By, among other things, accepting a fabricated Israeli audio recording as real evidence, Faktisk.no contributes to creating a false lack of clarity around what happened when Israel bombed the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza on Tuesday evening.
«Israel says it has proof that the group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is behind it, and has published an audio recording of what Israel says is a conversation between Hamas leaders who confirm that the damage is due to a failed launch from the group.» This is how the Faktisk.no article begins, which purports to be an objective summary of the facts surrounding what happened at the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza.
Hamas members who don’t speak proper Arabic?
What the Faktisk article fails to mention is that neither of the two in the audio recording speak Arabic well enough to have had Arabic as their mother tongue. This is confirmed by the independent experts that Britain’s Channel 4 asked to assess the audio recording, after a number of Arabic-speaking commentators, including «Syrian girl», made sarcastic comments about this in social media.
Had the evidence that the audio recording is fake been presented to the readers, it is not just one piece of evidence in Israel’s favour that would have disappeared. Such evidence not only involves a misinterpretation of a given event, it also sheds light on Israel’s motives. A state that actively fabricates false evidence and then releases it to the world press, clearly does not have noble intentions, and clearly has something to hide. The fabrication is thus in itself strong evidence of Israel’s guilt. At the same time, the credibility of the other evidence Israel has presented is also undermined.
Incompetence or political manipulation?
There is reason to question whether the Faktisk.no journalists actually did not know the evidence that the audio recording is falsified when they wrote the article, given that it was published several hours after Channel 4 and others had pointed this out. At best, it reveals low journalistic competence in the editorial staff, but it is just as likely a deliberate omission.
The Faktisk.no article has a form that is ostensibly neutral and objective, but this and the rest of the evidence presentation is in reality tendentially pro-Israel. In the analysis of what images of the rocket impact on the hospital area show and do not show, a number of experts are cited, but the only one who speaks categorically is Lieutenant Colonel and researcher at the Norwegian Military Academy, Trygve Johannes Smidt, who «believes that it can be ruled out that the damage after the explosion is due to an Israeli air strike ».
What the article also omits is an analysis of the extent to which the physical evidence agrees with the Israeli narrative about where the alleged rocket from Islamic Jihad is supposed to have come from. Channel 4 has done such an analysis, however, and they conclude that the narrative that Islamic Jihad fired a rocket from the cemetery behind the hospital is physically incompatible with the photographic evidence.
Israel’s motive for bombing the hospital
The Faktisk.no article also leaves out other evidence related to the circumstances surrounding the attack. As part of the background information presented at the beginning of the article, it is indeed mentioned that «The hospital is one of 22 hospitals in the north of Gaza which, according to the WHO, have been told by Israel to evacuate». This is not only important to be able to confirm that Israel was behind the bombing. It is also central to the assessment of whether the bombing occurred by accident, if the target was initially something else, or whether the hospital was deliberately bombed. The fact that it was intentional will be central to the prosecutor in a future war crimes indictment against Israel’s political and military leaders.
The Faktisk.no article does not mention that Israel bombed hospitals previously in this war operation, in addition to UN schools and other civilian buildings, and does not mention that Israel has demanded that all the 1.1 million civilians in northern Gaza leave the area . The motive for this is obviously that Israel will then be able to smash everything and everyone that is left, and then be able to occupy the ruins relatively easily. This goal will be difficult to achieve, however, if civilians can seek safety in hospital areas and other civilian installations which, according to the Geneva Conventions, are off-limits as bomb targets.
Netanyahu adviser praised the bombing
The fact that many in Israel see bombing a Palestinian hospital as completely legitimate was expressed shortly after the bombing in a tweet from Hananya Naftali, who is an adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and a favourite speaker and interviewee among Norwegian friends of Israel. Before the violent reactions in the Middle East created the need for an alternative narrative, Naftali came out boldly and claimed that the hospital had been bombed by Israel because there was a Hamas base there.
Naftali subsequently sought to explain away the tweet, which was quickly deleted, by saying that he was only referring to media reports. But this is not true. No media reported at the time that Hamas had any base in the hospital area. Although everyone, including Naftali himself, agrees that this tweet does not describe what happened, it is nevertheless relevant in an overall evidence assessment. Alongside the fabricated audio recording, it illustrates how people in and close to Netanyahu’s administration do not even attempt to deal with the truth. An analysis that does not make such a critical assessment of sources is neither balanced nor objective.