with measured reporting and a skepticism that avoids trusting the word of the baby-murdering terror group, Hamas. It is unlikely that our media outlets themselves launched a spate of violence across the Middle East. It was more likely that various groups and factions were looking for an excuse to cause trouble. With that said, our media’s shameful propagandistic coverage poured petrol on a combustible situation. 

In the hours that elapsed before the climbdown began, American embassies in the Middle East, including in Beirut, were rioted against and attacked, while the Israeli embassy in Turkey had fireworks shot at it. Riots broke out across the Middle East, including in Iraq, where 20 years of American involvement was shown for the hubristic futility it was. A planned meeting between President Biden and the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinian Authority was called off in an act of protest. Asylum seekers in the Greek camp who celebrated the massacre of Jews by Hamas rioted in support of Gaza and Palestine. A synagogue in Berlin was firebombed, and Jews in the United Kingdom, already frightened by the upsurge in anti-Semitic acts last week, now feel a heightened sense of threat in their own country. 

We have been here before, of course. It is hardly unknown for our media to take Hamas accounts of supposed bombings at face value, later issuing corrections when independent investigations prove that Israel does not make a habit of bombing civilians to bits for the fun of it. But the immediacy of social media has meant that the fire that engulfed part of the hospital carpark spread online and set the “Arab Street” alight. I have never seen a narrative with such potentially dire consequences constructed and then deconstructed so quickly. 

The ranks of the prestige legacy media went mad during the Trump years. They pushed the Russiagate hoax, smeared anyone that threatened their position as culture-creators and narrative-enforcers of misinformation, and, in turn, positioned themselves as the Platonic philosopher kings of objective truth through the totally unbiased use of fact checkers and verification schemes. 

Now, we have seen the Cathedral unveiled in such a brutal way due to its blatant lies. It is difficult to see how it will reclothe itself in the raiment of legitimacy. Blood libel is alive and well, and its chief perpetuator is our liberal Clerisy.

Henry George is a columnist at Merion West, focusing on politics, political philosophy, and culture. 

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