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The Western Media Did Not Correct Fake Claims About Al-Shifa Hospital

Misbar's Editorial Team Misbar's Editorial Team
28th February 2024
The Western Media Did Not Correct Fake Claims About Al-Shifa Hospital
The Western media embraced Israeli claims without scrutiny (Getty)

Since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza on October 7, 2023, Israel has devoted a coordinated media campaign through government and military spokesmen, as well as media and social media influencers, aiming to revive the narrative from the 2014 war in Gaza regarding the alleged presence of senior Hamas leaders and the main command headquarters under Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Dozens of allegations have been made to support this claim, including a video clip shown by Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari, supposedly revealing tunnels and Hamas leadership headquarters under the hospital. However, the video was found to be previously posted on the internet by a user before the war on Gaza. Another video featuring an Israeli actress posing as a nurse at Al-Shifa Hospital urging evacuation was also broadcast, later revealed to be fabricated.

These allegations appear to serve the purpose of justifying the Israeli army's military campaign against the health sector in Gaza, particularly targeting the Al-Shifa Hospital Complex, the largest medical complex in the Gaza Strip. An Israeli airstrike on November 3 targeted an ambulance convoy leaving the hospital, resulting in 15 deaths and 60 injuries. Israel claimed that Hamas was using ambulances, a claim denied by The Washington Post. The Palestinian Red Crescent Society confirmed Israel had targeted the hospital's ambulances seven times previously, killing four of its employees.

After multiple strikes on the hospital, resulting in the deaths of dozens, the World Health Organization lost contact with the facility on November 12. The hospital director reported that premature infants were in critical condition and had been relocated to an unsanitary place due to a complete power outage in the hospital.

On November 16, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated, 'We thought there were prisoners in Al-Shifa Hospital, but we did not find anyone.' On November 18, hundreds of people left Al-Shifa Hospital following orders from the Israeli army. On November 23, an Israeli army force arrested the hospital director, Muhammad Abu Salmiya, who reportedly endured various forms of torture.

The Western Media Embraces the Israeli Narrative About Al-Shifa Hospital

Throughout this period, the Western media embraced the allegations issued by the Israeli army without evidence and treated them as facts. For instance, earlier this year, The New York Times published a report titled “Hamas Used Gaza Hospital as a Command Center, U.S. Intelligence Says.” The report quoted American spy agencies stating that Hamas and another Palestinian group used Shifa Hospital in Gaza for commanding forces and detaining hostages, based on newly declassified American intelligence. It also included statements from Israeli officials claiming that Hamas had constructed an extensive complex under the hospital, justifying it as a "legitimate military target." The newspaper published numerous other news and reports echoing the Israeli narrative about the hospital since October.

Hamas Used Gaza Hospital as a Command Center, U.S. Intelligence Says

In November, CNN released a report supporting these allegations, quoting an American official familiar with intelligence claiming that Hamas has a command base under Al-Shifa Hospital, using fuel allocated for the hospital, and holding meetings in and around the largest hospital in Gaza.

These statements were in line with those made by a senior White House official, asserting that Hamas uses hospitals and civilian facilities. CNN continued to publish statements by Daniel Hagari and shared clips from his press conferences.

In mid-November, The Telegraph, a British newspaper, published a story titled “Israel hunts for Hamas command centre in raid on Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital.” The report claimed that weapons boxes and bullet-proof vests were discovered hidden behind an MRI scanner during a mission involving over 100 commandos. The aim of the mission, as per Israel, was to take control of the hospital, which they claimed hosted an underground command center for Hamas.

The newspaper published more than six reports echoing this story, including claims that Israeli hostages were being held there. Additionally, an opinion article by Richard Kemp, titled “Too many want to believe Hamas’s hospital lies,” criticized some Westerners for refusing to acknowledge the validity of the Israeli army's claims about the hospital, saying, "Despite all the evidence."

Presenting Visual and Ground Evidence To Refute the Israeli Claim

These media outlets were not the only ones repeating the Israeli narrative about Al-Shifa Hospital. Dozens of other Western media outlets echoed the claim that the Hamas leadership headquarters was located under the hospital without questioning its validity. However, some of these outlets later re-evaluated and refuted the claims after the Israeli army entered and took control of the medical complex.

By the end of November, the BBC Verify news verification service published an analysis refuting Israeli allegations against Al-Shifa Hospital three days after it was raided by occupation forces, concluding that Israel 'either lacks evidence or does not share it.' As a result of this analysis, the BBC faced criticism from the 'CAMERA' media monitoring organization, an Israeli organization that seeks to establish the Israeli perspective on events in the Western media, details of which Misbar has previously revealed.

'CAMERA' media monitoring organization, an Israeli organization

On December 21, 2023, The Washington Post published an investigation entitled 'The Case of Al-Shifa: Investigating the Assault on Gaza’s Largest Hospital.' The American newspaper concluded three main points: first, the rooms connected to the tunnel network discovered by Israeli army soldiers did not contain any direct evidence of military use by Hamas; second, none of the five hospital buildings identified by Daniel Hagari appear to be connected to the tunnel network; finally, no evidence exists that the tunnels can be accessed from within the hospital wards. This exposed the newspaper to another campaign by 'CAMERA,' which published an article commenting on the investigation entitled 'The Washington Post Gives A Pass To Anti-Semitic Institutions.'

The Case of Al-Shifa: Investigating the Assault on Gaza’s Largest Hospital
The Washington Post Gives A Pass To Anti-Semitic Institutions

With the Israeli army taking control of the Al-Shifa complex and invading it multiple times, journalists from Western media were able to accompany them to the hospital facilities and the tunnel they discovered inside. CNN published a report on what its correspondents found during their visit, stating, "What we found does not prove that there is a command center under the biggest hospital in Gaza, but clearly, there is a tunnel underneath."

The Media Does Not Apologize or Correct Its Journalistic Content

With the accumulation of this evidence highlighting the weakness of the Israeli claim regarding the presence of Hamas leadership headquarters under Al-Shifa Hospital, along with the Israeli army's inability to arrest the most wanted members of Hamas and the decline in the Israeli army's repetition of that claim amid ongoing clashes near the hospital, Misbar reviewed what was published in the Western press and media about the Israeli allegations concerning the hospital.

Misbar found that all the news and reports promoting the Israeli narrative during the first three months of the war, which stated that Hamas leaders and their command centers are stationed under Al-Shifa Hospital, remain unchanged from their original publication. Notably, there has been no correction or apology for the incorrect information contained therein. This absence of corrective action contrasts with professional journalistic practices expected of media organizations, and they did not even delete it without notice, as The Guardian did, for example, with Osama bin Laden’s letter after the attacks in September 2001.

Newspapers usually have specific policies for readers to report errors. Generally, this requires the reader to contact the editor, point out the error, and provide the correct information. This has already happened with media organizations that reported misleading claims and were countered with facts. Occasionally, the affected editor or reporter will be asked to publish a note or press release to explain how and why the error was made, which has not occurred with any of the organizations mentioned regarding their claims about Al-Shifa Hospital.

In printed newspapers, a correction notice often appears in its column in a later edition. In online news media, what is known as a “trash line” may be added to the top of a corrected article. According to the Reuters Handbook for Journalism, “The trashline should say exactly why a story is being withdrawn, corrected, refiled, or repeated.” All trash lines for replays and corrections must include the word “correction.” However, this practice was absent from the media that promoted these claims, and misleading material was left in its archives.

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