Washington DC — (Scheerpost) — Israel is not attacking hospitals in Gaza because they are “Hamas command centers.” Israel is systematically and deliberately destroying Gaza’s medical infrastructure as part of a scorched earth campaign to make Gaza uninhabitable and escalate a humanitarian crisis. It intends to force 2.3 million Palestinians over the border into Egypt, where they will never return.
Israel has destroyed and nearly emptied the Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. The Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahia is next. Israel is deploying tanks and armored personnel carriers around the hospital and has fired rounds into the building, killing twelve people.
The playbook is familiar. Flyers are dropped by Israel over a hospital, telling people to leave because the hospital is a base for “Hamas terrorist activities.” Tanks and artillery shells rip away parts of the hospital walls. Israeli missiles blow up ambulances. Power and water are cut. Medical supplies are blocked. There are no painkillers, antibiotics or oxygen. The most vulnerable, premature babies in incubators and the gravely ill die. Israeli soldiers raid the hospital and force everyone out at gunpoint.
This is what happened at Al Shifa Hospital. This is what happened at Al Rantisi Children’s Hospital. This is what happened at Gaza’s main psychiatric hospital. This is what happened at Nasser Hospital. This is what happened at the other hospitals that Israel has destroyed. And this is what will happen at the few hospitals that remain.
Israel has shut down 21 of Gaza’s 35 hospitals, including Gaza’s only cancer hospital. The hospitals still operating have severe shortages of basic medicine and supplies. One by one, the hospitals are being picked off. Soon, there will be no health facilities left. This is by design.
Tens of thousands of terrified Palestinians, forced to evacuate by Israel, their homes blasted into rubble, seek refuge from the relentless bombing by camping out in and around Gaza’s hospitals. They hope Israel will not target the medical centers. If Israel abided by the Geneva Conventions, they would be correct. But Israel is not carrying out a war. It is carrying out a genocide. And in a genocide, a population, and all that sustains a population, is obliterated.
In an ominous sign that Israel will turn on the Palestinians in the West Bank once it is done flattening Gaza, armored vehicles have surrounded at least four West Bank hospitals. Israeli soldiers have raided the Ibn Sina Hospital along with the East Jerusalem Hospital.
Israel’s settler colonial state was founded on lies. It is sustained by lies. And now, when it is grimly determined to carry out the worst slaughter and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since the 1948 Nakba, or “catastrophe,” that saw 750,000 Palestinians ethnically cleansed and some 50 massacres by Jewish militias, it spits out one grotesque absurdity after another. It speaks of Palestinians as a dehumanized mass. There are no mothers, fathers, children, teachers, doctors, lawyers, cooks, poets, taxi drivers or shopkeepers. Palestinians, in the Israeli lexicon, are a single contagion that must be eradicated.
Watch this video of Israeli school children singing, “We Will Annihilate Everyone” in Gaza.
Hitler Youth used to sing songs like this about Jews.
Those who embark upon projects of mass killing lie to avoid demoralizing their own populations, lull the victims into believing they will not all be exterminated and stop outside forces from intervening. The Nazis claimed that Jews packed on trains and sent to extermination camps were on work details and had good medical care and adequate food. As for the infirm and elderly, they were cared for in rest centers. The Nazis even created a mock camp for the “resettlement” of Jews “to the East,” – Theresienstadt – where international bodies such as the Red Cross could see how humanely the Jews were treated, even as millions were being exterminated.
At least 664,000 and possibly as many as 1.2 million Armenians were massacred or died of exposure, disease and starvation during the genocide carried out by the Ottoman Empire from the spring of 1915 to the autumn of 1916. The Armenian genocide was as public as the genocide in Gaza. European and U.S. consular missions provided detailed accounts of the campaign to cleanse modern-day Türkiye of Armenians.
The Ottoman government, in an attempt to hide the genocide, banned foreigners from taking photographs of Armenian refugees or the corpses that lined the roads. Israel, too, has blocked the foreign press from Gaza, carrying out only a handful of brief and carefully staged visits arranged by the Israeli military. Israel periodically cuts off internet and phone services. Israel has killed at least 43 Palestinian journalists and media workers since the Hamas incursion into Israel on Oct. 7, many undoubtedly targeted by Israeli forces.
