By Michael Oren
On June 9, 2006, an explosion rocked the Beit Lahia beach in Gaza. Eight Palestinians were killed and thirty wounded, many of them belonging to the Ghaliya family. The image of eleven-year-old Huda Ghalyia wandering disoriented after the blast were headlined around the world as a symbol of Palestinian suffering.
The incident was attributed to a shell fired by Israeli gunboats operating in the area. The international press unquestionably accepted this explanation. Human rights organizations accused Israel of a war crime. Though the Olmert government published an apology, the damage to Israel’s reputation was immense.
Further investigation, however, showed that the explosion was not caused by an Israeli shell but by a Hamas land mine planted on the beach. The initial, patently false, report was issued by the Palestinian Health Ministry.
On December 28, 2008, at the height of Israel’s Cast Lead Operation in Gaza, an IDF mortar shell reportedly fell on a UNRWA school. Initial bulletins told of twenty-one dead but the number soon more than doubled to fifty-one, all of them children. The story instantly made headlines throughout the world. Israel was bitterly condemned. US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice, in one of her last acts in office, pressurized Israel to accept a ceasefire.
A subsequent study conducted by the UN—the UN!—found that the mortar round in fact fell outside of the school. Thirteen people were killed, nine of them Hamas terrorists and three civilians, none of them children.
The source of the story, once again, was the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
Last week, on October 13, a flatbed truck carrying Palestinian civilians fleeing northern Gaza suddenly exploded. Seventy people were reportedly killed. The BBC anchorman who interviewed me shortly afterward unreservedly accepted the Palestinian claim that the truck was hit by an Israeli Air Force missile. “How can you justify such atrocities?” I was asked.
Video footage of the incident shows no presence whatsoever of a missile. Nor was there the crater usually left by such a strike. The nature of the explosion, rather, was consistent of one caused by an IED or a car bomb, neither of which are used by the IDF. Both are part of Hamas’s arsenal. The number of dead, journalists confirmed, was not seventy but twelve.
The report on the flatbed truck bombing originated—you guessed it—was the Palestinian Ministry of Health.
The ministry was active again last night with the claim that Israel bombed the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, killing 500 civilians. The number was later reduced to 300 or 200. Later, too, the IDF reported that its forces had not operated in the area and that there was no evidence of a bomb crater. Instead, there was the shrapnel damage wrought by a rocket. Video footage showed definitively that one of the missiles in Palestinian Islamic Jihad barrage fell short and smashed into the hospital.
“Israel Strikes Palestinian Hospital,” screamed the New York Times headline. “500 Killed.” Every media outlet in the world immediately repeated the claim. All of the evidence to the contrary adduced by Israel proved insufficient to alter the narrative of a brutal Israeli massacre of hundreds of defenseless patients. Demonstrations raged across the Middle East. Arab leaders, including those regarded as friendly, denounced the Jewish State and cancelled their summit with President Biden.
As of this writing, the United States has not officially accepted Israel's version. Most of the media continues to give equal weight to Israel’s claims and those of the Palestinian Ministry of Health. They certainly have not retracted or corrected their headlines
The Palestinian Ministry of Health is, of course, Hamas. Calling it a health ministry is a perverse misnomer. It’s Orwellian. No sane leader or journalist would ever consider the Al-Qaeda or ISIS Ministry of Health a reliable or even quotable source. No reasonable person would miss the irony of a terrorist organization dedicated to genocide calling itself a health ministry. And no moral person would ever conflate Hamas with health unless the health was that of the Palestinians sinisterly threatened by the Jews.
Previously in Clarity, I’ve accused the media of antisemitism in describing Hamas terrorists as “militants.” I called on Israel’s supporters and Jewish organizations to protest the practice by all possible means. Many have.
I now call on them again. Protest all and every outlet that quotes the Palestinian Health Ministry—Hamas—as a legitimate source. Denounce any attempt to place it in an equal plane with Israel. It is not the Palestinian Ministry of Health, we must say, but the Hamas Ministry of Death.