“Why would Israel do this?”

18 Oct

Here’s Seymour Hersh, of My Lai/Nord Stream renown, writing two days before yesterday’s strikes on Gaza Baptist Hospital:



It’s been one week since the horrific Hamas attacks on Israel took place. The shape of what is to come from the Israeli armed forces is clear, and uncompromising.

Over the past week Israeli jets have conducted around-the-clock bombing of non-military targets in Gaza City. Apartment buildings, hospitals, and mosques were torn apart, with no prior warning and no effort to minimize civilian casualties.

By the end of the week Israeli jets were also dropping leaflets telling the citizens of Gaza City and its surrounding areas in the north that those who wished to survive had better start going south—walking if necessary—25 miles or more—to the Rafah border crossing leading to Egypt …

Let me fess up right away. My initial reaction to yesterday’s atrocity in Gaza was not horror or sympathy. Maybe the work I do comes with its own anaesthesis – we can go into that another time – but, no, my first response was: is this another Shatila/Sabra moment?  1

For reasons I’ll get to, I’m loth to stick my neck out too far on the basis of what is known so far. These things seem salient though:

  • Even Western corporate media, habitually given to scepticism of Palestinian claims while far more open to Israel’s on such matters, are presenting this as an Israel Air Force attack.
  • Former senior advisor to Netanyahu, Mark Regev, is out there telling anyone who’ll listen that “Israel does not bomb hospitals”  and the deaths are due to Hamas rockets falling short of their targets in Israel.
  • Israel has form (but no monopoly) on lying about such things. Witness the months it took to come clean on the killing of Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh.
  • To date Hamas has shown no sign of having ordnance capable of yesterday’s carnage. Such loss of life is not consistent with a rocket or two falling short of the mark, but is consistent with aerial delivery of the US-supplied ‘bunker-buster’ bombs as referred to by Seymour Hersh and deployed to destroy the concrete-lined tunnels riddling Gaza.

A slam-dunk then, with Seymour Hersh once more on the nail?  Occam’s Razor says yes, 2 but one thing bothers me. In the Mark Regev interview I saw, besides the predictable vehement denial and  blaming of Hamas – and promise that Israel would soon be releasing intercepted Hamas communications by way of smoking gun proof 3  – he asked rhetorically:

Why would Israel do this on the eve of President Biden’s visit?

It’s no clincher. It could be double bluff or, more plausibly, that Israeli pilots got carried away or were misled by bad intelligence to leave Tel Aviv on the back foot in a way not seen since Suez ’56.

But Mr Regev’s rhetorical question is not easily dismissed, least of all by those like me. I mean those who asked why President Assad would gas kids on the eve of a UN weapons inspection in Syria. Later revelations, most importantly that the UN OPCW was coerced by Washington into doctoring its report on the Douma incident, showed how right we were to do so. 4

It’s only fair then – or more importantly, rigorous – to ask a similar question in this context. But until we get further information, the smart money is on an Israel guilty as charged. Even if, as seems likely, it did not intend or want yesterday’s outcome, the guilt of that systemically racist state is immense and inerasable.

As is that of the west at large.

* * *

  1. Most liberal progressives gave Israel a free pass on many things due to the Holocaust, and to potent mythmaking on ‘making the desert bloom’ and David v Goliath derring-do. That began to change in the 80s, after the 1982 massacre at Shatila and Sabra.
  2. Since we’re talking Occam’s Razor, let’s not discount the possibility not only that Israel did this, but that it did so on purpose. This indeed is the thrust of WSWS today:

    There is nothing accidental about the Gaza bombing. It is only the latest, and most heinous, in a string of dozens of attacks on hospitals, residential buildings and other civilian infrastructure over the past 10 days. It is entirely in keeping with Israel’s strategy for the war, which is to terrorize the population by inflicting massive casualties and deaths.