Armenians, like Palestinians, were forced from their homes, gunned down and denied food and water. Armenian deportees were sent on death marches to the Syrian Desert, where tens of thousands were shot or died from starvation, cholera, malaria, dysentery and influenza. Israel is forcing 1.1 million Palestinians into the southern tip of Gaza and bombing them as they flee. These refugees, like the Armenians, lack food, water, fuel and sanitation. They, too, will soon succumb to epidemics of infectious diseases.
Talat Pasha, the de facto leader of the Ottoman Empire, told the United States ambassador, Henry Morgenthau Sr., in words that replicate Israel’s stance, on Aug. 2, 1915, “that our Armenian policy is absolutely fixed and that nothing can change it. We will not have the Armenians anywhere in Anatolia. They can live in the desert but nowhere else.”
The longer the genocide continues, the more absurd the lies become.
There are big Israeli lies. The obliteration of Gaza and wanton killing of thousands of Palestinians, Israel insists, is a targeted effort to get rid of Hamas rather than a campaign to reduce Gaza to a pile of rubble, carry out mass murder and ethnically cleanse Palestinians.
There are small Israeli lies. Forty beheaded babies. Al Shifa Hospital is a “Hamas command center.” A calendar in Arabic on the wall of a hospital, according to IDF Spokesperson Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, is “a guardian [guard] list, where every terrorist writes his name and every terrorist has his own shift guarding the people that were here.” An Israeli actor dressed up as a nurse and speaking heavily accented Arabic claims to be a Palestinian doctor and to have seen Hamas use civilians as human shields. She says members of Hamas “attacked Al Shifa Hospital” and stole “the fuel and medicine.” Palestinian militants, rather than Israeli tanks, Israel says, are responsible for shelling Al Shifa Hospital. Israel struck a car full of “terrorists” in southern Lebanon, “terrorists” who turned out to be three girls, their mother and grandmother. The explosion at the Al Ahli Hospital was the result of an errant rocket fired by the Palestinians, a claim questioned by The New York Times when it discredited the video based on analysis of its time stamp. Israel said it “responded to the request of the director of Shifa Hospital to allow Gazan citizens who were sheltering in the hospital and who wish to evacuate from Shifa Hospital towards the humanitarian crossing in the Gaza Strip via a secure axis,” a statement Mohammed Zaqout, director general of hospitals in Gaza, said was “false,” adding “we were forced to leave by gunpoint.” Israeli Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, in a video pilloried by the BBC, shows viewers a meager stash of automatic weapons in a promotional video that magically increases once foreign reporters arrive for a guided tour. The IDF later deleted it.
The lies will be written into the Israeli school books. The lies will be repeated by Israeli politicians, historians and journalists. The lies will be told on Israeli television, films, and books. Israelis are eternal victims. Palestinians are absolute evil. There was no genocide. Türkiye, a century later, still denies what happened to the Armenians.
In wartime, people believe what they want to believe. The lies fill a hunger within the Israeli public that sees the conflict as a binary struggle between “the children of light and the children of darkness.” The lies are a defense against accountability, for if Israel refuses to acknowledge reality, it is not forced to respond to reality. The lies create cognitive dissonance, where fact becomes fiction and fiction becomes truth. The lies make any discussion of genocide or reconciliation impossible.
Israel, with the backing of the Biden administration, will continue to snuff out all systems that sustain life in Gaza. Hospitals. Schools. Power plants. Water treatment facilities. Factories. Farms. Apartment blocks. Houses. Then Israel will pretend, like the killers in past genocides, that it never happened.
The lies used by Israel to absolve itself of responsibility will eat away at Israeli society. They will corrode its moral, religious, civic, intellectual and political life. The lies will elevate war criminals to heroic status and demonize those with a conscience. Israel’s genocide, as with the 1965 mass killings in Indonesia, will be mythologized, an epic battle against the forces of evil and barbarity, just as we mythologized the genocide of Native Americans and turned our settlers and murderous cavalry units into heroes. The killers in the Indonesian war against communism are cheered at rallies as saviors. They are interviewed about the “heroic” battles they fought nearly six decades ago. Israel will do the same. It will deform itself. It will celebrate its crimes. It will turn evil into good. It will exist within a self-constructed myth. The truth, as in all despotisms, will be banished. Israel, a monster to the Palestinians, will be a monster to itself.
Feature photo | Eve of Destruction – by Mr. Fish
Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.