    On October 13, Israel dropped leaflets demanding that 1.1 million people leave northern Gaza. Israel has created a “free fire zone” in northern Gaza in which every man, woman and child is a target. The Atlantic Council, a pro-war US think tank, noted that Israeli bombings, which have killed over 3,000 people over the past 10 days, have targeted “specifically protected locations, including hospitals, markets, refugee camps, mosques, educational facilities, and entire neighborhoods.”

  3. To the Very Very Very Trusting – a club that includes the ever-perspicacious Joe Biden, who today told Netanyahu that “based on what I have seen, it appears it was done by the other team, not you” – Israel has already made good on Regev’s promise to release ‘intercepted Hamas communications’ . Amazing! It minds me of my own post of October 13, which began:

    If Superman is so clever, how come he wears his underpants outside his trousers? And if the combined efforts of IDF, Shin Bet and Mossad gave no inkling of the impending Hamas attacks, how are they now mysteriously able to “target” every Hamas hide-out in Gaza?

    Writing today, Caitlin Johnstone asks similar questions before posing some deftly Boolean logic:

    … Israel’ …is now releasing “intercepted conversations” of Hamas fighters talking to each other about matters of high importance … Where was all this eaves-dropping capability while Hamas was preparing a massive assault that wound up killing over a thousand people?  It’s possible that Israeli intelligence services are phenomenal at spying on Hamas communications, and it’s possible that Israeli intelligence services had no idea Hamas was preparing its attack. It’s also possible both are false. But it’s very difficult to believe they’re both true.

  4. Another parallel, drawn today by Larry Johnson, is Ukraine. Under the header – Israeli bombing of Baptist hospital — intelligence failure, a mistake or deliberate? – he notes Israeli propagandist Hananya Naftali’s claim that:

    As the IDF does not bomb hospitals, I assumed Israel was targeting one of the Hamas bases in Gaza. It is known that Hamas is using civilians as human shields, it is a war crime and a crime against humanity. This should be the focus.

    Unlike Mark Regev then, Hananya Naftali accepts that these were Israeli strkes, but Larry Johnson has other fish to fry …

    We know from ample video evidence in Ukraine that Ukrainian troops routinely used hospitals and schools to hide military personnel and equipment. So it would not be something unique to Hamas. It is pretty clear that the Russians took care to ensure there were no civilians when they hit those Ukrainian military positions. If there had been dozens or hundreds of civilians inside those buildings when they were hit, social media, egged on by Western intel, would have been flooded with videos and photos of dead women and children. That did not happen.

    … before concluding his piece with words …

    Israel’s only hope of defusing this tense, dangerous moment is to produce rock solid intelligence proving that the missile/bomb did not come from Israel. This is the kind of event, like the death of George Floyd, that can ignite a regional war. It does not matter now whether Israel actually is culpable. The determining factor is the belief among the Arab and Muslim nations that Israel did it. I do not think a herculean diplomatic offensive can stave off the march to war. I pray to God I am wrong.

    … which point to the biggest questions of all arising from this loud-ticking timebomb:

    • What will Iran do?
    • Why is Moscow – once we set aside the western media bubble risibly known as ‘international opinion’ – outscoring Washington and leaving the EU a perfect irrelevance on the world stage in this as so many other matters?
    • Why is a second US carrier group steaming toward the Eastern Mediterranean right now?

    Watch this space

10 Replies to ““Why would Israel do this?”

  1. In terms of the missile which hit the hospital this offering at least suggests something a lot more sophisticated than anything possessed by the Palestinians in the Gaza Concentration Camp…


    …and as Larry Johnson notes at the start of his article a staffer for Netenyahu, Hananyu Naftali, initially claimed Israeli responsibility before deleting the tweet which stated at 20:23 on 17/10/23:

    “BREAKING: Israeli Air force struck a Hamas terrorist base inside a hospital in Gaza.

    A multiple number of terrorists are dead.

    It’s heartbreaking that Hamas is launching rockets from hospitals, Mosques, schools, and using civilians as human shields.

    As we can see from the quotes documented in this piece….


    …the term “dead terrorists” is a euphemism for anyone who is a Palestinian or supporter of Palestinians having any rights whatsoever. Period.

    The Naftali tweet is also featured this morning on Skwawkbox.

    The most worrying link – which links to a lot more worrying links is here…


    ….which picks up where Larry Johnson left off in terms of the reaction on the streets across the Arab and Islamic World.

    A catalogue suggesting that Pandora’s box has not just been opened but the lid torn off and the four sides dismantled and thrown to the four winds.

    Documenting not only attacks on embassy’s but also convoys of protestors heading for US bases; UNIFIL peacekeepers pulling out of Southern Lebanon; mass demonstrations in Iran at 3:00 am in the morning; the black flag hoisted on the Razavi Shrine in Mashhad, Khorasan province, Iran; and heavy suggestions that Iran is signalling a preemptive entry into the powder keg situation.

    And that is without much in the way of consideration, apart from a segment filmed in Barcelona, of the “street” anger in cities across the West.

    Now might be good time to get some hard cash out of the bank just in case things go really tits up.

    • Thanks Dave. Interesting links. I appreciate them as even though I don’t get the complexities of this conflict politically as you do, I have an instinct this could get truly dreadful for us all. So as well as hard cash – don’t forget a food store of rice, lentils, tins etc. The future looks dire indeed.

      • There are certainly ‘political’ complexities Anne.

        However, one of the key drivers – as with so much else – is the double standards openly displayed in which much touted “principles” are inconsistently applied in a one sided way.

        Whilst the attention is focused on the present atrocities in Gaza and Israel this…..


        ….everyday activity continues:

        “While the world focuses on the Hamas massacre in southern Israel and Israel’s massive bombing of the Gaza Strip, settlers in the occupied West Bank are taking advantage of the chaos to attack and expel Palestinians from a number of small villages.

        Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed 51 Palestinians in the West Bank since Saturday, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Ramallah. At least two villages, Al-Qanub and Wadi Al-Sik, have been entirely depopulated as a result of the violence by Israeli settlers.”

        This is not a one off. It’s been going on for decades. Yet the pusher’s of TON (The Official Narrative) barely notice it never mind publish and transmit wall to wall screaming headlines condemning it and the death’s and murders officially sanctioned and excused by the entire Western media and political classes.

        If, as those political and media classes never cease to claim they are upholding “British/Western Values” where is the consistent application of those values here? The double standards in which the far greater number of atrocities are committed against a people imprisoned in a giant concentration camp far larger than the Warsaw ghetto in which the stated objective is to commit both physical and historical genocide are not only obvious to the man on the Clapham Omnibus they are also obvious to the Arab and Muslim Street along with their Government’s.

        When was the last occasion anyone saw some miserable lickspittle prostitute of a so called “journalist” in the West pursuing Western politicians around the streets demanding they condemn the illegal in International law actions of the Israeli Governments in this Apartheid project?

        When was the last time anyone can remember the Palestinian flag being displayed at their Town Hall in response to the criminal and casual murder of Palestinians by fascist right wing settler’s? Sheffield City Council were quick to raise the Israeli Flag over Sheffield Town Hall this week (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023/10/11/sheffield-flag-israel-protest-braverman-palestine/) but I can never recall the opposite gesture – which would have been at least even handed (but only to a degree given the massive recorded disparity in systemic deaths and atrocities)

        It never happens. And it never happens because that same political and media class are upfront with the “White Mans Burden” narrative. The latest iteration being that well known Spanish “Socialist Worker” member and Eurocrat Josep Borrell with his Garden/Jungle metaphor.

        The Western media are spinning like fury on this latest atrocity – trying desperately to produce as much fog of doubt in order to blame anyone but teachers pet. The British Government have called for a “cease fire” – which as far as the Arab and Muslim Street along with Governments in the Region is/are concerned is likely to be a week too late. Simply because it demonstrates to them only that having got their “pound of flesh” the Western backers of consistent War crimes which get a free pass want to de-escalate so that the very obvious slow genocide – as detailed in the above link – can continue and be contained/managed.

        It remains to be seen whether or not this time around such an obviously cynical approach will be given any more time by the Arab and Muslim Street or the Government’s of the Region.

        On the balance of probabilities I would certainly not put money on it.

  2. Many years ago after the horrors of Sabra and Shantila, I asked Chomsky, as a son of Jewish immigrants to the US, what on earth was going on and how did he see it. He just said “The persecuted have become the persecutors, it is always this way.’

    Not being an economist or having a sophisticated understanding of international politics, I tend to look for the hidden dimensions in these situations. The objective facts and ‘truth’ are almost impossible to unearth these days anyway. All we have to rely on, it seems to me, is our own understandings. Like a caged animal, abused and incarcerated for decades, will erupt in a destructive rage and fury if it is not to fall into depression and die, so will Hamas and the Palestinian people. Israel, alongside its sophisticated intelligence gathering and clever political manoeuvring, also has a visceral reaction to the pictures they saw of young people at a festival being killed. I suspect bombing the hospital was an enraged action by a rogue air crew as I can see no benefit to Israel whatsoever. And in my understanding Hamas would never do this. The one sure thing Palestinian people have that supports them is the close interconnection and understanding of the dependance they have on each other. A Palestinian friend has told me a lot about life close to the ground there though he lives in London. Hamas would never bomb a hospital even if they had the weapons to do it.

    As for Iran… The US does not seem to me to understand the politico-religious mind set of the Persian people at all. It projects its own psychopathy into other nation states, whether China, Russia or Iran, and then reacts completely inappropriately by trying to overpower what they perceive as a threat. Classic projection.

    OK so I’m a psychologist, or was – here’s another.

    A Youtube for anyone who hasn’t yet seen it:
    Dr. Gabor Maté Speaks Out on Israel and Palestine: A Must-Watch Discussion

    Thanks Phil yet again.

    • Anne I recommend a recent Duran discussion, before yesterday but not long before. As ever it’s good on detail and intelligent analysis; good too for skewering the failure you note, of an America unable, at least since 1990, to see the world as it is and not – like a toddler yet to learn that the world does not revolve around it – as it would like it to be.

      There’s a striking bit where Alex Mercurius notes how inept US policy has been as the chickens now come home to roost. (The implication being that Washington thought, in its hubris, that ept was superfluous to the requirements of so mighty a presence as Uncle Sam!)


  3. Larry Johnston’s site is now a ‘403 – forbidden’ site. He must have got too close to the truth somewhere.

    • So it is. That’s within the last two or three hours and could be innocent, result of more site traffic than his hosting provides. Then again …

      • And I see that Craig Murray has been arrested again for taking part in a pro-Palestinian rally.

        They really are getting rattled, especially as most countries outside the nominal ‘west’ (and even western news sources) are extremely sceptical over the alleged Hamas bombing of the hospital. Frenzied backtracking from Israel over first admitting then denying responsibility, while Crazy Joe does his speak-your-weight routine. And poor Vladimir Zelensky is shouting in an echo chamber. “It would take a heart of stone not to laugh” but for the huge and totally unnecessary loss of mostly innocent life in both centres of ‘activity’ – caused mostly by US greed for money and power.

        • I noted Craig’s arrest but, given all that’s happened since, forgot about it. Alongside Braverman telling the cops to arrest Palestinian flag wavers – and Starmer-Thornberry’s lawyerly acrobatics on ethnically cleansing Gaza while staying within international law as it does so!! – it’s (a) alarming and (b) indicative of how important it is to the Washington organ grinder (some assign that role to Tel Aviv and I see why but don’t buy it) hence to EU and 5 Eyes monkeys, that Israel be backed unconditionally if not uncritically. No matter what the hit to popularity, far less rigour, honour and decency .

          I couldn’t make Saturday’s demo but aim to be at one of the protests this coming Saturday. London if I can, otherwise Sheffield or Nottingham.

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